Enjoy that stupid new stadium in the suburbs


 By Jarrett Bellini | @JarrettBellini 
 Apparently This Matters 

At certain angles, far beyond the outfield bleachers of Turner Field, you can see Georgia's state capitol dome shine majestically from downtown Atlanta.

And, in the later innings, after you've had a bunch of those big stadium beers, you can see two of them!

I took special notice of the capitol dome just the other day when I attended what could very well be my last ever Braves game. We were entertaining foreign guests who had never seen baseball. That's why I was reluctantly there, breaking my ongoing personal protest. 

Quite simply, I can't, in good conscience, financially support a baseball team that willingly plans to move to the suburbs. It goes against everything I stand for in life. Which is to say I don't stand for much.

My moral compass points toward the nearest bag of Funyuns.


But it was in this brief moment of seeing the distant capitol dome on a warm, beautiful night that I became wistful and nostalgic for something that wasn't yet gone, and something that, frankly, isn't all that wonderful to begin with.

There's nothing uniquely special about the Braves current confines at Turner Field. Save for its history. 

It was built for the 1996 Summer Olympics, and was originally called Centennial Olympic Stadium. President Bill Clinton sat in awe as Gladys Knight sang "Georgia on My Mind" at the opening ceremony.

That kind of history.

After the Olympics, the temporarily elongated northern part of the stadium was reconstructed from athletics to baseball and gifted to the city. Which temporarily elongated the ownership of the Braves, who now had a sexy new home. 

Most modern Olympic venues become tenantless, rotting eyesores, so everyone was generally aroused by this rare moment of logic.

The city leased the stadium over to the Braves. That lease expires in 2016. In November 2013, the team announced that they would not renew it.

Thus, in 2017, the Braves will begin play at the architectural abortion now known as SunTrust Park.

I'll get back to that uninspiring heap of bad ideas in a moment.


But here's the thing about Turner Field. It's not bad. It's just not great. 

To be fair, the biggest blunder of Turner Field has nothing to do with the look or structural design. Despite having about 10,000 too many seats, I actually don't dislike the stadium - the brick and mortar and beer dispensers. 

Again, it's nothing special. But certainly not bad. And not anywhere near as terrible as that giant toilet bowl they pass off as a stadium in Tampa Bay.

Quite simply, the big mistake here in Atlanta was not connecting Turner Field with a direct stop on the MARTA train line. MARTA is our subway. So long as you have a loose interpretation of the word "subway."

I do. So I call it that.

The nearest MARTA stop to Turner Field is a mile and a half away. That's a 30 minute walk in the blazing sun. Which is dangerous and also requires burning calories. 

Thus, after getting off the train, sensible fans have to transfer onto a shuttle bus - another tedious step in the process.

Ain't nobody got time for that.


That means most people drive. And that means most people have to park. And that means instead of enjoying local bars and restaurants around the stadium, most people wander through giant empty spaces of nothing so everyone can have convenient places to temporarily stow their cars for a few hours prior to dangerously weaving home drunk after the game.

It seems everyone got greedy. The city. The Braves. They all saw the potential money to be made from charging people to park. What they didn't see was the potential to create a truly urban experience around the ballpark. Everyone failed from the get-go.

Alas, the area adjacent to Turner Field is a complete wasteland of asphalt and sadness. But at least it's sorta kinda close to downtown.

You see, baseball stadiums - and all other sports arenas for that matter - should be downtown. Period.

To be downtown is to be somewhere

And Turner Field is more or less just that. Sure, it could be a lot closer to the center, but it's near enough to count - basically, the same justification I adhere to when using the urinals in between innings.

"Meh. Close enough."

Downtown is everything. 

When I was a suburban kid growing up in Phoenix, seeing a Suns or Coyotes game was just about the coolest thing you could do because, hot damn, you were going to the city!

Tall buildings! Shiny lights! Hookers on Van Buren street!

Down-effing-town!


Even when I lived in Denver for a year after college, I used to walk to Coors Field from my downtown apartment. We'd sit in the centerfield Rockpile. It was glorious. Sometimes I even made it home without vomiting on 20th Street.

Nevertheless, despite every other professional sports franchise now understanding the importance of being closer to the core, the Braves are going to leave Atlanta for a giant new mixed-use, force-fed entertainment district in the Cobb County suburbs. 

It's even further from MARTA, and they're literally going to drop this thing in the middle of the state's biggest traffic nightmare.

This decision was likely made while hunkered under a tarp in the the spray paint aisle at Home Depot.

Which, coincidentally, is where I like to go to get my thinkin' on. So, I'm not judging. 

And, truthfully, the traffic is going to suck regardless of where the Braves play. It's Atlanta. Excessively burning fossil fuels is sort of what we do best. 

(Thanks, dinosaurs!)

I'm just saying that I've seen this movie before. And it doesn't end well. Trust me.

In 2006, my beloved Arizona Cardinals built their new stadium in a barren wasteland of dirt and broken dreams, far west of downtown Phoenix. 

Glendale. 

For when you absolutely, positively want meth, but don't mind a long drive.

Now, make no mistake. The Cardinals stadium is amazing. I've been there twice for international soccer, and it's absolutely fantastic. 

However, everything around it is hell on earth.

And it kills me to know that the Cardinals and the city of Phoenix had one chance - ONE CHANCE - to put this masterpiece downtown, but they let money and politics get in the way of making their city a bit more world class.


Instead, it sits in the middle of nowhere. They built manufactured forced fun all around it. And, for a while, they even leased out space for a friggin' Margaritaville Cafe.

The only word I can use to describe Glendale's Westgate Entertainment District is: Soulless. 

I've been there. It's terrible. There's nothing authentic about it. Just chain restaurants with high prices and bad nachos.

And now we're getting what looks to be the same thing in Atlanta.

Truth be told, I really don't care about the economic factors - the taxes and bonds and all that other stuff I barely understand because it requires math and a general understanding of civics.

I just like sports. And I like stadiums. And I like cities. 

I don't even blame the Braves for wanting something better. And I'm sure the new digs are going to be comfortable and technologically advanced.

My disdain for this move to Cobb County is purely emotional. Baseball shouldn't be in the suburbs.

This certainly isn't a new story. We've known about this move for almost two years now. But after months and months of denial, I saw that capitol dome the other night and the reality finally set it. 

The Braves are getting a stupid new stadium in the suburbs.

And once it's built - once they move to Cobb County - there's no going back.

They had one chance.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree 100%

Anonymous said...

disagree 100%

Jarrett Bellini said...

I'm drinking bourbon. 45%.

maxutils said...

Yeah … just about perfectly correct. But … Coors field and the Pepsi Center weren't in downtown proper … they triggered growth in Denver which expanded downtown. Just like Camden Yard revitalized Baltimore's inlan harbor, and Att&T park chnage the South of Market district, and Safeco gave a new life to Seattle … The most important thing is the public transit. In Sacramento, we're building a new arena downtown, and it will literally be about 30 steps from a lightrail station ...

Anonymous said...

Yep. The city screwed up to be sure, but I cannot forgive the Braves. I am no longer a fan.

Ryan Waggoner said...

And nobody cares.

Anonymous said...

I hope non Atlanta peeps know where exactly this stadium in the "burbs" will be. And any one who believes that rendering with the forest in the background has not been to the Cumberland/Vinings area.

I am sure all the players will be happy for the shorter commute to work.

Jarrett Bellini said...

You can call Cobb County "Atlanta" or "the city" all you want, but it's neither. When we say the city - when we say ATLANTA - we know what we mean. And Cobb County is not that. It's the burbs. And my concern for the commute time of the players ranks right up there with what brand of urinal cake they'll use to control the smell in the bathrooms.

Anonymous said...

No point getting butthurt over this...nobody cares.

Anonymous said...

With the addition of Atlantic Station, Krog Street Market, and Ponce City Market the suburbs has moved downtown anyway. There will soon be nothing left of the soul that was once Atlanta. Why the suburbs suddenly can't just be satisfied being the suburbs, I don't know. I no longer get angry over the stadium move (other than for friends who live in Summerhill), because soon everything will be the plastic same from Alpharetta to Jonesboro, with no unique city in between.

Jarrett Bellini said...

I think at least Krog Street Market gets a pass. They used much of the existing brick structure, and so far it's not OVERLY chain-y. I live right there, and so far I don't dislike it. Atlantic Station, however, is a bit of a disaster (he says about to go here to do an errand during lunch). And Ponce remains a question mark. I fully support the new Falcons stadium. And, hell, if the city wanted to knock down more things to put the Braves downtown I would've supported that, too. Here. Take my tax dollars. Just build the core!!!

Anonymous said...

Lets be honest. While Turner Field may be more "downtown" than the new location it is sketchy as hell down there. It is in one of the most criminally under developed areas of Atlanta , and full of criminals too. Look at heat maps for where the majority of the Braves season ticket holders reside....that's right.....North of Atlanta. They are moving closer to their fans. I will concede that everything there will be soulless.

Anonymous said...

You're dumb.

Bernard Finucane said...

Yes, and the fact is that baseball stadiums are a terrible public investment that never pay for themselves. Atlanta isn't on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars, and that's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, did you say because of parking the fans don't get to enjoy the local restaurants and bars around Turner Field? What bars and restaurants would those be? The KFC/Taco Bell next to the stadium? Or that wing restaurant that doubles as a dirt pile and looks like you need security just to walk in there. When it comes down to it, you're dealing with the city of Atlanta - one of the worst run big city governments in America. The city promised the Braves they would build restaurants and bars and a 'scene' around Turner Field for years - they never delivered. So now the Braves are finally getting what they've wanted - just not in an area of town where you don't want to be if there's not an event going on. I don't blame the Braves at all - direct your anger and discontent to the city of Atlanta and the morons running the government. To all of you who are going to boycott the new stadium and no longer go to Braves games - thank you, I will happily accept your freed up ticket. Go Braves.

Jarrett Bellini said...

I think we're actually in agreement about Turner Field. It was flawed from the get-go. Because they went with parking lots there is no nightlife around the stadium. You are correct. The city is definitely to blame, and they should've worked with the Braves to develop the area around Turner Field. So, I don't disagree that Turner Field has its issues. But I'd still rather have it closer to downtown than in some manufactured hell hole out in Cobb County. If they scrapped everything and decided to build a new stadium in the spot of the Georgia Dome, I would support that. Here. Take my tax dollars!

Anonymous said...

I hear you and understand your argument. And the Georgia Dome location would have been an interesting choice - to have 2 large stadiums (Braves and Falcons) right next door to each other would be an interesting sight. But let me say this - I am going to reserve judgment and not declare the new location a 'manufactured hell hole' until I see what the final product is. Maybe you're right, and it will be a corporate chain nightmare. Or maybe, and hopefully, they will give the nod to more local restaurants and retailers to give a more local feel. They have an opportunity to have a ball park surrounded with southern flavor and Braves history even though it might be in new, glossy packaging. I encourage you to give the new stadium and area 1 shot. Who knows, you might even like the view of the skyline from the new spot....

Stan said...

Downtown stadiums for them to work, take complete buy in from it's city. The city has to be committed to developing the area and the infrastructure around the stadium as well. None of that happened from Atlanta. But to compare the Cobb location to Glendale, gimme a break man. You can go 10 miles in any direction of the new stadium and have drive through over a half a million people. You go 10 miles west or NW of Glendale, you have over a half a million tumble weeds.
Wrigley Field was not a downtown stadium when it was built. It was built in an outskirt suburb community of Woodlawn. My dad was born in 1935 and raised about 4 miles away from Wrigley in Evanston. It was nothing but farmland between them. They would shoot pheasant across the street from his house. Yankee Stadium... the Yankees moved from Manhattan Island to the Bronx... which is no where near downtown still today. And in the 20s, there was not much out there. Find an old pic of Yankee Stadium in the 20s, nothing but open lots. Dodger Stadium... East LA is nowhere near downtown. Milwaukee... Mets... Kansas City... Anaheim... Arlington... All not in downtown. Now most the downtown teams, St Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Seattle, San Fran all threatened to leave for the burbs or all together in some cases unless the city did something about the neighborhoods around their stadiums or provide them with another in town alternative that the city would not let get away. San Fran & St. Louis were prime examples of that. Heck, SF threatened to move to Tampa in the 90s if the city didn't do something.
So to say baseball belongs downtown is a stretch. The city didn't care for upgrading the infrastructure since they had their cut of the "Suburb Tax", which was parking. And really all you have heard from the residents of Summerhill is that they don't want another stadium when it comes to GSU project. They didn't want this stadium either.
Baseball belongs where the city and community embrace it. For 50 years the only thing south of I-20 the city of Atlanta has cared about is the airport that is the truth. Obviously Cobb County wants them to come. The Cumberland Community Improvement District wants them there. So most of the local businesses around the stadium have bought in. This may end up being a great situation for all 3 parties.
Now Cobb has chosen to wade out into the Urban Planning waters with the high rises around the Galleria as well as the conference space that is being utilized there. With the Braves, Comcast coming there, Home Depot & NAPA expanding their offices there, and the rumor that 2 blocks away Blank will be buying land for his MLS Soccer Team's office and practice facilities, they need to get serious about Urban Transit as well. And they need to do it sooner rather than later.

Anonymous said...

*Your

Anonymous said...

When its all said and done everyone will be able to see that while John Malone and the Braves were playing Kasim Reed and his merry band of followers like a violin...Arthur Blank played them like a Stradivarius. In the end both teams got what they wanted and Kasim Reed had his a$$ handed to him while the people of Atl got the shaft.

Anonymous said...

blank is NOT buying land near the Braves. that is simply not going to happen in 19 million years. He is all in West Atl. even mentioning that tells me you are a RE Developer pitching his location. Dodger stadium not near downtown LA? Bronx not in NYC? your pitching man.....how much you want for your land?

Gerry T said...

I was born and raised in Atlanta, and have been a Braves fan since the age of 5. I moved to San Francisco about 20 years ago...and for an example of a city that did it right, look no further than SF. The Giants used to play in a cold, windswept, desolate, and isolated part of SF. Then in 2000, they opened AT&T Park, and it's fabulous. It's easy to get to without a car with BART, Muni streetcars, several bus lines, and two ferry lines all having stops within a block of the park. And there are dozens of restaurants and bars near the stadium. ATT Park is what a baseball experience oughta be like. After I read everything about how the Braves new stadium deal went down...I've disowned them for good. Go Giants!

(Now let's see if the A's can follow SF's example.)

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