By and large, the Braves are Calhoun County’s MLB team, so the first question must be: What’s this mean for us?
The Braves aren’t leaving Atlanta. They’re not moving markedly farther away from northeast Alabama. In fact, a Mapquest.com comparison Tuesday afternoon showed the proposed site of the Braves’ new home is only three miles farther from downtown Anniston than is Turner Field.
Of course, when it comes to Atlanta’s nightmarish traffic, nothing is that simple. A trip to Turner Field is a straight shot eastward on Interstate 20; the Braves’ future home will include jaunts on I-20 and I-285, the city’s often gridlocked perimeter loop. So we’ll reserve judgment on the real impact on local baseball fans until more details about the Braves’ Cobb County plans come to light.
The Braves’ move northward to the suburbs involves a complicated backstory too involved to fully explain here, not the least of which is the city’s role in building a new stadium for the NFL’s Falcons. Of the story’s many facets, two points are pertinent: The Braves say the city of Atlanta has repeatedly refused their requests for needed improvements to Turner Field (parking, MARTA stops, development of adjacent neighborhoods, etc.), and that more Braves ticket-buyers live north of downtown.
Those are strong points, even if Turner Field is still less than 20 years old.
Nevertheless, we’re disappointed that the Braves plan to leave downtown Atlanta. Baseball teams across the country, in the majors and minors, are rediscovering the synergy between urban centers and stadiums. Last year, Birmingham moved its minor-league team from suburban Hoover to downtown. Montgomery’s minor-league park near the Alabama River may be the state’s best. In the majors, numerous stadiums are seen as economic-development catalysts in cities such as Baltimore, Denver, St. Louis and Houston, among others.
When it comes to new stadiums, the trend is to move back in, not out.
We wish the Braves the best, but leaving Atlanta’s core isn’t something to cheer.