COMMENTARY | Nearly six months ago, Atlanta Braves fans were stunned to learn that their team was going to move from its historic downtown location and a great stadium to Cobb County. The whole thing should be scrapped, unless the Braves do three things, the ABC.
1) Attain Access To Public Transportation
The Achilles heel of Turner Field, the smart and sharp downtown stadium, Turner Field had only one problem: no direct link to MARTA. The best one could hope for was parking at a downtown mall, and taking a bus to the game. It was adequate, barely, for weekday games.
The new stadium must overcome Cobb County’s historic opposition to public transportation. MARTA was opposed for racial reasons, but that mindset has to change; nobody is carrying off a flat-screen TV on a rail car. While waiting for the next MARTA line to be built to bring the county into the integrated Atlanta economy, a park and ride system through regional mall parking lots should be adopted, the way San Antonio makes it work for its Alamodome.
2) Build An Integrated Stadium Hotel
The minor league franchise “The Lansing Lugnuts” is ahead of the major leagues with its concept of a hotel, even apartments at the stadium. Given the nightmare that is the Atlanta Northwest traffic corridor, this would provide a panacea for fans unwilling to make the trek back an hour after a late conclusion to a night game. Every fan spending the night is one less jammed into the interstates that might resemble “snowmageddon” (the January disaster) during a playoff game.
Such a hotel could turn the stadium, otherwise set to be a money loser, into a year-round source of income. Who wouldn’t want to stay where the Atlanta Braves play? And field trips, tee-ball tournaments, and high school games held where their heroes hit, pitch and play defense, along with accommodations involving classy restaurants, would put the Atlanta Braves ahead of other franchises the way the Baltimore Orioles’ Camden Yards was a game changer for stadium design. There are plans to build a nearby hotel, but 400 rooms alone won’t cut it.
3) Construct A Retractable Roof
Mother Nature isn’t kind to the city of Atlanta. From rainstorms to soaring temperatures to killer humidity, Atlanta Braves fans are incredible for their resiliency. Seats would be packed and dollars would be spent if fans knew they wouldn’t have to sweat out another August. Rainouts would be a thing of the past. And unlike domed teams, the roof would be open to appreciate those glorious days and nights where the temperatures can sometimes be the best in America.
If the Atlanta Braves franchise (and the Cobb County Commission) follows these simple principles when building and locating their baseball team, their grand plan won’t be such a boondoggle. It can be a model for other sports franchises.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, GA