An expat’s take on the Braves’ move

By Tommy Tomlinson

1. The Braves are moving to Cobb County, and if you know Atlanta you know the layers of meaning in that. Coming up I-75 from downtown, you cross into Cobb over the Lester and Virginia Maddox Bridge. Cobb County famously rejected the MARTA rail system, at least in part over worries that “those people” would ride up into Cobb and, I don’t know, steal TVs and haul them back home on the train. Cobb is more diverse now — it’s not much different than the rest of suburban America — but it is 66 percent white, and Fulton County — which the Braves are leaving — is 47 percent white. In a city known as a black mecca — not to mention the city of Hank Aaron — the move carries some symbolic weight.
2. But those people in the northern ‘burbs buy more Braves tickets than anyone else, by far.
3. In Atlanta, many people define their lives by the Perimeter. You hear people talk about Inside the Perimeter or Outside the Perimeter as separate countries. Part of that is racial, but it’s also cultural and philosophical and a bunch of other  “al” words. Outside the Perimeter is a sea of Home Depots and brick houses with bonus rooms. Inside the Perimeter is where you find organic Thai food and you might have more than the average number of piercings. I know people Outside the Perimeter who never go Inside the Perimeter except for sports. Now the Braves are moving Outside the Perimeter. That’s a huge cultural shift.
4. Braves president John Schuerholz, in his video message to fans, calls the new stadium “a short distance from downtown Atlanta” and all I can say in response is “Ha Ha Ha!” I guess it would be a short distance if you had a jetpack. But try to get from downtown ATL out I-75 to the other side of the Perimeter for a 7:30 p.m. game .
5. That I-75/I-285 interchange is one of the worst in Atlanta already. Once the Braves start playing out there in 2017, expect a lot of people that first season to arrive around the fifth inning.
6. The new stadium is going to be smaller than Turner Field, and that actually makes sense, because despite the Braves’ incredible success over the past 20 years, people still don’t come to the games. The Braves won 96 games last season , but the team was just 13th in attendance.
7. However, if the Braves start losing … with a downtown stadium, people working in downtown Atlanta might stick around after work, grab some dinner and go to a Braves game. But get off work and do the commuter death march to Cobb to watch a losing team? No way.
8. A new stadium also surely means ticket prices will go up, especially for the most choice seats.
9. This is the same county that cut 182 teachers from its school system back in the spring.
10. The Georgia Dome has been around since just 1992, and the Braves didn’t start playing at Turner Field until 1997. If we start building new stadiums for pro teams every 15 or 20 years, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.
11. Not to mention that all the great new baseball parks built in the last 20 years have made their urban location part of what makes them great. You get to see the skyline.  Cobb County could be anywhere.
12. Which all adds up to this: It’s CRAZY to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new baseball stadium when the old one is just 16 years old, is in perfectly good shape and centrally located.
13. But I’ll go.   The Braves are my team, and it’s always fun to see the new doodads at a new stadium . Everybody moves; that’s one of the themes of America. But it was nice when at least a few things stayed put.

Tommy Tomlinson is a writer in Charlotte. He grew up in Brunswick and graduated from UGA . He wrote a longer version of this article, which is on Forbes.com.

One comment Add your comment

o0

November 16th, 2013
5:50 pm

There is more than one way to get from downtown Atlanta to where the new stadium is. It is just barely in Cobb County. I can get from Turner to where the new stadium is in about 25 mins without every getting on the interstate. People who want will find a way, those who don’t will whine and complain like they care though.