Cobb County Braves

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I’ve had a little more than a full day to fully digest the news that the Atlanta Braves will no longer call Turner Field, or even Atlanta for that matter, home.

The Braves are moving to the suburbs for a new $672 million stadium in Cobb County, of which Cobb is expected to pay for around $450 million.

The Stadium is set to open in 2017, the same year as the Atlanta Falcons new downtown stadium. The mailing address will still be Atlanta. The hat will still have a cursive A. The road jerseys will still say Atlanta. But the reality is that the Atlanta Braves will no longer play in the city of Atlanta.

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I think that attendance will improve. What makes me thing this? the graph to the left provided by the Braves.

The red dots represent ticket sales for the 2012 season. It’s pretty clear that the majority of fans who actually purchase tickets to Braves games live north of the city, in the suburbs.

This is a move that truly makes a lot of sense for the Braves, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. It really feels like a gut punch from a franchise I have loved my entire life.

I cried when the Braves traded Deion Sanders to the Reds in 1994. It was the first, but certainly not the last time, the Braves would make me feel this way. While I no longer cry over things the Braves do, this latest bit of news stings and Grantland’s Rembert Browne puts this into words far better than I could even attempt to.

This is a developing story that will continue to unwind as we get closer to construction, but one anecdote in the AJC will certainly stick with me and Braves fans for a while.

(Hans) Utz said Mike Plant, Braves vice president of operations, pulled him aside in one of the earliest conversations and said the team would leave unless the city complied with its requests.

“We said we can’t negotiate under this threat of blackmail; rather than make threats, why not talk instead about what we can jointly accomplish and find a route that isn’t based on blackmail?” Utz said.

Those negotiations stalled, Utz said, because the Braves wanted to engage on both sides of the process, to set parameters of the development and then to choose the developer — a role city officials deemed a conflict of interest.

But we’re told the Braves privately contend that the stiff-arm came from the other direction. At one of their meetings this spring, we’re told, Utz looked at a frustrated Plant and said, “It’s not as if you can move anywhere.”

Plant was a member of the 1980 Olympic U.S. speed-skating team. That encounter, we’re told, is what set Plant’s competitive juices flowing and prompted the outreach to Cobb County. And it’s likely to become a part of Braves lore.

What’s done is done, and as Browne wrote, I just hope that Atlanta heeds this warning and ensures the Falcons don’t move to Flowery Branch decades after the new stadium and that the Hawks don’t go to Gwinnett.

There are lots of questions that will be determined in the next few months and even years about this new ballpark. Will MARTA go to Cobb County now? Will this make I-285 officially the worst interstate in the country?

But really the only question I have for Cobb County at this point is, how many Waffle Houses do you plan to have in the new ballpark?

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