Georgia Politicians Clash on Atlanta Braves Move to the ‘Burbs

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    The Braves say they are packing up their things and moving to the suburbs. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says he wishes them well.

    On Monday, the team announced that it will be leaving downtown Atlanta to build a new $672 million stadium in Cobb County. On Tuesday, the mayor announced at a press conference that he would be tearing down their old home to build “one of the largest developments for middle-class people that the city of Atlanta has ever had,” in its place.

    “In the same way, with all due respect, that the Braves were having conversations with other people, we were too,” Reed said. “And I think that we’re gonna be able to make a pretty significant announcement about the development of a 60-acre track at a time when East Atlanta is absolutely exploding and doing well…I guarantee you that we’re not gonna leave a vacant [Turner Field].”

    Gov. Nathan Deal appeared to be in lockstep Reed after a 10-minute meeting with the mayor and officials with the Braves on Wednesday morning to discuss the franchise’s move. Published reports cited two people with knowledge of the negotiations who said the governor was not asked to intervene, but instead to focus on the next steps for the team to move to Cobb.

    The mayor added during his press conference that he would continue rooting for the Braves, but insisted that allowing the team to move up the I-75 highway was in the best interest of Atlanta.

    “I made the decision that we should not spend $200-250 million to interfere with a plan where the Atlanta Braves were moving 12 miles away,” Reed said. “And because of that decision, the City of Atlanta is gonna be stronger financially, we’re gonna keep $126 million in cash reserves and we’re gonna be about the business of repairing roads, expanding green spaces, making our city more beautiful, which is what the council has expressed to me that they are interested in and citizens have expressed to me that they’re interested in.”

    The Braves made the announcement via the creation of a new website, HomeoftheBraves.com. The site featured a video from Braves President John Schuerholz that detailed how the team came to the decision to leave downtown.

    “We wanted to find a location that was great for our fans, makes getting to and from the stadium much easier, and provides a first rate game day experience in and around the stadium,” Schuerholz said in the video.

    “Turner field, which we do not own, is in need of hundreds of millions of dollars of upgrades. Unfortunately, that massive investment would not do anything to improve access or the fan experience. These are issues we simply cannot overcome.”

    The team also pointed to “a lack of consistent mass transportation, a lack of sufficient parking and a lack of direct access to interstates” as reasons for the move.

    A statement from the Braves said that the stadium would be a “public-private partnership,” but did not detail how much revenue would come from the public. Reed said in a statement that it would be $450 million and that the city would be unwilling and unable to match that offer.

    Reactions to the Braves decision from other Atlanta politicians have leaned heavily toward keeping the team in town.

    U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) seemed startled and disappointed by the news.

    “I don’t know how much more the city could do, or should do,” Lewis told the AJC. “But it’s something that the mayor, city council and others should continue to negotiate on.”

    Lewis added that he remembered when the Braves moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee.

    “It’s a blow to the city,” he said. “The Atlanta Braves. The Atlanta Braves should be in Atlanta.”

    The Braves have played in downtown Atlanta since moving from Milwaukee in 1966 and have played at Turner Field since 1997, after the Olympics were held in the city. The Braves’ contract with Turner Field is overseen by the City of Atlanta and Fulton County Recreation Authority.

    Fulton County chairman John Eaves also weighed in, releasing a statement that urged the City of Atlanta to “do everything fiscally possible to keep the Braves in Fulton County.”

    “I was deeply disappointed to hear John Schuerholz, President of the Atlanta Braves announce that ‘America’s Team’ was leaving the City of Atlanta and Fulton County, which has been their home since 1966,” he said in the statement. “The Braves’ contribution to the City and the County deserves a second look by both the public and the private sectors here. It certainly deserves the same level of energy and support that the Atlanta Falcons received when they indicated that they might leave as well.”

    The move to Cobb County is not yet a done deal. The new stadium, which would be located at Circle 75 and Windy Ridge Parkway, northwest of the I- 75 and I- 285 interchange, will still likely require approval from the Cobb County Commissioners and could face voter backlash. The five-person group is next expected to meet on Nov. 26 to take up the issue.

    Reed said he would welcome the Braves back to Turner Field if the deal does fall through, but only under certain conditions.

    “They’ve got a process to go through in Cobb and I’m not gonna play games with them,” Reed said. “But if they don’t get a deal there, the Ted’s gonna be there and there are a lot of people on Council that want to get a deal. But, you know, it’s not gonna be a deal that has us where we were, which was broke.”

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