Braves' new home exemplifies team's success
Mixed-use site in Cobb County, another accomplishment, expected to improve access
Good things often are taken for granted, and so are good franchises.
The Atlanta Braves have been in that category for some time. But thankfully, they're not taking themselves for granted.
The Braves announced Monday that beginning in 2017 they will play their home games at a new ballpark in Cobb County. The new park is approximately 14 miles northwest of their current home of Turner Field. For all 47 of their years in Atlanta, the Braves have played in the vicinity of downtown.
But the new state-of-the-art ballpark will be part of a mixed-usage development that will include hotels, restaurants, retail outlets, other entertainment options and, of course, ample parking. This is precisely the kind of arrangement that franchises usually only hope for, but in this case, the whole package will be a reality for the Braves.
"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," Braves team president John 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 Braves have contended for some time that Turner Field is in need of major renovations. Their decision to move will not receive a standing ovation from city officials, but the Braves obviously felt that the new ballpark was a better option than ongoing negotiations with the city of Atlanta about fixing the current one. And the shortage of parking near Turner Field was not going to be fixed.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed released a statement in response to the Braves' move to Cobb County that said:
"The Atlanta Braves are one of the best baseball teams in America, and I wish them well.
"We have been working very hard with the Braves for a long time, and at the end of the day, 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."
This is not a good time to come to any major American municipality with a request for funding. On the Braves' side of the argument, the new stadium will be in a location that is actually much closer to the majority of the ticket-buying portion of their fan base.
The new ballpark does have the wholehearted endorsement of Major League Baseball, which as a matter of sound business practice wants all 30 of its franchises to be housed in the best possible conditions.
Commissioner Bud Selig said: "Major League Baseball fully supports [the Braves'] 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."
This is a sometimes overlooked point. The Braves have accomplished things that no other baseball franchise has. The 14 consecutive division titles they won from 1991-2005 was the sort of excellence that had not been matched. Now, in an era of increased competitive balance, it won't be matched anytime soon, either.
The Braves were the best in that sense, and if the criticism was that they didn't win enough World Series over that stretch, their record was one that roughly 28 other franchises would have taken in a heartbeat. Next year, two pitchers from that era, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, will likely be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
And the Braves haven't faded from view since that streak came to an end. They have qualified for the postseason in three of the past four seasons. They were back on top as division winners in 2013. They have developed another generation of young talent, and they won't be going away anytime soon.
While the move to Cobb County shocked some people, it illustrated that the Braves were not going to allow complacency to become a companion. They believe that they are securing the future for their organization with this move. In Schuerholz's administration of this club, the Braves have typically done their work with great care and diligence and astute judgment. The decision-making in the case of the new park will reflect the same elements.