Braves – still a city brand?

Moderated by Rick Badie

The Atlanta Braves have announced plans to build a new stadium in Cobb County and begin play there in 2017. At that point, Turner Field, also known as “The Ted,” is to be demolished. Today, we discuss the economic impact the move may have on the city as well as nearby neighborhoods like the Pittsburgh community.

Braves remain a city brand

By William Pate

As a lifelong Atlanta resident and Braves fan, I share the disappointment of many with the Braves’ decision to move to Cobb County. It is difficult to imagine the team leaving a historic part of town where Hank Aaron surpassed Babe Ruth, where the Braves won their first World Series in Atlanta, and where Atlanta hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the Centennial Olympic Games.

Emotionally, this move is very hard to accept.

But it is equally important to keep this announcement in perspective. Atlanta is not losing its baseball franchise. The team is simply moving ten 10 miles up the road. That is why I believe the impact on Atlanta’s broader hospitality industry will be minimal.

The few hotels within walking distance of the stadium will bear the brunt of the Braves’ move. According to the Braves’ economic impact study, visiting fans generate 110,000 room nights each year in metro Atlanta hotels. We estimate about 80 percent or 88,000 of those room nights are in downtown, Midtown and Buckhead.

It is logical to assume the majority of these visitors will continue to stay within the city limits. Consider a the family of four that who comes for a Saturday night Braves’ game. They arrive Friday night and have Saturday to enjoy Atlanta. This family will likely continue to stay downtown, within walking distance of Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Inside CNN Studio Tour and Centennial Olympic Park. Couples without children tend to stay in Buckhead or Midtown to take advantage of dining, nightlife and shopping options.

Some visitors will choose to stay near the new stadium. We estimate the impact will be minimal — about 20 percent of those 88,000 room nights. With our current pace of growth, we believe Atlanta’s hospitality industry will be able to absorb those 17,600 room nights over the next three years.

Next year, $1.4 billion in new hospitality inventory will come online that will draw visitors to our city core. Two new attractions — the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and the College Football Hall of Fame — will join our downtown tourism district. The Atlanta Streetcar will further enhance accessibility downtown.

Buckhead’s position as the Southeast capital of shopping, dining, and entertainment will be further enhanced with the opening of Buckhead Atlanta. Just east of Midtown, Ponce City Market will become Atlanta’s own version of New York’s Chelsea Market, offering a unique retail, dining and entertainment experience to visitors and locals.

It is disappointing our baseball team will be leaving the area it has they have called home for almost 50 years. But the Atlanta Braves will still bring visibility and recognition to our city’s brand through its national television exposure. The Braves have always been, and will continue to be, a great partner of Atlanta and the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. If a housing and mixed-use development comes to the stadium site, this could be a move that brings exciting new growth to Atlanta as well as Cobb County.

William Pate is president and CEO of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Braves’ move leaves opportunity

By LaShawn Hoffman

The Atlanta Braves’ move to Cobb County creates an opportunity for Atlanta officials to adopt a comprehensive community development strategy that is creative, collaborative and inclusive of the five surrounding communities of Turner Field, known for the past 15 years as the Stadium Neighborhoods.

While the communities of Adair Park, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown and Summerhill have had modest neighborhood improvements, they have lacked a holistic, collaborative approach to economic development, housing and business infrastructure that would allow prosperity.

The Pittsburgh community, one of Atlanta’s oldest neighborhoods founded in 1883 and bearing a rich history, has been faced with many challenges in recent decades. Yet despite these challenges, residents have tried to beat back  decline. Crime, vacant structures, mortgage fraud and overgrown lots led us to organize and actively create a neighborhood-driven, comprehensive revitalization plan — an in-depth land-use plan intended to foster business growth and wealth creation for residents.

We have developed the blueprint. What we lack is the spark.

The transformation of Turner Field should be a leverage point to catalyze development, not only within the stadium’s footprint, but also along the once-bustling arteries  around it, like McDaniel and Pryor streets, University Avenue, Hank Aaron Drive and Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard. By focusing on comprehensive revitalization, we can re-create commercial corridors that spur business development and job creation.

If this does not happen, however, the converted stadium will very likely become to the surrounding communities what the original stadium became — an island of renewal in a sea of decay.

The Strategic Community Investment report released by the city of Atlanta states that “improving the quality of life for all Atlanta citizens is a priority.” In the same report, the Pittsburgh community is noted as having “blight,” with 14.8 percent of its housing and lots in “poor or deteriorated condition” and sa vacant structure rate of 31.5 percent.

Three of the four communities surrounding Turner Field are considered “vulnerable” as it relates to housing by city standards. These statistics are bleak. While Pittsburgh in particular has cultivated an engaged civic infrastructure, a neighborhood-based community development corporation and committed philanthropic partnerships, it is unlikely real economic development will happen in the near term without intentional, mission-aligned, public/private partnerships capable of driving investment back to these communities.

It is understood the redevelopment of Turner Field will not solve all the issues of Pittsburgh. By weaving in the intensive planning that has already occurred and embracing a broader vision for the future of this historic landmark, the city will be better poised to achieve its goal of an improved quality of life for all residents, especially those working families who live in the shadows of our great city.

LaShawn Hoffman is chief executive officer of the Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association.



5 comments Add your comment

Gerald

November 20th, 2013
8:46 pm

@SAWB:

Don’t believe what Liberty Media is telling you. The Braves wanted to move to Cobb. The only reason why they didn’t move in the 1990s was A) Atlanta gave them Turner Field FOR FREE and B) there is no way that Bill Byrne would have allowed Cobb County to be ripped off like this (Byrne has already come out against this deal by the way) when he was running things. Now that Turner Field is no longer a brand new facility and Cobb County is willing to give them $700 million and tons of cheap land in a vacant area (and yes, Cobb County will ultimately concede to transportation improvements to keep the Braves when they threaten to leave so add even more to that figure) then why stick around?

And incidentally, even if the city could have kept the Braves, I am glad that they didn’t. There was no hotel/motel tax (which the city doesn’t even own or control and can’t use for any other purpose) to use to finance the Braves deal, and Liberty Media wasn’t willing to put up $1 billion like Arthur Blank did. So keeping the Braves would have cost the city hundreds of millions of its own funds. Personally, I am glad that Reed decided to hold onto that money to use it on infrastructure that will benefit the entire city, rather than just on the area around Turner Field that suburbanites will come, spend a (few) dollars on and (quickly) leave.

Kasim Reed said $450 million. Now Kyle Wingfield says $700 million!!! Well, go ahead and spend that money, Cobb, and go Braves. Use that money on a new pitching staff and some reliable hitting. Hope that stadium is just about full every night and the Braves will bring home a World Series trophy or 3. I will be rooting for you … while still living downtown and benefiting from money that will instead be spent on my city’s infrastructure instead of a sports team. As a matter of fact, I am looking to buy a house after I have saved up enough money for a down payment, so I might just buy one in the development area where Turner Field used to be if it is a good deal.

Raúl

November 20th, 2013
7:23 pm

TRAFFIC! Baseball teams have 80+ home games in a season, more than half of those are not played, conveniently, on a weekend. Traffic is a nightmare in and out of Cobb county. Will the streets be widened, will marta add a new line to the stadium? Especially for those 80K+ tourists that will stay in Midtown, Downtown and Buckhead. I’d like to know.

SAWB

November 20th, 2013
4:57 pm

“FULTON COUNTY STADIUM WAS IN THE WAY.”

Well, I guess they solved that problem. I personally would have preferred the stadium remain in the same location, but I suppose you are correct it just wasn’t a priority for Fulton/Atlanta and it was for Cobb.

Gerald

November 20th, 2013
4:19 pm

@SAWB:

“The Braves have asked for shops, housing, dining, improved parking, traffic improvements, etc for the last twenty years.”

And where was the money for that going to come?

“Fulton/Atlanta leaders are now excitedly talking about new development for that area, but one wonders why they didn’t do this before now.”

Ummm … BECAUSE FULTON COUNTY STADIUM WAS IN THE WAY. That severely limited the types of development projects that were feasible. Now the whole area can be just bulldozed and parceled out to developers. Instead of needing to be something suitable for a Braves stadium, it is a blank slate that can be used for condos and such, especially since that area will no longer be a parking nightmare. Put it this way: stuff like easy access to Atlanta Metropolitan, Atlanta Technical College, Georgia State, Georgia Tech etc. can be marketed to the people who are now going to be able to build condos and starter homes in that area.

It is not the equal of having the Braves, of course, but the people who are hoping that it will be a burnt out empty crater of urban decay, Detroit style, will be disappointed. Braves or no Braves, the point is that despite the stereotype that the suburbanites have about the city, Atlanta is adding population and employers, and has continued to do so even during this horrific recession. Losing the Braves sting, but when you consider all the IT jobs and other development on the way, it is a wash.

SAWB

November 20th, 2013
1:01 pm

I agree the Braves relocation will have minimal impact on local business, but isn’t that sort of the whole issue. There will be minimal impact because there are a minimal number of businesses to be impacted.

The Braves have asked for shops, housing, dining, improved parking, traffic improvements, etc for the last twenty years. Fulton/Atlanta leaders are now excitedly talking about new development for that area, but one wonders why they didn’t do this before now. I realize much of this is about money and the Braves will probably get a bigger slice of revenue in the new location, but it is a shame that city and county leaders didn’t have the vision to work out some kind of mutually beneficial deal.