Atlanta Braves Shun Downtown, Transit with Stadium Announcement

newbravesstadium Today the Atlanta Braves announced that they will leave the 16-year old Turner Field and build a new stadium out at the Perimeter (I-285) and I-75. The Braves have played in downtown Atlanta since 1966, but this move will take the team 15 miles away, to Suburbia. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Braves executive Derek Schiller said, 

“It’s also important that the access around the stadium … is greatly enhanced (by) having those major road ways — I-75, I-285, Cobb Parkway — and having a whole range of improved access points and ways to get to and from the stadium,” Schiller said. “… We fully believe that the access to the site will be greatly enhanced for our fans. That starts with roadways. Today, most of our fans arrive via car, and getting to this (new) site via car from all sorts of different directions is easier.”

Roads roads roads. Meanwhile in Raleigh city leaders are quietly doing long-range planning for a replacement for the 14-year old PNC Arena. A replacement isn’t coming in the next decade or two, however downtownist leaders, bemoaning the suburban location of the suburban arena, are considering just which downtown site would work best for the city. These same leaders are also pushing forward with plans to install a rail system which, supporters say, will spur rail-oriented development foci around the system’s stations.

What will probably be ignored as “stupid Atlanta”, a phrase mentioned frequently by Raleigh planners, is that the Braves, a private organization, are planning to spend $675 million on a facility that could not be farther away from transit and still match the population footprint. Atlanta has 48 miles of heavy rail that directly accesses its airport, and one of the city’s most important businesses for Tourism is running away as fast as it can.

So, here is the question: will Raleigh continue to seek an Atlanta-level rail system? Will Raleigh continue to believe that it has some different quality that would make its rail attractive to development and the entertainment industry, unlike Atlanta? Does Raleigh really have what it takes to not exactly mimic Atlanta’s failures?


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  • Chuck Till Said:

    The Braves have the right idea. MARTA has never been a significant carrier of fans to Turner Field — in part because MARTA does not have the peak capacity to deal with a crowd of 40,000+. Meanwhile, the Braves know that the downtown (technically south of downtown) site for Turner Field is suboptimal in terms of where their fans live.

    The situation in Raleigh isn’t much different. Despite the whining of the pro-downtown crowd, the PNC Arena is in exactly the right spot. It’s convenient to north Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Chapel Hill, etc.

    If the Atlanta Thrashers had had an arena on the north side of Atlanta instead of in the central city, they’d still be in Atlanta instead of Winnipeg.

  • Buck Said:

    MARTA and Atlanta’s leadership basically shunned the Braves, not the other way around. MARTA could’ve (and should’ve) run a line to AFCS/Turner decades ago but chose not to. The area around the stadium has been desolate for decades with absolutely nothing to do before or after games. Have you ever been to Turner? I’m a big Braves fan and have always been depressed about the total lack of options around Turner. The reason the Braves are leaving DT Atlanta is because the area is a failure and it isn’t getting better in the near-term (and probably not in the long-term either).

    Like PNC & CFS, the new Braves stadium will be great for tailgating, which downtown stadiums (including Turner) are terrible for. Parcels on the new tract will also be developed by the Braves and will presumably be much, much better than the wasteland around Turner. Also, the new stadium will be closer to most of the Braves season ticket holders.

    The real bummer about all of this is not that the Braves are “shunning” MARTA or downtown; it’s that the local, mostly black seasonal employees of Turner Field will likely be out of jobs unless they can find a way to get to the new stadium.

  • Steelcity36 Said:

    I’m with Chuck on this one. Raleigh leaders back in the early 90’s had it exactly right. Place the arena where people have plenty of parking, easy access in/out and stealing a secret from Thad Eure they placed it where people can’t avoid passing it. I would love to see the population footprint of Hurricanes Season Ticket Holders. I’m sure that the map trends West toward Chapel Hill, North toward Wake Forest, South through Cary and Holly Springs and East where it abruptly stops at Capital Blvd.
    Now that business and residential population is growing downtown we would be stupid not to evaluate a replacement venue for PNC downtown, but I think we’d be better off just raising $450 Million and getting a MLB team to relocate to a new stadium downtown and upgrading the PNC in its current location.

  • Vatnos Said:

    If the problem was the desolate area downtown, and the location of their fanbase to the north, I fail to see what would’ve been wrong with putting the new stadium at the end of the gold or red lines. Same level of road access, and it would still have a mass transit connection.

    I am highly skeptical of the idea that moving away from downtown will improve the commercial options around the stadium as well. That has been tried and it is a model that doesn’t work. In suburban stadiums, the stuff around the stadium becomes utterly dependent upon it. When the season is out, nothing can survive there. Suburban arenas often end up doing fine at first, and then becoming dead-zones. The arena that Raleigh used as its model for the PNC ended up having the same fate, and the PNC Arena itself is still waiting for anything to actually get built around it.

    PNC Arena is probably fine for the long term. When Raleigh gets a rail system, it will end up running right next to the thing. In Raleigh’s case, the location is okay. There simply isn’t room downtown for such a structure. Moving it there now would mean bulldozing 8 blocks just for a deadzone that will never help downtown.

    In Atlanta’s case… not so sure. Atlanta’s a much more urban city with mass transit and actual highways serving its downtown, a large population downtown, and based on the map, a quarter of their tickets are still being sold to the south. This move seems preposterous.

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