So Long, Atlanta Braves
I’ve been hit hard by the news that the Atlanta Braves will leave Turner Field, their 17 year old stadium built for the 1996 Olympic Games, to move to a new stadium in the suburbs of Cobb County for the 2017 season. I understand their financial reasons. The lease they have with Atlanta/Fulton County on the current stadium doesn’t allow them to make any revenue from parking and gives them only limited revenue from concessions. And the organization says the TED is in need of $150 million in renovations. (I don’t see it. It’s a WONDERFUL place to watch a game!) They say the stadium isn’t easily accessible by MARTA, Atlanta’s public transportation system, although there are MARTA shuttles that run from the Five Points rail station right to the stadium on game days. And how can you pass up $450 million from Cobb County towards a brand new facility?
But here are my questions. How can you question MARTA access to Turner Field when there is NO MARTA in Cobb County at all? How does a stadium at I-75 and I-285, already one of the most nightmarish stretches of metro Atlanta interstate, solve traffic problems into and out of the stadium? And where is Cobb County getting that $450 million dollars for a stadium when they’ve been making cuts to their public safety and education budgets for years? And is it wrong for me to look at this as a kind of white flight?
There have been rumors for a few years that Cobb County might be reconsidering its stance on MARTA, so I’ll bet we see a MARTA rail line run to the new stadium. And reports say that Cobb County won’t tax its residents, that the money will come from a hotel/motel tax. But let’s address the racial/class issues involved.
A map in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today shows that the majority of Braves’ ticket holders live in the predominantly white, Northern sections of metro Atlanta. It makes sense to move your stadium closer to your customers. But so many of the positive comments about the move have been like the guy who said, “Thank God I can take my wife to the game without worrying about her being raped.” (Actually, he wrote, “without being rapped,” so I’m not going to take him too seriously.) Someone else wrote about all the assaults and murders that have taken place around Turner Field. And when was that again?
So many white people lose their shit when they even SEE a black person. Yes, if you assume that every black person you see is angling to steal your camouflage cap and your chain wallet, then yes, I guess Atlanta is a very scary place. But the Atlanta I know and live in isn’t like that. 99% of us, regardless of the color of our skin are out in our neighborhoods going to work, scraping to make a living, and trying to make something better for their children. Just like the white people in the suburbs. And guess what? When you go to see the Braves in Cobb County, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to see someone on your way THERE who doesn’t look like you.
But despite my liberal grumpiness, I’m mostly sad because things change. My entire life the Braves have been in that spot off of 75/85. I saw my first game at old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on July 4th, 1976 when our lowly Braves beat, possibly the greatest baseball team of all-time, the 1976 Cincinnati Reds. Baseball’s greatest home run hitter, Hank Aaron, played for the Braves there. Perhaps baseball’s greatest pitcher, Greg Maddux, played for the Braves there. So many others great and/or beloved: Joe Torre, Del Crandall, Phil Niekro, Rowland Office, Rick Camp, Biff Pocaroba, Bob Horner, Brian Asselstine, Dale Murphy, Jeff Blauser, Chipper Jones, Steve Avery, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Javy Lopez, Sid Bream, Terry Pendelton, Fred McGriff, Ron Gant, Deion Sanders, Otis Nixon, David Ross(!). Obviously, I could go on and on.
This weekend has made me feel old. I ran past the old Dante’s Down the Hatch in Buckhead and it was a pile of rubble. It was my idea of where all the hip people in Atlanta hung out when I’d see commercials for it in the 70s. They’ve torn it down to build another office building. Up Peachtree Street a few blocks from Dante’s at Macy’s, they announced last week that they would be replacing their annual giant rooftop live Christmas tree with an artificial tree that will sit in the parking lot. I know nobody can take your memories away, but why do they have to take the stuff away to start with?
I guess I’m starting to understand how my daddy felt when he’d reminisce about watching the Crackers at Ponce Park, and how my mom feels when she talks about eating hot dogs at the Yellow Jacket. Turning 45 didn’t make me feel old, but all these changes do.
In the long-run, I know life goes on. But I love the Atlanta Braves, not the Smyrna Braves. I know I’ll make great new Braves memories at the new park. But right now, I can’t help feeling a little like there’s been a death in the family. R.I.P. Atlanta Braves.