Braves leaving Turner Field for Cobb County
New ballpark to be built at junction of I-75 and I-285, to open in time for 2017 season
ATLANTA -- After the 2016 season, Turner Field will not be the home of the Braves.
As announced on Monday, the Braves are planning to build a state-of-the-art ballpark that will be ready for the 2017 season. The proposed site, in Cobb County approximately 14 miles northwest of Turner Field on the northwest corner of the I-75 and I-285 intersection, will be surrounded by hotels, restaurants, retail outlets and other entertainment options.
"We think this is going to be a remarkable, positive development on all sides," president John Schuerholz said. "It will make it far greater for our fans, with a far more enjoyable experience. It should be successful. We believe it makes us look more comfortably, favorably and positively toward the continued development of our organization."
Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig issued the following statement regarding today's announcement:
"The Braves have kept us apprised of their stadium situation throughout this process. Major League Baseball fully supports their decision to move to a new ballpark in Atlanta for the 2017 season, and we look forward to their continued excellence representing their community, both on and off the field."
Although specific financial details were not revealed, the Braves said they are "putting a significant financial investment" into the construction of the stadium, which will cost approximately $672 million and include somewhere in the neighborhood of 41,000 seats.
Cobb County will also be investing in the cost of the stadium and its surroundings, as well as proposed transportation enhancements. Details of the public funding have not been released.
When Schuerholz and Mike Plant, the Braves' executive vice president of business options, met with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on Friday, they informed him of the plans to move from Turner Field when the 20-year lease expires at the end of the 2016 season.
The decision to move to the northwest suburbs will end the club's long-standing residency in downtown Atlanta. The Braves played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium from 1966-96, and moved across the street when Olympic Stadium was transformed into Turner Field at the start of the 1997 season.
"Safe to say, [Reed] was disappointed," Plant said. "He's a pro-business guy. He understands business. I told him very clearly [that] we're not moving into another city or another state. We're still going to be an active participant with the city with our Braves Foundation grants. We're not leaving Atlanta. We're just moving  miles up the road."
Plant has been meeting with city officials since 2005 in an attempt to gain the funds and assistance necessary to upgrade the stadium and, more important, address the transportation issues -- namely parking and traffic -- that made it difficult for fans to attend games at Turner Field.
The Braves evaluated ways to make improvements at Turner Field and surround it with the numerous entertainment options that will be available around the new stadium year-round, but those improvements would not have addressed the transportation issues. Fans who have used MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) trains have either had to walk approximately three-quarters of a mile from the nearest stop or exit at Five Points and take a one-mile shuttle ride.
Heavy traffic in downtown Atlanta has also deterred some fans. According to Plant, Turner Field is about 5,000 parking spots short of the optimal figure when filled to capacity.
"The access issues around Turner Field are very difficult," Derek Schiller, the Braves' executive vice president of sales and marketing, said. "It's the No. 1 issue cited by our fans as to why they either don't come to games or come to as many games. It's difficult to get here and very difficult to get out of here. The parking situation is cumbersome and challenging."
The move should not affect the club's desire to remain an affordable entertainment option for families.
"We know this new site will provide our fans with a far more pleasant experience of accessing our ballpark, leaving the ballpark and coming early," Schuerholz said. "What is unique about this project is [that] coming out of the ground at the same time as the stadium is the first phase of our mixed-use development, this great destination where people will be able to mitigate the traffic problems by going someplace early, where they can have a nice meal, shop or hang out with friends and family, and then stay there afterward if they like. That helps a lot of the traffic issues."
The new stadium, which is expected to have a corporate naming sponsor, will have approximately 10,000 fewer seats than Turner Field and upwards of 30,000 parking spots that will be owned and operated by the Braves.
But some transportation issues will need to be addressed, as MARTA trains do not run to Cobb County.
Per Plant, plans are in place to address roadway access to the new ballpark and to provide shuttle systems that will transport fans from as far away as downtown Atlanta, though specific details will be provided at a later time.
The Braves are confident that these transportation issues will not prove to be as significant as those for Turner Field.
"We just got to a point where [we couldn't overcome] the challenges we have put on the table of identifying the large bucket of funding for infrastructure improvements, fan enhancements and access," Plant said. "They became insurmountable in our discussions. So fortunately, we were able to create a real public-private partnership with Cobb County. It's a great day for us moving forward with our future."