I need a time machine. Now. Or, well, I guess later would work as well. That’s the thing with time machines, after all. Still, I need a time machine. And when I have it, I intend on going back to Las Vegas in 2010, and tell them that I wanted to place a bet that by Opening Day of 2014 the Atlanta Braves would have announced plans to move from Turner Field and Joe Mauer would become a full-time first baseman.
I then would have hopped into my DeLorean and/or TARDIS, travel to today, and cash in enough money where I could buy a small nation, because that’s what happening. And, while many could read the tea leaves about Mauer, nobody saw the death of Turner Field coming, and for a very good reason:
It goes against almost every single thing we know about stadium movement. Most teams move towards the center of their cities, the Braves are moving away from it. Most teams flee old stadiums, and while Turner Field isn’t young anymore, it’s less than two decades old. Most teams don’t keep their moving plans total secrets… but the Braves did.
Now, to be fair, the Braves do have some good points: most of their season-ticket base is from the suburbs, and their new Cobb County facility will be closer to them. That, in turn, would likely increase in-stadium attendance, a And, yes, they are getting a good deal from Cobb County, essentially letting them get a whole new stadium for the same price (as far as the team’s own funds) as what they would have spent if they renovated Turner Field entirely out of their own fund. And, at least in theory, the new stadium would be better located logistically, near two major interstate highways.
But, well, it still goes against most conventional wisdom, especially when one takes into account various caveats about the Braves’ good points. For example, the traffic in the areas north of Atlanta is infamously bad, and I myself remember being stuck in traffic during a family trip down there back in 2008. There is no mass-transit to Cobb County, for various reasons (some of them ugly), which would presumably have helped alleviate that traffic problem.
But, most of all, there is the general bad taste that is left in people’s mouths as a post-Camden Yards stadium is replaced for the first time, even as the Athletics and Rays are stuck in fields from a bygone era. And, perhaps even more worrying: virtually every stadium opened since Camden Yards changed the landscape of baseball stadium design was built with platitudes about them being able to carry their franchises “well into the 21st century”.
And yet, come 2017, not even a fifth of the way through the century, one of them will be replaced.
While Turner Field has always been something of an oddball amongst the post-Camden Yards boom (more brought about by the 1996 Olympics than any type of real plan), one worries about what sort of precedent that might set.