9/16/14, "From left, Tim Lee, the Cobb County chairman;
Terry McGuirk, the Braves' chairman; William Rogers, the SunTrust chief
executive; Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia; and the Hall of Famer Hank
on Tuesday," AP via NY Times
9/16/14, "Braves Begin Work on Stadium Outside Downtown Atlanta, to Mixed Reaction
," NY Times, Mike Tierney
"Beneath a tent erected over a patch
of gravel, two dozen nicely dressed dignitaries wearing Atlanta Braves
batting helmets plunged custom-made shiny shovels with bat handles into a pit of dirt Tuesday.
elaborate groundbreaking ritual, which commenced with an opera tenor
belting out the national anthem to a few hundred invited guests who
munched on peanuts and Cracker Jack, marked the start of construction of
a stadium that has delighted some area residents and irritated others.
city dwellers, accustomed to the convenience of all three of Atlanta’s
major professional teams stationed downtown, expressed outrage that the
Braves were headed elsewhere and were doing so only after secret talks
with various Cobb County officials.
those residents, the new ballpark may be only 12 miles from the city
center but might as well be light-years away. And while Cobb County
inhabitants generally welcome the new stadium, which is scheduled to
open in 2017, some took offense that they were kept in the dark
throughout the negotiations and that the county’s decision to issue as
much as $397 million in stadium bonds was not subject to a referendum.
Braves have said that part of the reason for the pending change of
address was to gain closer proximity to the team’s heaviest ticket base,
which is in the suburbs north of downtown
Tuesday’s ceremonies came as the Braves are fading out of the National
League wild-card race, with a record that has fallen to .500. It also
came amid the furor over the recent revelation of a 2012 email by the
Atlanta Hawks’ majority owner in which he voiced concerns that his team
was drawing too few white fans and separate, racially charged comments
by the team’s general manager, Danny Ferry, that have led him to take an
indefinite leave of absence.
Braves, like many major league franchises, have a fairly high
proportion of white fans, and the new location is closer to some
predominantly white areas that are seen as baseball hotbeds.
making the move, the Braves are also envisioning that the stadium will
be part of mixed-use development that will include retail outlets,
restaurants, entertainment sites and residential areas.
the Braves’ home for the past 18-plus seasons, failed to ignite a growth
in neighborhood businesses that would induce fans to spend money before
and after games.
the Braves will now fund the mixed-use project connected to the new
stadium, acting in conjunction with private partners.
cutting edge,” said Rob Manfred, who will soon take over as baseball
commissioner and who was in attendance Tuesday. “Everybody in baseball
is watching the development closely.”
He said that a ballpark residing in an entertainment district “is much better than a stadium out there by itself.”
Turner, the former owner of the Braves and the Hawks, championed the
downtown area for his teams. The Hawks have remained there, and the
N.F.L’s Falcons broke ground in May on a downtown dome situated a long
pass from their existing haunts.
The Braves had braced themselves for less than overwhelming applause for the move.
don’t expect everybody to always be happy,” Terry McGuirk, the team
chairman and chief executive, said. But he characterized most Braves
followers as overjoyed.
The ballpark’s design emphasizes intimacy, with a significant portion of the 41,500 seats close to the field.
independent poll of Cobb denizens conducted by the University of
Florida had determined that 78 percent would have preferred a referendum
on the bond commitment, while 55 percent would have voted in favor.
for Governmental Transparency, a local advocacy group hastily formed
after the Braves’ stadium announcement, unsuccessfully demanded a public
vote, and two individuals have lodged appeals to the state Supreme
Court in a long-shot attempt to prevent the bonds from being issued
without a referendum passing.
Lee, the Cobb County chairman who steered negotiations with the Braves,
said Tuesday a vote had been considered for the 700,000 residents of a
county historically cautious about government spending. Ultimately,
there was no referendum, just an agreement that the county chip in about
45 percent of the actual construction cost, with the Braves picking up
will be good for the region,” said Lee, who contends that the
investment will pay off in increased property and sales tax revenue.
construction crews drove earthmovers and laid massive pipe outside the
tent, one nugget of news emerged from Tuesday’s festivities: The stadium
will be called SunTrust Park,
with the Atlanta-based banking chain
signing on as a title sponsor for a quarter of a century."