SBD/November 13, 2013/Facilities

Atlanta Mayor Vows To Redevelop Turner Field Site, But City Council Wants To Keep Team

Reed said he would not interfere with Cobb County's negotiations with the Braves
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed yesterday said "one of the largest developments for middle-class people that the city has ever had" will go up at the site of Turner Field after the Braves move to Cobb County, according to Bluestein & Leslie of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. Reed in his first public remarks since the Braves' announcement said he would "not leave a vacant Ted," and that the ballpark would be torn down in '17. He added that he "wouldn't interfere" with Cobb County's negotiations with the team, but added that he "wanted to project an 'unmistakable message' that the city wants the Braves to remain." Reed said that the city has been "planning a replacement for the stadium for months, and he promises a major announcement in the next few months that he vows will validate his decision." Reed: "We're not walking around here moping. I hate losing. But there are times when other people make plays." He added, "We're not losing anything. The Braves are still in the region so I don't feel like this is a loss" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/13). In Atlanta, Bluestein & Trubey in a front-page piece write the city "now has to figure out a use for the area of roughly 55 acres, a lackluster stretch passed by hundreds of thousands of commuters each day that feels cut off from downtown by a sea of parking lots and car-choked interstates." If the Braves move to Cobb County, Turner Field will "add to the list of high-promise, high-cost redevelopment dreams in the metro area" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/13).

CITY COUNCIL UNHAPPY
: The ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE's Wenk & Saporta noted the Atlanta City Council yesterday held a press conference "to complain they weren't included in the negotiations" with the Braves. Council President Ceasar Mitchell said, "We collectively feel a great deal of disappointment." Council member Michael Julian Bond: "I just want to make an appeal to the Braves. We want you to stay" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/12). Bond added that the decision regarding taxpayer funding for improvements to Turner Field "should have been vetted by the council." Mitchell said that the group has "requested a meeting with the Braves to discuss what, if anything, can be done to keep the team downtown." He added that the council also has "asked to meet with Reed about the negotiations." The ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION's Bluestein & Leslie note Reed "went to lengths to show the city wasn't asleep at the wheel, and his office released a timeline that showed city officials have been in talks with the team for about 18 months over its lease renewal and plans to redevelop the surrounding communities" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/13). Fulton County Commission Chair John Eaves yesterday said Reed's redevelopment plans were "news to me." He added, "I have not been a part of any sort of conversation about any sort of alternative plans. ... It's surprising, and I hope going forward, whatever the plans are, we all will be better served if it's a collaborative and partnering effort." Eaves: "It's imperative going forward, whatever discussions are made in terms of redevelopment for that area, that the county should be there as a partner with the city of Atlanta" ("The 5:44 with Denis O'Hayer," WABE-FM, 11/12).

FALCONS VS. BRAVES: Bluestein & Galloway wrote the Falcons' ties to downtown Atlanta "made their situation more complex" than the Braves' situation and "maybe even more pressing." The Georgia World Congress Center Authority "owns the Georgia Dome as well the sprawling convention center that surrounds it," meaning that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal's administration "had a vested interest in keeping the Dome or a successor facility on the campus occupied." In addition, many of the city's corporate interests "supported the Falcons pitch to stay in downtown, either out of support" for Falcons Owner Arthur Blank or a "desire for a new trinket to add to a downtown that will soon include a Civil Rights museum and a shrine to college football." But Turner Field is "somewhat of an anomaly, a stadium located in an island of parking lots that always seemed alienated from the rest of the city." That may be why business leaders were "deafeningly silent on the proposed move" by the Braves (AJC.com, 11/12).

LEFT BEHIND: In Atlanta, Kyle Wingfield writes, "I don't think it's a coincidence the Turner Field area remained underdeveloped for so long -- especially in the 17 years since the stadium opened for the 1996 Summer Games, but also going back to the opening of Atlanta Stadium in the mid-1960s." One of Turner Field's "major problems is it doesn't sit in the general direction the city's development has taken, or stands to take" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/13). USA TODAY's Ray Glier notes the Braves and Atlanta taxpayers "did not pay a dime" for Turner Field. That the facility "was free" may be why it "seems so disposable." Georgia State Univ. economist Bruce Seaman said, "It was one of the best examples of an Olympic facility being put to long-term use. Other cities struggled to find a use for facilities after the Olympics. I find it a tragedy that they will tear down this stadium. This was one of the great legacies of the 1996 Olympics" (USA TODAY, 11/13). In Minneapolis, Michael Rand writes under the header, "Atlanta Has A Stadium Fiasco On Its Hands." Rand writes of Turner Field, "We're supposed to believe that after 17 seasons, it's just not tenable? We're supposed to believe that all due diligence for upgrades and use of the existing facility just won't work? Absurd" (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 11/13).
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