The Atlanta Braves said they’ll build a new stadium in a suburban area northwest of downtown Atlanta, with the opening set for the 2017 Major League Baseball season.
With the Braves’ lease at 17-year-old Turner Field expiring in 2016, the team estimated that its new ballpark will cost $672 million, executives said today at a news briefing in Atlanta. The Braves will be a significant investor along with Cobb County, Georgia, and the club will cover any cost overruns, the team said.
The new venue will have a capacity of about 42,000 people, compared with 50,000 at Turner Field, according to the team. The Braves are attempting to sell naming rights for the new stadium.
“We did not take this decision lightly,” Braves President John Schuerholz said. “We’ve played in our current facility for quite some time and it was with mixed emotions that we made this decision because we have many great Braves baseball memories that have occurred for all of us in that facility, but we are quite enthused about where our new facility will be.”
Turner Field, which was built for the 1996 Olympics and became the Braves’ home the following year, has cost the team about $125 million in improvements, and it needs about $150 million more, as well as an additional 5,000 parking spots, Schuerholz said.
The primary reason for moving from Turner Field in downtown Atlanta is improved spectator access, Schuerholz said. While there will be additional highways and access roads leading to the proposed stadium and increased parking, the new location won’t have access to MARTA, the city’s only mass rail transit system.
“Working with Cobb County, we will have a transportation plan that enhances the accessibility of that site,” said Derek Schiller, the team’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Most fans arrive to our games by car.”
Sixty acres of land on the northwest intersection of Interstates 75 and 285 will be developed, with 15 acres used for the stadium and the rest for parking and a multi-use and retail facility, the team said.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the city was unwilling to use public money for a new stadium and wished the Braves well in their future home.
“There was simply no way the team was going to stay in downtown Atlanta without city taxpayers spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make that happen,” Reed said in a statement. “Given the needs facing our city and the impact of Turner Field stadium on surrounding neighborhoods, that was something I and many others were unwilling to do.”
Turner Field would be redeveloped for residential and downtown businesses, Reed said.
Cobb County will commit $450 million in public funds to the project, Reed said. Brooks Mathis, vice president of economic development for the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce, said a final total on public funding has yet to be determined.
The new baseball stadium would open the same year as a new $1 billion stadium for the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons is scheduled to open in downtown Atlanta.
The Braves averaged 31,465 fans at home games this season, 13th out of 30 major-league teams. The MLB average was 30,514, according to figures released by baseball last month. Atlanta has reached the playoffs in 12 of the 17 years it’s played in Turner Field. The Braves went 96-66 last season to win the National League East before falling to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL division series.
Turner Field was known as Olympic Stadium for the 1996 Games, after which it was turned into a baseball-only venue. Its main entrance was built after 35,000 seats and part of the track-and-field complex were removed. The team’s prior stadium, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, was imploded in August 1997 to make room for a parking lot next door to Turner Field.
The new stadium would also be in the same county as East Cobb Baseball, one of the U.S.’s top youth developmental programs. Current Braves players Brian McCann and Jason Heyward played with East Cobb as did former Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who spent last season with the San Francisco Giants.
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