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The Atlanta Stadium Mess

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1979_Topps

From the moment the Atlanta Braves announced they were moving from their downtown stadium that is all of 20 years old to the Cobb County suburbs, I was disgusted. Choosing to base your future on the model of the Texas Rangers as opposed to the many teams that have built in the city where public transportation is at least possible said far too much about Atlanta. Turner Field is just south of downtown and you know who lives down there don’t you? That’s right, black people. That’s what a lot of this was about–white people fearing black people, which dominates so much of Atlanta-era politics and has forever, including suburbs refusing to allow MARTA to build out there because of fear that they would come.

But the political machinations and corruption that have gone into this new stadium make this whole story even more gross.

Ah, the Braves bridge. It’s a mess. It has always been a mess. The concept first appeared in November of 2013, shortly after Cobb County stunned the sports world by announcing that it was luring the team out to the ‘burbs. (To keep the negotiations a secret, it later was revealed, county commission chair Tim Lee had secretly hired a lawyer with commission money without telling any of his colleagues, and then made some commission members stand outside in hallways while others met behind closed doors to evade open-meetings laws. The democratic process.) At the time, no one knew how much the bridge would cost, or exactly how it would be paid for. Those details would be worked out in due time.

Two weeks later, the Cobb County commission passed the Braves stadium deal—or most of it, anyway. Still to be negotiated was a “transportation agreement” that would spell out things like any highway ramps or, say, bridges that might need to be built to enable Braves fans to get to games. But that would happen soon, just you wait.

One year later, with construction on the stadium underway, the bridge remained on the drawing board. Cobb County officials, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, “still don’t know how much the bridge will cost or how the county will pay for its half.”

This summer, things got much, much worse, as the Journal-Constitution reported that the bridge might not be ready until September 2017, five months after the stadium opens. That would leave almost an entire season where Braves fans would have to park their cars, then edge their way along the side of a eight-lane highway, underneath an overpass, to finally arrive at their seats. It’s walkable, but as one local noted in a web comment, only in the way that “the road in the game Frogger was walkable”— so probably not the sort of stroll anyone will want to attempt after nine innings and a few beers.

That brings us up to this week, when Lee finally admitted that the bridge won’t be open until at least the stadium’s second season, at the earliest. The Marietta Daily Journal, meanwhile, is reporting that the actual owners of the parking lot that the Braves plan to use—both the state authority that runs the neighboring convention center and the private owners of the office towers that sit nearby—have no interest in allowing the Braves to build a bridge at all, which could result in sad, desperate fans driving to the stadium only to sit forlornly in their cars, listening to games on the radio and wondering what life is like on the other side of I-285.

So backroom dealing, giving lip service about transportation with no actual plan to fund or implement it, and forcing taxpayers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars? All in a day’s work. At least visitors won’t have to see any black people!

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  • efgoldman

    Don’t know anything about GA law or politics. Any chance of someone (or someones) being perp-walked over this deal?

    • efgoldman

      Weird. My comment appeared right at the top instead of on the bottom.

      ETA: And is time stamped for 64 minutes before I posted it.
      Gotta’ call a patent lawyer, quick! Or maybe Fox – I’ve discovered Obama time travel!!

      • We did some updates yesterday and this seems to be a problem. Will see what we can do.

        • efgoldman

          We did some updates yesterday and this seems to be a problem.

          Damn. So I’m not rich and famous? It was great while it lasted.

        • Robert Farley

          Test testy test test.

          • Robert Farley

            As far as I’m seeing, has resolved itself. People still having trouble?

    • dp

      This seems to be as horrible as it gets, but give it time.

    • Big Al

      I live in ATL, and from what I can tell, none of this is seriously illegal enough to warrant a perp march. There will, however, be significant political consequences. Cobb is a major anti-tax jurisdiction, and once the euphoria from poking their grubby suburban finger in the City of Atlanta’s eye resides, there will be recriminations over the higher taxes necessary to fund this boondoggle.

  • efgoldman

    In semi-related news:

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After weeks of setbacks, the Pawtucket Red Sox announced Saturday night the team is no longer looking to build a new stadium on the I-195 land in downtown Providence, raising new questions about whether the club will stay in Rhode Island.

    Buried several paragraphs down:

    House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said Friday negotiations between the team and the state had stopped, soon after it was disclosed that Brown University wanted $15 million for the part of the proposed ballpark land that it owns.

    (About 4x what the team offered Brown for the parcel.)
    http://wpri.com/2015/09/19/pawsox-pull-the-plug-on-195-stadium-idea/

    • Is Brown still in the league?

      • efgoldman

        Is Brown still in the league?

        Very much in the valuable real estate league (as Harvard is in Boston).
        Also the Ivy League, but no-one cares about that.
        Their mascot is a bear, doncha’ know.

        • SFAW

          Also the Ivy League, but no-one cares about that.

          Ryan Fitzpatrick (Go Jets!) might disagree.
          Jeremy Lin, too.

          But then again, there’s always W to more-than-balance things out.

          Never mind.

    • PSP

      Where they going to leave RI for? New Britain? Wahconah Park? Actually it would pretty cool for them to play a game at Wahconah, but I don’t think that is the kind of stadium the owners have in mind.

  • I’m okay with the move if the Atlanta Braves are renamed the Cobb Cowards.

    • West of the Cascades

      or the “Cobb Racists” — would have a nice ty-in to the eponymous historical ballplayer.

    • Richard Hershberger

      Back before the Braves moved the Atlanta, the traditional name for a minor league team there was the Crackers. They should have kept that.

  • shah8

    We were already cringing over the impact it would have traffic.

    Since we hates the pedestrians around here, who cares if they get crushed by a car in the aftermath of a game?

    /me thinks of visitors for the opposing team, and slowly facepalms.

  • Warren Terra

    So long as they’re still doing the tomahawk chop, anything that inconveniences or discomfits fans of the Braves is fine by me.

    • Captain Obvious

      Ditto.

      Adding, I’ve been in Atlanta on summer days when taking about three steps outside is enough to have you soaking in sweat.

      May it run in rivers beneath their racist feet.

      • ChrisTS

        Oh my gods. Getting to the car from the house meant melting.

        Amusingly – and accurately – my Hotlanta friends told me I would be miserable in Houston.

    • wetzel

      Uhhhhhhh Yuhhhhhhh Yeeaaaahhhh Yuhhhhhhh!!!

      Cobb County caucasions
      Of Grand Ole Party persuasion!
      If you raise our taxes
      We’ll swing our bloody axes!

  • Derelict

    Another brilliant plan by true conservatives that was no doubt ruined by liberals, the media, the liberal media, and all those pesky “facts” and lefty “math” that undermine everything that’s good!

    • ColBatGuano

      Thanks, Obama!

  • Peterr

    Cobb County needs to think outside the box here.

    For instance, they could set up a checkpoint on I-285 as each game begins and ends, slowing/shutting down traffic for an hour or so to allow everyone to cross the road. Figure that they might catch a couple of folks with outstanding warrants, no proof of insurance, or a suspended license, and the fines might help offset some of the bridge costs, whenever they get around to building it.

    They could also put the county commissioners on the lane markers with their hats out, asking for loose change.

    /snark

    But I love that the state convention center folks and private office towers don’t want a bridge. I don’t know how close those private office towers are to the stadium, but I could envision a kind of Wrigleyville – put bleachers on the roof – arrangement. Says the boss to the minions: “Staff meeting tonight in the conference room with all the windows. We’ll throw out the first ‘memo’ at 7pm, right after we sing the national anthem. Spouses and Significant Others are welcome to attend.” Think of it as skyboxes without having to pay for them. And you get parking, too!

    • Those poor patrol people, standing out in the hot sun. Perhaps if we altered their uniforms.

      We could take a page from the Arabs and give them flowing white robes to wear, loosely so that there would be some circulation.

      Now, we’d want to make sure their heads are covered, so I suggest a white hat, maybe one cone-shaped to direct the rising warm air up and away from their pates…

    • Big Al

      The office buildings are close enough to be affected by traffic and parking, but not close in an urban ballpark context. You could see the stadium from the upper floors of the Galleria, but that’s about it.

    • sharculese

      For instance, they could set up a checkpoint on I-285 as each game begins and ends, slowing/shutting down traffic for an hour or so to allow everyone to cross the road.

      I too would like to see 285 move backwards.

  • Lee Rudolph

    so probably not the sort of stroll anyone will want to attempt after nine innings and a few beers.

    Certainly not the sort of stroll anyone should want to attempt after nine innings and a few bears. But almost certainly exactly the sort of stroll someone will want to attempt after any number of innings, given sufficiently many beers.

    • Warren Terra

      and a few bears

      Tell me more about this custom.

      • heckblazer

        I assume it involves N_B.

        • More than hell will have to freeze over before I go to a ball game in Cobb County.

          • heckblazer

            Wouldn’t hell freezing over be good for polar bears?

            • No point in walking on the ice if there are no seals in hell to maul and eat.

              • efgoldman

                No point in walking on the ice if there are no seals in hell to maul and eat.

                So, all seals go to heaven? Who knew?

                • Ingmar Bergman would like a word

                • Warren Terra

                  Those who are pure of seal are welcomed into heaven. And what could be more purely seal than an actual seal?

                • So I’m guessing Heidi Klum will be in Hell?

                  Pardon me, I have to start sinning.

              • Lee Rudolph

                “And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
                And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.”

                Sounds pretty dispositive to me.

  • LeeEsq

    When Tammany Hall did corruption, they made sure to do it right and competently. This is just incompetent. The American people deserve a better class of corruption and back room deals.

    • sanity clause

      See, this is what happens when Republicans do corruption. Since they don’t care if government works, they don’t care about competence, so their corruption is incompetent just like everything else they do. (Running of political campaigns excepted, unfortunately. It’s the one thing they do well.)

  • heckblazer

    FWIW, my all-time favorite sports team name is still the Atlanta Black Crackers.

    • efgoldman

      Amarillo Dillas

      • Bill Murray

        Shenandoah Hungarian Rioters

        Decatur Commies

        Lebanon Pretzel Eaters

        • rea

          Lansing Lugnuts

        • witlesschum

          Great Lakes Loons would be great, if not for fucking stupid Great Lakes thing. No one is going to forget they are at a game in Midland, no matter what you name the team.

        • Richard Hershberger

          The traditional names for minor league clubs in Lancaster and York, Pennsylvania, were respectively the Red Roses and the White Roses. One of the great disappointments in my life is that when the Atlantic League put franchises there, they went with the lame names of Barnstormers and Revolution.

    • Lt. Fred

      The Cunnamulla kangaroo wrestlers. The Toowoomba bogans.

  • Denverite

    Presumably they will bus the fans on a convoluted route from the parking lot that adds another 20 minutes to the 10 minutes waiting for a spot, the 30 minutes waiting in line for the bus a la Disneyland, and the 10 more minutes waiting for the bus to fill up.

    Thank goodness the Braves are turning away fans so they won’t have to worry about attendance!

  • Cassiodorus

    While racism certainly plays a major role in Atlanta’s lack of a decent public transportation system, writing off the new stadium as a racist enterprise is misleading. Teams are always wanting new stadiums, including replacements for perfectly good stadiums that aren’t old in any meaningful sense of the word. Additionally, the vast majority of Braves ticket sales come from the northern suburbs of the city, suggesting that building a stadium closer to where the fans live makes sense.

    • matt w

      The chairman of the Cobb County GOP was loudly insistent that “the (transportation) solution is all about moving cars in and around Cobb and surrounding counties from our north and east where most Braves fans travel from, and not moving people into Cobb by rail from Atlanta.”

      Which definitely proves your point about racism playing a major role in Atlanta’s lack of a decent public transportation system. But I think also lends a bit of support to the stadium-as-racist-enterprise theory, in implementation if not conception.

    • witlesschum

      I’m skeptical of this. Building the stadium closer as the crow flies is worthless if you can’t get to it easily. I assume Atlanta is like most cities and it’s set up to get people downtown from the suburbs, so you’ve got the road capacity to get a baseball stadium of people there. Driving less far, but spending the same amount of time sitting in traffic seems like a distinct possibility.

      And, yes, clubs want a new stadium as soon as the concrete dries on the old one, but I don’t recall hearing that downtown Atlanta is exactly Manhattan, so they could find a place for the stadium down there. Like, maybe, where the current one is!

      I mean, never assume competence, but you’d think that the Braves have some knowledge of their fans and have decided that they’d like a suburban stadium better. Demographically, Atlanta baseball fans are going to include a lot of people who have that preference because of racism. So, it seems to me Braves management is, in fact, engaged in a something it’s fair to say is a racist enterprise.

      • Cassiodorus

        The new stadium is on the northwest side of the ring road. The vast majority of the teams ticket sales come from the areas north of the city. For those living to the northeast, its a quick(er) transition to take 400/85 to 285. The Braves don’t even remotely need a new stadium,,but attributing it to racism looks like a grasp for straws.

        • Big Al

          “The vast majority of the teams season ticket sales come from the areas north of the city.”

          FTFY – excluding individual ticket sales was a major quirk in the Braves analysis.

          And as to convenience, the new location might be quicker for Cobb residents and people further out I-75, but there is no way in hell that it will be easier for people in Gwinnett and on the I-85 corridor to get there for a 7:05 weeknight game. At that time, getting from Gwinnett to Marietta is easier via Midtown on 85/75 than by taking 285!

          • sharculese

            I live ITP off Chamblee-Tucker and I dont think this is even quicker for me.

      • Big Al

        A new baseball stadium would have fit quite nicely on the existing Georgia Dome site next to the new retractable roof football/futbol stadium, and would have had direct rail transit links and shared parking. The Braves would have loved to shake down the City/State for a deal on that site, but the probability that the City/State would – or could – offer more subsidy than Cobb was essentially nil.

        I believe that the primary motives were as follows:

        Cobb County: screwing the City of Atlanta
        Braves: $$$$$$$

        • sharculese

          Iirc the Braves went to the city to shake them down for a new stadium and Reed was like “huh, interesting, go fuck yourselves” which is part of how this deal happened.

          • Big Al

            That is probably a pretty good paraphrase of what transpired ;)

            Hard to know in exactly what order things went down, and there have been rolling discussions about the lease with the ATL-FC Rec Auth. (when all the outlandish “renovation costs” to Turner field were rolled out), but I am virtually certain that at some point the Braves took some form of the Cobb offer back to Reed, which is when he felt compelled to give them the counteroffer that you described.

      • pseudonymous in nc

        I assume Atlanta is like most cities and it’s set up to get people downtown from the suburbs

        Well, up to a point. The last couple of decades of road-building in Atlanta has been directed towards getting people from one OTP suburb (or exurb) to another. It’s not enough, as anyone who’s been stuck on the ever-widening roads between Marietta and Roswell or Laurenceville and Suwanee.

        Cobb County and the Braves were so desperate to stick it to the city that they seemed to think they could build the new stadium as if it were the Gwinnett Center, even it has four times the capacity.

  • Never mind the fans. Who do they think is going to work at this place and how are they supposed to get there?

    • efgoldman

      Who do they think is going to work at this place and how are they supposed to get there?

      From a distance, it appears that the county officials aren’t real good about thinking things thru.

      • Tehanu

        …aren’t real good about thinking…

        Cobb County was Newt Gingrich’s district, no? QED. And me a Braves fan, too, yes, even this year.

        • Ahuitzotl

          Its time to switch to the Yankees, clearly. ‘Only Evil, not Stupid’.

          …you wont believe the power of the yankee side

      • Big Al

        They are normally relatively logical and responsible, but IMO, in this case the desire to screw the City of Atlanta overrode all considerations and created a massive blind spot.

    • Warren Terra

      I’m guessing the owners, coaches, and players get good parking spaces at the stadium.

      The concessionaires etcetera are probably lower-class black and brown folks whose interests are not close to the hearts of the planners, to the extent they have hearts (or deserve to be called planners).

      • Right, I was thinking of the stadium staff, not the team staff.

        I don’t expect the planners to care about them, but if someone hasn’t given consideration to making sure there will be people to take tickets from/sell beer to/clean toilets after the fans, then this goes beyond “not planning” and deep into “how much money can we grab before people catch on and we have to sneak out of town?” territory.

    • Big Al

      I would expect MARTA and CCT to work out some sort of bus transit link for working commuters (as opposed to fan parking shuttles), but it will be less direct than the existing links to Turner Field (which aren’t perfect in their own right) and a big time-sink for those who are forced to use it.

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    Turner Field has a really wonderful atmosphere, almost like a tailgating feel before games, except *inside* the stadium, with buskers and live bands and fans mingling long before the game. I was blown away. It’d be a shame if they lost that. By contrast, Petco Park felt to me uncannily like a convention center (though I doubt many people miss baseball at the Murph).

    • Darkrose

      I like Petco. It’s clean and easy to get to and around, plus as a Giants fan, it really is AT&T Park South.

      Our road trip this year was to Coors; I guess if I want to check the Atlanta park off we should go in 2016. Otherwise we may have to put it in there with the Florida parks as ones we’re skipping.

  • Henry Holland

    Can’t remember where I saw this but MARTA = Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta.

    It’s not just the Braves building a replacement stadium for a stadium that doesn’t need replacing, the Falcons are leaving the Georgia Dome (opened in 1992) for *gag* Mercedes-Benz Stadium which is scheduled to open in 2017. Damn stadiums that don’t have WiFi in every seat and more food options for the wealthy box owners, damn them!

    Meanwhile, The San Francisco 49ers of Santa Clara are having turf issues at their ugly new stadium, as are the Houston Texans. When English Premiership teams can do better given all the weather issues they face in keeping their playing surfaces playable, that’s bad.

    Of the many reasons to not be happy with Arte Moreno’s tenure as Angels owner, one of the biggest is the constant threats to leave Anaheim Stadium. He finally seems to have had a rare moment of sanity and figured out that there’s no way in hell that building a stadium in Downtown Los Angeles is going to happen. He even seems to have given up on Los Angeles County altogether but that means crap like “We’ll move to a new stadium in Tustin, I swear! I double swear! unless the City of Anaheim forks over some big bucks!”. I get it, the public areas inside Anaheim Stadium aren’t great but really, spending $500 million plus just so that people can mill around easier?

    After all the bullshit and mendacity that surrounded the Rams and Raiders regarding stadiums in the 1990’s, I simply have zero patience for that kind of crap. I went to see Foo Fighters at the Inglewood Forum last night, MSG did a great job refurbishing it in to a concert only venue. The sound is incredible (compared to the airplane hangar acoustics of Staples), the sightlines are fantastic and they’ve done a great job with the public areas (paging Arte Moreno!).

    Hollywood Park is now a memory, the Rams new stadium seems to be on track to be built.

  • PohranicniStraze

    Not really a sports fan, so maybe I am missing something, but what is with the dig at the Rangers? Rangers Stadium is in Arlington, which isn’t exactly a lily-white suburb, isn’t by any means the “up-market” side of the metro area, and is a pretty large city in its own right. It’s not like they built their stadium in Plano.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      “what is with the dig at the Rangers?”

      It was a real-estate boondoggle that was used to enrich Dubya, back when he was a no-account feckless LOSER.

      • matt w

        And, as Erik said in the post, it’s out in the burbs rather than in Dallas and is transport-hostile. I just did a search for transit directions from “Dallas, TX” to the park and it was an hour and twenty minutes with a twenty-minute walk at the end.

        By contrast, transit directions from my neighborhood in Pittsburgh to PNC park are 41 minutes with a three-minute walk. (I didn’t search from downtown because that’s not where most people live–when I lived there basically no one lived all the way downtown–but it’s a ten-minute bus ride.)

        • Denverite

          The thing is, the Rangers’ stadium opened in 1994. Dallas didn’t even get its first light rail line until 1996, and the light rail system was pretty minimal until the mid 00s (as I understand it). There really wasn’t anywhere you could put the stadium that was public transportation-friendly.

          There’s also the point (as I also understand it) that the Rangers have always been pretty conscious to be seen as something other than a “Dallas” team — they really want to be the team for the entire north Texas region. Which isn’t really a bad plan — Arlington has 350,000+ residents, and Ft. Worth (as close or closer to Arlington than Dallas is) has 800,000+. People from those cities generally take umbrage as being seen from “Dallas.”

          • PohranicniStraze

            “People from those cities generally take umbrage as being seen from “Dallas.””

            Indeed we do. There are Dallas people, and Fort Worth people, and never the twain shall meet. I’d sooner leave the metro entirely than move to Dallas. Arlington is a nice neutral ground for a stadium.

    • Woodrowfan

      plus they were the Washington Senators. The 2d senators team to leave “Chocolate City” for a less, um, dusky area.

  • ChrisTS

    When I lived in Hotlanta, circa late 70’s, Cobb County refused any expansion of the railway (I’ve forgotten the acronym) from the city to the county because ‘those people’ would flood the precious white enclave.

    So, have an awful commute rather than let the blahs have access to our precious communities.

    • Big Al

      Wayback machine: http://www.nytimes.com/1987/07/22/us/racial-roadblock-seen-in-atlanta-transit-system.html

      Note that the population of Cobb County is up over 80% since that article was published, and Gwinnett has more than tripled!

      Non-attainment of air quality standards in the late 90s led to the creation of commuter bus services, which have continued to grow even after the air quality issues got sorted.

      The latest racket for the northern suburbs is to create dedicated HOT lanes – like HOV lanes, but pay for play based on real-time traffic volumes. There is a massive project underway in the I-75 corridor right now in Cobb and Cherokee to create reversible HOT lanes. Nothing like throwing money at a problem…

  • Robert Farley

    testy testy testy testy.

    • Schadenboner

      A Scotsman is watching a baseball game for the first time, the batter walks to first, Scotsman asks his American friend why, the American says “He’s got four balls”, the Scotsman says “Ach, walk with pride, laddy!”

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        if anyone ever needed a kilt, it would be a guy with four balls

  • And they say New York is elitist…

  • Tracy Lightcap

    I live in north Atlanta, not too far from the new stadium. As near as I can see, the main idea here was to rejuvenate the biggest white elephant in Atlanta real estate history (and there have been some doozies), the Cobb Galleria. This development has lost money from the first; the only part of it to break even has been the hotel. With the new stadium, both the Galleria and Cumberland Mall, another notorious poor performer, will get a new lease on life. I think in the Galleria’s case that will mean a massive rebuild of its existing parking decks and tearing down the mall itself to make room for more. And, yes, without the bridge walking to the stadium (I was sorta looking forward to that) is a complete non-starter. I see an enormous opportunity for Uber and Lift here myself.

    The interesting thing about this is that the minority population of Cobb County is growing by leaps and bounds. The older apartment complexes that held most of the city’s Hispanic population and a good part of its African-Americans are being torn down at a shocking rate to make room for people from the suburbs who are moving to the city so they can ditch their cars. The displaced are moving to – wait for it – the suburbs. That’s where a lot of the population increase out there is coming from.

    Soooo – don’t give up on Turner Field yet. It’s too expensive to tear down and, if the steady Braves fans move back in town, it might light up again!

  • AtlPatrick

    Took me a while to find this, but this Atlanta Journal Constitution blogger said shortly after the move was announced: “We’re not going to rehash here this whole rather unfortunate and messy situation between the Braves, the city, and the frustration over the incompetence of people who, years ago, thought it better to rake in parking revenue than build a MARTA stop adjacent to the then-Olympic stadium.” I personally would really have loved to see more on this, but haven’t seen anything.

    There was another great quote in the AJC shortly after the move; they had done a FOIA request for all of the emails the Cobb Commissioners received, and the best public comment was the promise to rename the I-75/I-285 intersection after Cobb County Commission Chair Tim Lee, the guy responsible for this.

    Personally, I already avoid Cobb Parkway north of I-75 as much as I can; I’ll really avoid it when this mess is done. I really wonder if Tim Lee is going to have a chance at getting re-elected? He’s been pushing for public transit and other things that I would think would get him kicked out in Cobb.

    Oh, and here’s the Braves Ticket Map for the 2012 season (supposedly single game tickets for which they had addresses).

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