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Brave Moves...?

...or just Business as usual?

November 11, 2013 1:36 PM

Site of the proposed new Atlanta Braves ballpark. Look familiar?

This morning the Atlanta Braves surprised everybody and announced that they will be moving out of downtown Atlanta to the suburbs by 2017. And if you think you were surprised at this news, Atlanta baseball fans are completely blown away.

Read through some of the comments on that article and you'll get the sense that nobody saw this coming -- which means that, well, it's probably not. Commenters seem genuinely shocked, and split roughly down the middle on whether this is even a good idea or a bad idea, with a handful who recognize it as a negotiating ploy. Notably, many comments claim that the proposed site doesn't solve any of the problems the Braves say they have with Turner Field and its location.

Basically, the argument that the team is making is that it would cost $350M to upgrade Turner Field properly (that's $150M in ballpark "infrastructure" like new seats, and $200M in unspecified "fan experience" improvements). Therefore it's better for them to just start from scratch somewhere else. The proposed site is supposedly "closer to the fan base" and without some of the same traffic issues of the downtown location. (Where have we heard this before?)

Those are some pretty specific numbers, eh? Almost as if someone were interested in negotiating in the press after private talks failed. From the article:

"The Braves had been in discussions over the past year with city officials about potential development of a mixed-use project around the Turner Field parking lots, as well as how to deal with issues such as traffic, infrastructure improvements and fan enhancement improvements. ... Plant said the process 'started in early July with an exploratory lunch that I had with the (Cobb County Commission) chairman, Tim Lee.'"

In other words, even if somebody thinks there's a "100% chance" of this happening, it's still just an idea at this point, and ideas are sometimes the best form of leverage in the stadium business.

As we all know, stadium deals are nothing if not individual and idiosyncratic. After a real quick survey of available materials, it looks to me like what the Braves really want is some serious money spent in their current location. Specifically, they're looking for:

- improved and expanded parking (maybe a few parking ramps on all those surface lots)

- complete control of the parking revenue (they currently net only $5M per year)

- permission to sell the naming rights (what with Ted Turner no longer involved)

- upgraded freeway connections

- and a deal to redevelop the surrounding neighborhood (which more than one commenter bluntly describes as "the ghetto")

They might also want a Marta (light rail) train connection or the streetcar equivalent, but they would probably prefer keeping people in their cars (and paying for parking) as much as possible. It's also notable that the new location, at which the team would presumably completely control the parking, also has no public transportation connection.

Minnesota stadium watchers will be forgiven if the proposed suburban location looks more than a little like Arden Hills. It's not a brown field, but it does include a whole lot of team control of development opportunities, with the team already touting the creation of a whole entertainment complex to go with the stadium. From here it's hard to know how likely that is, but the team's desire for more cash is clear.

And speaking of moves...

Closer to home, the Twins moved one of their players from downtown to the suburbs, announcing that Joe Mauer will switch to first base permanently.

Brave move, or Business as usual?

Protecting the franchise player is understandable, but it trades pretty much all of Mauer's strengths for that safety. Stellar defense becomes average. Remarkable offense turns into serviceable (with a power-hitting position turned into a singles-hitting position). Twins pitchers lose as much as anybody since their already-bloated ERA's will likely suffer even further. Beyond protecting Joe (a laudable goal), it's hard to see the upside here. Maybe the return of A. J. Pierzynski? (OK, if that's an upside, it's probably only sentimental.)

Admittedly, the Twins may have had no real choice in the matter, but that doesn't change the fact that this already-diminished team is likely diminished further by this move. The burden on off-season improvements has just gone up.

One thing's for sure: This one is not a negotiating ploy.

Comments


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Until yesterday, the last post on this site was July 22, and suddenly we have two new posts within 24 hours!!

Gophers win four consecutive Big Ten games for the first time in 30 years!!

Wolves beat the Lakers for the first time since 2007, ending a 22-game losing streak!!

What is happening?!?!

Meanwhile, over at 1 Twins Way, Mauer is moving to 1B and Jason Bartlett signs a non-roster deal to come back to Minnesota...he has not played since 2011. Nice to see the Twins continue to peck at the scrap pile. They must have found that "piranha" floating atop of the tank...

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 2:18 PM by Mike (aka Mike) Highlight this comment 1

Well, the Braves' volley has been returned.

Everybody's playing hardball.

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 2:52 PM by Rick 2

You know, it's worth noting that if this move really does happen as described, the swiftness of the deal-making will have saved everybody a whole lot of wrangling, and probably a lot of money.

Had the Twins been able to build their 1997 design over by the river, it would have saved 9 years of bitter negotiations and somewhere around $300M.

Could it be that Atlanta-area politicians are actually wiser than everybody else?

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 2:58 PM by Rick 3

What idiocy. Even if you take their own dollar amounts at face value, they could completely renovate and modernize an already relatively new stadium for $350M, or spend $672M - including $450M of public money - to build another new ballpark?? That's an enormously stupid waste of money. If I lived in Cobb County, I'd go bonkers.

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 3:02 PM by BR Highlight this comment 4

Mike,

I sort of realized over the weekend that I've been writing long comments that actually would be better as new posts. And I've got some partially-written long posts that have been clogging up my psyche and making me feel like I should finish them before posting anything else. I'll still do it, but getting past the psychic backlog was necessary...

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 3:11 PM by Rick 5

Rick - It's real. Team doesn't go through all the effort and PR push they had today as a negotiating ploy. If it was a bluff, details would have been leaked to get fans up in arms about team leaving and then forcing city to pay for upgrades. Final funding vote comes on 11/26 and does not require a voter referendum - only the approval of the 5 person Cobb County Board of Commissioners. I lived in Cobb county for eight years. Traffic to Turner Field was horrible. Traffic will still be rough here, but much closer to their fanbase (see the graphic showing ticket holders).

The fact that this came together in 4 months and without any leaks in mind-blowing.

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 3:15 PM by JB31 Highlight this comment 6

Yes, the "no leaks" part is truly astounding, especially given the fact that there was a mayoral election last week which would have been seriously impacted if this info had come out earlier.

It still seems like pressure from the people of Atlanta (if there is any) could force the mayor back to the negotiating table, though the tone of that press release certainly makes it sound completely dead.

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 3:28 PM by Rick 7

The mayor used up all his stadium $$ goodwill towards the new Falcons stadium and couldn't go back to get more for the Braves.

In one respect, the city of Atlanta got a better deal as they are paying ~$200-$260M (20%) and falcons are covering ~$740M (80%), whereas Cobb County is covering $450M (60%) and Braves paying only $200M (40%).

And even though Turner Field was in the city it was almost suburban with empty parking lots around it and no other development. A little like the metrodome.

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 3:40 PM by JB31 Highlight this comment 8

Rays and A's fans have to wonder how can the Braves get a new stadium so - easily?

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 5:21 PM by TheTruthHurts Highlight this comment 9

If you look at the location of Marlins Park in Miami, you'll see that it's smack dab in a residential neighborhood without really forging a connection with that neighborhood. The location is also inconveniently placed in relation to the two nearest freeways (the Dolphin Expressway (FL-836) and I-95). However, the stadium wound up there in large part because The Orange Bowl had once sat there. Citizens and politicians in Miami, not to mention the Marlins, could mentally accept the site because it had hosted a stadium since the 1930s. That the actual site would have been better suited to residential development along with some offices, light retail, and perhaps light industrial mattered little to the concerned parties.

I'll give Turner Field this. It's at least situated at the intersection of I-20 and I-75/I-85 in a manner that makes a good deal of sense. However, the decision to put the Olympic/MLB stadium on that site owed much to it being the site of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. People in the area could deal with it as a stadium location because that's what it had been since the mid 1960s. That it was on the wrong side of the freeway connection to benefit downtown Atlanta and benefit from downtown Atlanta seemed to not matter. For that matter while Grant Park and Zoo Atlanta aren't too far away, the ballpark wound up far enough from them that they neither connect with nor benefit each other. That the general area around the stadium was and is a combination of residential and light commercial with little potential to grow or cross benefit is also notable.

Some will look at those situations and see some parallels with the new Vikings stadium.

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 5:24 PM by Jorge Highlight this comment 10

Man with twins showing interest in old twins pitcher santana and old catcher aj we could have A bunch of our old players back on the team. Not sure if thats A good thing or not

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 5:33 PM by Leroy Highlight this comment 11

Dont forget non roster invitee for Jason Bartlett. No- it's not a good thing. Either is making a huge announcement of moving Mauer to 1st base (yawn-we've already done that before) although it will temper some of the debate about resigning Justin (1 RBI down the stretch for the Pirates) Morneau-another perennial user of the hot tub come Aug, Sep, Oct. Come on Twins-there are other people out there other than....former Twins (unless we are talking about former Twins on All Star roster last year....which we arent)

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 6:13 PM by Uffda Highlight this comment 12

Here's what I don't get in relation to the Braves situation: why the hell did they sign only a 20 year lease? And why can't they just simply renew the lease and just renovate Turner Field? If the capacity is too big, then scale it down. They removed 35,000 seats from the place when they transformed it from Stade de Olympique to b ballpark. Can't they just reduce the number of seats. Redo the configuration a bit?

And I don't understand the lease. 20 years seems VERY low. The Twinkies signed a 15 year lease at the Disgrace on Puckett Place, but to them it was an interim location, which is why they started pandering for a new ballpark in 1996. They NEVER intended to stay at the DPP as long as they did. And why don't the Braves just sign another lease like any other tenant in any other leased space would do?

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 8:20 PM by luke Highlight this comment 13

"pandering for a new ballpark" ?????????????????

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 10:23 PM by Ben Highlight this comment 14

I'm still trying to figure out why the city of Atlanta would give their Olympic stadium a French name.

Posted on November 12, 2013 at 05:30 AM by Winona Mike Highlight this comment 15

May be French...means the same...lol. Having fun with words I guess.

Posted on November 12, 2013 at 08:17 AM by luke Highlight this comment 16

The Atlanta situation points out the fact that ballpark design has to be seen as part of the larger issue of urban planning, including mass transit, parking and land use. I've never been there, but it sounds like Turner Field is a much nicer outdoor ballpark than the Metrodome, but just as poorly located.

Posted on November 12, 2013 at 09:29 AM by terry Highlight this comment 17

Turner was located a little outside downtown I believe. Across from the old A-FC stadium

Posted on November 12, 2013 at 10:47 AM by luke Highlight this comment 18

Seems to me what it really comes down to is money. The Braves want to control more of the revenue that comes in than they do now. By building A new place in A different location they might accomplish just that.

Posted on November 12, 2013 at 4:22 PM by Leroy Highlight this comment 19

Today the Atlanta mayor said he's going to tear down Turner Field the minute the Braves leave. If that isn't incendiary language, I don't know what is.

From my further reading, it does appear that his hands are tied, meaning that he has absolutely no incentive to do anything unless there's a big groundswell from the fans -- at which point it would be on their heads, with him only as a facilitator/savior.

But it's also clear that the financing piece for the new development is far from a done deal. That's not necessarily fatal, but it does shift the leverage significantly. Without anything signed, whatever guarantees the Braves got sort of fly out the window and all dollars are now subject to renegotiation (if, indeed, they were ever negotiated in the first place).

There are a lot of different ways to a new stadium, and the Braves have chosen one of the weirdest ones yet.

Posted on November 12, 2013 at 4:30 PM by Rick 20

More peculiarity concerning the Braves' desired new location....

Posted on November 12, 2013 at 6:05 PM by TheTruthHurts Highlight this comment 21

So, do the Twins now have the most overpaid first baseman in the game?

Posted on November 13, 2013 at 03:39 AM by Jfh Highlight this comment 22

The ship has sailed in more ways than one, and of course we have to consider the need for an Olympic Stadium that could then be repurposed, but in another universe there's a spot in downtown Atlanta called The Gulch that could have hosted that city's own version of Target Field with a bit of creativity. It's resemblence to the old Rapid Park site is rather striking. The location is also in close proximity to CNN's HQ, Philips Arena (home of the Hawks), the Georgia Dome, the Falcons' future stadium, several major hotels, and further away are the convention center and Centennial Olympic Park.

Posted on November 13, 2013 at 10:30 AM by Jorge Highlight this comment 23

I know this isn't a Wolves chat room, but ... did Corey Brewer get a lobotomy? If there's a team in this town worth watching, it's the (gasp) T-Wolves.

Posted on November 13, 2013 at 8:45 PM by TheTruthHurts Highlight this comment 24

I agree. They have been doing very well. Our winter sports season will be interesting with the Wild doing fairly well and the Rodents football program doing extraordinarily well. The Twins were a disappointment but it looks like the Wild, the Twolves and the gopher s might make up for it.

Posted on November 14, 2013 at 12:51 PM by luke Highlight this comment 25

Registration today for "complimentary" Twins Fest tix. SOS - wanted phone #, birthdate, etc., etc. I'm trying to think of a reason they would anything more than account #.

Posted on November 14, 2013 at 2:33 PM by Ben Highlight this comment 26

To compile a mailing list broken down by various demographics that they can sell, probably.

Posted on November 14, 2013 at 6:59 PM by Winona Mike Highlight this comment 27


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