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The Braves moving to a new park is understandable but perverse

Nov 11, 2013, 11:03 AM EDT

Turner Field

I’m still processing the announcement that the Braves are abandoning a 17 year-old ballpark for a new ballpark in the Atlanta suburbs. But in the meantime, here are my initial thoughts:

  • If anyone sees what the Braves are doing and STILL argues for public funding of ballparks, they should have their head examined. Turner Field was built for the Olympics and converted for baseball at great cost — some private, some public — and remains a more or less new and near state-of-the-art ballpark. Now Cobb County is going to pay for a new park. At some point it should begin to dawn on governments and tax payers that professional sports teams are playing them, but I’m not sure when that point is.
  • We live in a world where the Rays are stuck in Tropicana Field and the A’s are stuck in the Oakland Coliseum, yet we will soon have two perfectly wonderful ballparks in the Atlanta area, serving a team that rarely fills one. Thanks antitrust exemption. If baseball owners were forced to deal with the same competitive environment as most business this wouldn’t happen. Someone would come take over Turner Field. Or move to New Jersey. Whatever the case, this is sorta perverse.
  • That said, the impulse for the Braves to want to move makes some amount of sense. The Braves are a business and their goal is to make money. They have a crappy TV deal so stadium revenue is paramount for them. They are clearly making a calculation that they can make way more money in the new ballpark under new circumstances than they can hope to make in Turner Field. The Braves released a map today which shows how large a proportion of their ticket sales come from the northern suburbs, where the new ballpark will be. They’re not idiots. The financial incentives in play are probably pretty compelling.
  • But let us not confuse what will surely be financial success with brilliant business acumen on the part of the Braves. At least not the sort of acumen which usually gets lauded as the genius of capitalism or whatever. MLB owners live in a world with basically zero risk in order to get their billions. As stadium financing shows, baseball owners live off of other people’s money. Usually public money. And no one ever seems to call these already rich men and corporations out on accepting millions from the government the way poor people are called out on accepting a few hundred or a couple of thousand because they can’t feed their families or get basic medical care.

Politics aside: I’m a Braves fan. I’ll probably always be a Braves fan. Why? Because fandom is inherently irrational. We root for laundry. We root to perpetuate memories and good feelings we had when we were kids. I root because I rooted for Dale Murphy and Bruce Benedict at one strange time in my life and then just followed the thread. We all have that same story. It’s why we give a longer and more charitable look at the new players our teams acquire and thus continue on with them too. You can’t just let that go.

But if it were rational? If we just chose who we rooted for based on objective criteria as adults? If you dropped us down on Earth for the first time in 2013 and told us to root for the team which most appeals to us in terms of the behavior of the organization as a whole, its fan base, its culture and everything else? Man, it would be harder than Hell to root for the Atlanta Braves right now.

118 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. chrisernst82 - Nov 11, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    Lots of good comments here, you can get a lot more out of this by reading them than just the article. One thing im curious about is the actual numbers Turner field was renovated after the Olympics at “great” cost. How much is great cost? And what would have been done with the stadium otherwise? Sounds like it was in best interest of Atlanta to convert a one use stadium into one used at least 81 times a year at least. Also why don’t cities who appropriate these funds call for certain stipulations? Like in the Marlins case not dropping every bit of your cost in players at what seems to be the cost of the city. Or in Atlanta’s maybe a length of use?

    • clydeserra - Nov 11, 2013 at 9:30 PM

      that is bs. it was built for the braves to occupy after the olympics. sure there were conversion costs. (its cost $200,000 to convert the Oakland stadium from one sport to another).

      That is a talking point to distract you from the issue.

    • bravojawja - Nov 12, 2013 at 9:34 AM

      The Braves didn’t pay a penny for the stadium. It was built for the Olympics and converted for baseball use by ACOG, the Olympic committee.

  2. atlantadawg - Nov 11, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    I will go on record as saying that I believe all stadiums should be privately funded. Unlike a lot of commentors here, I live in Atlanta and have been following this story fora while as it wasn’t just a knee jerk reaction. The Braves have been asking for years for more parking at the stadium and the city has done nothing. Yes, the stadium is right off the interstate, but the traffic flow to get in and out is horrendous. And yes, the stadium is in theghetto. There are boarded up houses and shops across the street from the stadium. There are two parking lots for fans directly attached to the stadium. A lot of people are having to park in broken bottle lots with panhandlers taking money for parking . The city doesnt properly regulate this issue. Take into consideration that the city owns the stadium and all the parking and the Braves cant do anything. The city is set to sell off part of the North parking lot for condos in a year or two. There is exactly two hotels and one bar near the stadium. Name one other stadium that has that little development within walking distance to a ballpark. I love Turner Field. I really don but I cant fault the Braves for moving. The city did nothing to help but had no problem spending over $20 million in buying two 100 churches to tear down so the Falcons would stay downtown. Once that happened, I feel the Braves were left with no choice. The city didnt want to do anything to jelp improve the stadium it owns so the Braves are going to move where people that actually go to the games live. The Braves signed a lease for Turner Field and have honored that lease. If you want to blame anyone, blame the politicians of Atlanta for allowing the situation to get to this point.

    • truckel5 - Nov 11, 2013 at 8:04 PM

      There are no bars or restaurants within walking distance to Kauffman Stadium, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, US Cellular, Marlins Park, Citizens Bank Park, Miller Park, Dodger Stadium, and Anaheim is debatable, if you like your walk to include freeways. These are just parks that I have visited and could think of off the top of my head. You make some good points, but there are still plenty of parks on parking lot islands not closing after 20 years of use. This new one will, undoubtedly, add to the list of parks on said parking lot islands.

      • kcwookie - Nov 12, 2013 at 4:21 PM

        And that is unfortunate, you go across KC to Sporting park and it’s next door to some of the best BBQ in KC and there are plenty of bars and restaurants close. People come early and stay late. Parking sucks though…unless you pay through the nose. If the taxpayers are going to build a stadium then it should be where business can get a piece of the action like they do with Sporting Park in KC.

        As a KC resident, there is no reason to go to The K or Arrowhead any earlier than game time.

    • bravojawja - Nov 12, 2013 at 9:40 AM

      How can you have both more parking lots and more development? There’s only x amount of space.

      And you’re damn right the city owns the land – the city paid for it and built it. The Braves didn’t pay a penny for their stadium. You can argue the city didn’t do enough to help the area, but Turner Field is only occupied 81 days a year. Hard to make it a year-round destination when it’s only open a quarter of the year.

      Also: most of the money going to the churches near the Dome is coming from private funds (Arthur Blank). And the city is getting some help from the state authority that owns the land the new stadium will be/Dome is.

      • naytchureboy - Nov 12, 2013 at 9:53 PM

        If Atlanta owns the land and built the ballpark then it should be reflected in the ticket price so that the people of the city gert some equity out of taxpayer investment..

        No free lunch’s remember?

    • naytchureboy - Nov 12, 2013 at 2:29 PM

      Absolutely agree.

      We have enough corporate welfare going on don’t we?

      Its a branch off the same ideology of private enterprise being able to profit from not having to pay for something they would ordinarily have to as a part of doing business, they no longer have to.

      Its free money for them to stock in their own bank accounts, and given its already sickening that out of every $100 dollars produced in this country of our GDP, that 1% keep $65 Dollars, and the remaining 99% of the working famlies of America have to split the remaining $35 dollars 99 ways.
      And now what..you want to expand that paradigm into subsidizing their private ventures?
      Somethings seriously flawed about one’s understanding of what fair equity, honorable virtues that speak to an ethical & moral compass in life means.

      When the government or the taxpayers subsidize any part of a private business who stands to gain the most?

      The people who own the business.
      It ain’t us.Ya think?

      How many times does it take to get hit over the head before the truth sinks in what kind of world you live in and who rules it.

      Why?

      Because now they get you to pay for something they don’t?

      Its a free lunch for them to get you to pay for something they don’t.

      And the next thing you know, every game in town especially the right is gonna be knocking on the public offices of the city council managers office & mayor looking for a handout where they get kickbacks & bribes, cronyism, nepotism, fraud, & all the rest of it.

      Its just part & parcel of the same dynamic of Dr. David Kortens book, ,”When Corporations Run the World”.

      If taxpayers are gonna fund any part of a business then they become by way of “tacit procuration”a legal bonafide stakeholder for which shares of stock equivalent yo what they pay into the clubs profits come from the proceeds of that business.

      Isn’t that called, “whats good for the goose is good for the gander”?

      If I was an Atlantian and they had my tax money going to pay for a private sector business venture, then Id demand a share of what I pay into it to come back to me on a per capita basis.

      Tellem top go fly a kite.

  3. metitometin - Nov 11, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    I understand this move from a financial perspective, but the Braves are abandoning the city of Atlanta. They may as well call themselves the Cobb County Braves. Downtown is in desperate shape. Many parts resemble an inner-city ghetto. The Braves should be part of the solution, not running away from it. Way to be an upstanding member of the community…NOT. The Braves should be ashamed for abandoning a desperate city in their time of need.

    • atlantadawg - Nov 11, 2013 at 7:42 PM

      So the Braves are the only one at fault here? Your logic is flawed. The city, who owns the stadium and surrounding area does nothing to fix or repair anything and the Braves are supposed to just sit there and pay the lease with no help? If the city had stepped in like they did to help the Falcons, this wouldnt even be a discussion. Kasim Reed, the mayor made his decision on which team he wanted most and he chose the Falcons and a new 1 billion dollar building that is not needed. So instead of adding parking or helping with the surrounding roads, they did mothing and now the Braves are doing something about it. I love the Ted. I think its a great ballpark and I have a lot of great memories inside that stadium, but this one is on the city.

  4. dcfan999 - Nov 11, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    To bad alantas new stadium will still be empty

  5. gloccamorra - Nov 11, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    I think you’re making a Mount Everest out of a goose bump. The Braves will get more revenue and Turner Field is already paid for and ready for profitable redevelopment. The City of Atlanta will make out just fine, and it’s a good deal for the Braves and their fans.

  6. steelerfan9598 - Nov 11, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    I was just in Atlanta for the first time in April and went to a Braves game. I thought the stadium was pretty sweet. Empty but, nice. I was pretty impressed. The idea of just moving and leaving it empty seems nuts although I’m not an expert on the nuances of Atlanta living.

  7. alvie27 - Nov 11, 2013 at 11:46 PM

    Personally, I can’t help to wonder if the new stadium is the House the Dodgers built. Now that the Dodgers beat the Braves, the team is showing insecurities of having to go through Los Angeles deep pockets to get over the hump that has drowned the Braves over the years at the Ted. Dodger fans & management can’t help but feel they are the motivating factor… also the fact that 56,000 Dodger fans mocked the tomahawk chop during the recent playoffs at Dodger Stadium only perpetuated them as ‘has-beens’. It would look silly if the new stadium continued that chop- only reinforcing that times and places really don’t change anything.

    • knightinatl - Nov 12, 2013 at 12:23 AM

      Put the bottle down, dude.

    • jmg1204 - Nov 12, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      Boy you Dodger fans have hardly been to the postseason or watched postseason fo the 20 years. MANY post season teams if not all mock the Chop – but only when they are winning. Go eat a Dodger Dog and be thankful the Braves left the NL West in 94 or you would haver NEVER seen the postseason.

      • naytchureboy - Nov 12, 2013 at 10:29 PM

        Well I never could figure out what in the world are the Atlanta Braves in the western division in the 1st place, when the driving distance as I remember to Savanna GA wasn’t but a couple hour drive if that, where from Dodger stadium you can take I-11 south thru LA and get to San Pedro Harbor & the Pacific during off rush hour traffic in about 35 minutes?

        And more to the point even when Peyton Place gave us some bad years after they bought the team from the O’ Malleys they have always packed in the fans year in and year out, where I have been a season ticket holder ever since my Brooklyn team I moved to LA in 1958 and played at the LA Coliseum 4 seasons waiting for “Chavez Ravine” to be built the real name of Dodger stadium, & saw Warren Spahn strike out Duke Snyder when Spahn was a Brave alright,

        A Milwaukee Brave before heading to Atlanta.

        LA Dodgers 81 3,743,527 46,216 82.5

        The Dodgers have won six World Series titles and 21 National League pennants. Eight Cy Young Award winners have pitched for the Dodgers, winning a total of ten Cy Young Awards (both MLB records)

        Even though the

      • naytchureboy - Nov 12, 2013 at 10:45 PM

        Well I never could figure out what in the world are the Atlanta Braves in the western division in the 1st place, when the driving distance as I remember to Savanna GA wasn’t but a couple hour drive if that, where from Dodger stadium you can take I-11 south thru LA and get to San Pedro Harbor & the Pacific during off rush hour traffic in about 35 minutes?

        And more to the point even when Peyton Place gave us some bad years after they bought the team from the O’ Malleys they have always packed in the home fans year in and year out, where again this year we exceeded the 3 million mark of 3,743,527, while the Braves were at 2,548,679 for 2013 season..

        That’s a fan base difference of 1.2 million fans roughly.

        I have been a season ticket holder ever since my Brooklyn team I moved to LA in 1958 and played at the LA Coliseum 4 seasons waiting for “Chavez Ravine” to be built the real name of Dodger stadium, & saw Warren Spahn strike out Duke Snyder when Spahn was a Brave alright,

        A Milwaukee Brave before heading to Atlanta. Coarse Boston Braves before that for most of the preceding years of the 20th century.

        The Dodgers have won six World Series titles and 21 National League pennants. Eight Cy Young Award winners have pitched for the Dodgers, winning a total of ten Cy Young Awards (both MLB records)

        Even though the Braves have distinguished themselves as a great ball club.

        Particularly during the 1990’s as a true dynasty, winning division titles an unprecedented 14 consecutive times in that period[ since their debut as an original charter team in the National League in 1876.

        The franchise has won 16 divisional titles, 17 National League pennants, and three World Series championships.

        A record to be very proud of even though I have been a devout Dodger fan since aye’s a kid at Ebbets field with Leo Durocher Pee Wee Reese & Jackie Robinson.

        It has always been a great competitive rivalry. Having the Braves in the western division made it a better division in the National League.

  8. alvie27 - Nov 12, 2013 at 12:28 AM

    My apologies for the aforementioned post- in the spirit of good sportmanship I take my comment back. We wish the Atlanta Braves and their fans the most enjoyable experience at their new ballpark and the best of success. Learning that posts here are not retractable and posted out of line.

  9. naytchureboy - Nov 12, 2013 at 1:52 PM

    Well this is a systemic problem. It comes by way of cooperation or partnership versus competing for money.

    The very idea we compete instead of cooperate in this society to get things done in our lives limits whats possible, and as a result when you have it integrated into everything we do besides sports, in our lives is the very foundation upon which so much talent, resources & destruction of this planet is taking place, and we have limited ourselves by design to what kind of world we can truly build when we work together to fulfill the greatest potential, not undermine it.

  10. dedwengles - Nov 12, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    Cobb County Corn Cobs!

  11. g2-7b2e69dc6cc11d02c1a9cd2a9f178d9e - Nov 13, 2013 at 12:20 AM

    It cost $209M to build this stadium and we all know that it was built where it is because that’s where the Braves stadium was already located. The plan was for them to move in after the olympics and we all paid for it.

    Even though they fulfilled their 20 year lease, this still equates to the Braves taking a GIANT dump on the city. And now Kasim Reed is just casually saying that it will be torn down? On WHAT PLANET does it make sense to demolish a perfectly good stadium that effectively cost FOURTEEN MILLION DOLLARS a year to build. Why oh WHY can he casually say that this is ok. It is NOT ok.

    The Braves should never have had the luxury of moving in to a brand new facility without something significantly more permanent than a 20 year lease. Who cares if they honored it and who cares if the burden of this loss belongs to the city, the Braves took $209 from Atlanta and now they’re walking away. That’s is a shame.

    They should have been forced to pay for part of the construction. They should have been tied to a MUCH longer lease or they should be an owner. The city should have offered incentives for developers to build around the park. They could have built a parking deck – since when does parking have to be sprawled one one level? The city should have built rail to the area.

    Don’t get me wrong, the city has done nothing (except hide 18 months of negotiations) to keep the Braves. But the Braves suck in this situation as well. I am disgusted.

  12. g2-7b2e69dc6cc11d02c1a9cd2a9f178d9e - Nov 13, 2013 at 12:21 AM

    *$209 Million

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