Will the Braves’ move to SunTrust Park be a swing and a miss?

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Take me out to the ballgame? (Brant Sanderlin/AJC photo)

John Coppolella, the Atlanta Braves’ general manager, was kind enough to respond this week to 21 questions posed via email. Part 1 of that Q&A — in which he says he’s not trading Julio Teheran — can be found here. Part 2 — in which he says the Braves have tried to trade Hector Olivera and have considered cutting him — is here. But my focus today regards a question/answer about SunTrust Park.

Q: As someone who just moved from Newnan to East Cobb, do you see the new stadium jump-starting this franchise the way other new stadiums have jolted other teams? Or do you, now a Cobb Countian, worry about traffic?

A: The new stadium is going to be fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about it and the mixed-use complex, the people associated with it, especially Terry McGuirk, John Schuerholz, Derek Schiller, and Mike Plant, among literally hundreds involved, and what this will mean not only to Cobb County or Atlanta, but the entire Southeast. I’m not a traffic expert, but the story here should be about how this is going to be something truly special that has never been done anywhere else. It will be a huge boon to our team in terms of recruiting free agents and creating new revenue streams. Most importantly, the fan experience, from everything I’ve heard, should be amazing.

I know the Braves remain utterly ecstatic about their new home. As a Cobb Countian of 31 years, I also know that I and a few of my neighbors await the park’s opening with something approaching dread. Not because the Braves are terrible — that’s subject to change. Because of traffic, duh.

Putting self-interest aside — really, though, can anyone ever put self-interest totally aside? — I wonder if the confluence of negative circumstances will, in this case, trump the feel-good effect that comes with most every new stadium. Bad team, bad traffic, bad local vibes: Is it possible the Braves will play to half-empty houses in their shiny new ballpark in its inaugural season?

I plan to write a bit more about this, and I’m interested in what y’all think. Here are two polls for your clicking pleasure. Thanks in advance for the feedback.

Reader Comments 0

101 comments
Harold Walling
Harold Walling

My only concerns are traffic and parking, otherwise nice place to be prior and after game.  But, these are big concerns.

ObamaYoMama
ObamaYoMama

The Ted was a $hithole but this new Stadium will be a grid lock nightmare. Why can't Atlanta area organizers plan better? We are so behind other cities in community development. 

ZAZ
ZAZ

@ObamaYoMama Gridlock nightmare? Just at the new stadium site?  Genius, It's a gridlock nightmare anywhere you go in ATL during our illustrious extended rush hours. All you nitwits who use traffic as some kind of justification to argue against  the move......well. it's a ridiculous notion. Try something else or, better yet, do a self assessment and explore why you seem to care one way or the other. It's a hell hole down there now and there is ZERO chance that area would ever be suitable for what professional sports franchises are looking to develop now, ZERO.  

John
John

I will miss the Ted, never a bad experience. Always able to park right across the street, walk 150 feet into the stadium and in my seat in ten minutes then back out and little traffic going home will miss this next year as I see nothing but problems getting in and out of new stadium.

ZAZ
ZAZ

@John Little traffic going home? Which baseball team are you following? It's not the Braves. But go ahead and make up stuff so it fits your own nonsensical narrative.

Gwinnett Guy
Gwinnett Guy

@ZAZ @John I had no traffic.  I took the MARTA train.  :-)  (and yes, that 5 minute shuttle ride wasn't so bad)

scottw_
scottw_

The last time I went to a Braves game downtown, I told myself that would be the last time. I drove around for 45 minutes looking for a place to park. I finally ended up parking on the street in the dark in a really rough area. My wife and I walked past three different gangs of black kids who looked at us threateningly and made some comments I couldn't understand. I stared them down and they decided to leave us alone. I didn't have my gun with me because I knew I couldn't take it in the game. After the game, we walked back to the car in the dark and had a group of 5 or 6 black kids follow us for 2-3 blocks saying "whitey" remarks. I finally turned around and faced them down and they went in a different direction. Then when we finally got to the car, the side window was broken and glass was all over the inside of the car. Nothing was taken because I purposely emptied out the car before we left just in case this were to happen. Now I don't go downtown for anything and I never go anywhere without my two best friends-Smith and Wesson.

SouthernHope5
SouthernHope5

@scottw_ As an intown resident, I'm happy to hear your decision to avoid our neighborhoods going forward! 

FJ10
FJ10

I will only go to my first game there when the traffic situation is reported to be better than it was at the TED.  If it is not I will never go.  The players and management go to work a lot earlier than we show up to the ballpark, so the quality of their lives is not affected.  If they had trains/marta stopping going straight to the ballpark (see Oakland- their own stop) it would be a no brainer...making me waste my life in traffic? = no thought of the fans you covet. 

JackLivesOutsideTheBox
JackLivesOutsideTheBox

Personally I think the people who put this deal together should be applauded. And there will be a lot of people going to games that didn't before. I've been to two games at Turner Field since it opened. I plan on going every week now.

ZAZ
ZAZ

Funny to hear boatloads of folks [mostly non-ATL residents] speak against the move when they have no real basis for caring one way or the other. If Reed and his band of nitwits had made the same deal the uninformed here would just take it in stride because, well, it's in Atlanta and somehow magically the same scrutiny doesn't apply. Funny. Gosh, I don't know how you people get out of bed without injuring yourselves. Go or don't go. The new economic model will work with or without you, because most people who don't weigh in on threads are glad to get out of that hell hole.

mar1049
mar1049

Two new sports venues and they will be very nice. However unless these local teams win a superbowl or a world series, a new park and a new stadium will mean nothing. At least comfort can be had when other teams come here for playoffs. 

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

This whole deal has been done for all the wrong reasons -- the whole Braves management has done things wrong too long now -- its worst since the day John Hart stepped foot in here


ZAZ
ZAZ

@FreeAgentFan Another uninformed poster gives John Schuerholz a free pass. JS was involved in all major baseball decisions and hired all these guys. Stop trying to preserve his already tattered legacy. 

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

The only time I will ever buy a ticket to see the Braves play is when the Boston Red Sox come into town.  As long as Liberty Media is around that is how it will be for me -- I have gone back to the team of my growing up -- they are not perfect but at least they make an attempt to spend a few bucks and win which they sometimes do

SouthernHope5
SouthernHope5

Thinking about this a bit more...before Liberty Media announced this move, we were all just the slightly befuddled fans of an always frustrating baseball team.


But to justify the move, Liberty Media had to be sure that everyone understood that Turner Field was an awful stadium in an awful city and they had no choice but to move to make the fans happy.


Now that changed everyone's outlooks.  Some folks liked Turner as is. Some liked Turner but thought there were great changes that could be done. Some didn't like the field but did like the city and wanted the team to stay in the city.   So now city people were fighting suburb people. And the inevitable racial element crowd muscled in.  And next thing you know, we're all fist-fighting in the aisles (which is at least better than watching the play on the field).


And for that I can never forgive the Liberty Media corporation. They pitted fan against fan -- while they whistle their way to the bank. 

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@SouthernHope5  Liberty and the two Johns have lied to this fan base -- the second most dishonest ownership only to the dearly now defunct Atlanta Spirit which we had too long in this city.  No wonder ATL has disgust with its pro sports teams

Tyler_Durden_
Tyler_Durden_

Don't you all mean the Atlanta-ish Braves?  Or the Liberty Media Braves?  Or the Colorado Braves (that's where Liberty Media actually is)..

Sorry but, as a baseball fan that's been to almost every park in the nation, this is a dumb move.  It's like taking a park with heart in the city and moving it to a fancy strip mall in plastic-ville.  Nothing about that area says Atlanta, or even Georgia. It could be any town anywhere in any state.  It's just corporate and dumb and dull. 

ZAZ
ZAZ

@JackMccoy If you've been to other parks [I doubt it] your view would be different. The move is smart and there's no rule that states a professional team must be located within the anchor city limits.....ask many, many teams in the US about this. And while you're at it perhaps the AJC should be renamed the Sandy Spring Constitution, no?

DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

Instead of SunTrust Park, they should have named it Malone Field after the Liberty Media chairman. And, in the spirit of Turner Field, they could call it The John.

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

Perhaps people are discovering that Cobb County isn't "all that"  - if it ever really was - particularly its governing bodies. 


The unethical and secret wheeling and dealing by Tim Lee has been pretty well documented, and he could ultimately lose his seat on the Cobb County commission because of it. He sees himself as an economic development hero, however, and is apparently having a very hard time understanding how the ends do not justify his means. Recall that the fix was so strongly and completely in place before the commission voted to approve the deal that no citizen attending the hearing, who was opposed to the deal, was permitted to speak - turning Cobb County briefly into Nazi Germany. The question now is, how briefly will briefly be?  


And, the  morning paper had another article about how the Cobb County seat, the City of Marietta, has literally stolen and pocketed the pension of a longstanding and well regarded employee from his widow. Unfortunately, the employee the bad timing to die before he retired and took his pension, as retirement is first required. And county officials will not comment upon it or discuss it. This would be illegal for any private corporation or business, not to mention cruel, mean spirited, and completely unethical, but since Marietta is a government entity, it is not covered by those laws. What a surprise, huh?  


It makes you wonder if there is something more than a little fishy in Cobb County's drinking water. Note to City of Marietta employees, along with estate planning you need to start looking into your death planning, or it will seriously cost your survivors. Or if you are planning to die some time in the future (as most of us are) and you can retire now - now is the time to get the heck out of Dodge.  


Re: the traffic. Let them stew in it. They resisted MARTA and public transportation for decades in order ensure that certain types of people did not have an easy way to visit or work in the county and cast their hot with automobiles and building just as many lanes as possible, and then widening every road and pig path in the county to handle their growth and development. Unfortunately, you can only build so many new lanes. Now it is time to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the unending gridlock. 


The Braves. They are an asset, a business division, of a very large foreign corporation. They are not headquartered here in Atlanta. There is no Arthur Blank. They have doubled the value of the franchise (thanks Cobb County tax payers) with a new, free stadium. They care about one thing, profits, earnings, and stock value. OK, that's three things. If they are making money with their big new mixed use development, they will not give a tinker's damn about what happens inside that stadium. If fans don't like what they are seeing, they can walk outside to check out The Battery and spend their money there. It's a win-win for them. No need to take big risks with iffy young talent, or pay them when they start demanding the big bucks. 



SouthernHope5
SouthernHope5

i will say that they're bucking the trend of most teams by moving away from a city and into the suburbs...most new stadiums are trying everything they can to get into the city....and the stadiums that people travel to are city- based -- PNC Park, Nationals Park,Coors Field, Safeco Field, etc...as well as the oldest parks that have never left. 

williar
williar

Screw the Braves, and I live in Cobb! The under the table deal that brought the Braves to Cobb will cost the commissioner his job. That runoff election is coming not soon enough.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

My mistake, the Golden Parachute was given by Lee and the Cobb County Commission ,it is just paid for by the  Cobb Taxpayers.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

The Atlanta Braves and Liberty Media's fleecing of the Cobb county Taxpayers was made necessary by the woefully inadequate local broadcast rights contract given away by Terry McGuirk( between $650Million and $1Billion less than comparable markets) in 2007 and it will not expire until 2032. The new SunTrust stadium and MeglaPlex in Cobb was built to make up the losses incurred by McGuirk's ineptitude as COO of the Braves. Luckily for Terry and Liberty Media, the Cobb taxpayers gave them a Golden Parachute deal to leave the TED.

Zing
Zing

@Buschleaguer Blows me away how McGuirk somehow escaped any consequences for basically screwing the team for more than a generation.  Instead, he's been rewarded with more power and control, and then he makes another bad move re: Cobb (in my view).  The guy's radioactive.

AmyintheATL
AmyintheATL

The Braves have been in a downward spiral ever since they were acquired by Liberty Media, which cares absolutely nothing about the team or Atlanta.  And the move to Cobb won't help.  Not just because of traffic, which will be a horrible nightmare.  But the whole nastiness of the feud with the city, scamming Cobb taxpayers, shady behind-the-scenes dealmaking, ethically challenged Tim Lee and the Cobb Commission, and regrettable and racially tinged comment from Cobb County GOP Chairman that it the transportation plans would focus on solutions to bring traffic in from the north and the East and  "not include moving people into Cobb by rail from Atlanta"...............THAT is why I've burnt all of my Braves paraphernalia and I WILL NOT be giving this franchise any of my hard earned money.  And THIS is coming from someone who has regularly attended 20+ games per season at Turner Field.   And I'm not the only one.  

Zing
Zing

@AmyintheATL I appreciate those comments and feel very similarly, particularly regarding the move to Cobb - I think how that deal went down was representative of the worst kind of insider dealing and politicking, and I hope that the AJC or someone will be doing some follow-up about who makes money out of these related real estate deals.  I would not be surprised at all if Tim Lee, the head of the Chamber of Commerce, and some other connected people had some kind of payoff in the coming years. The traffic is also destined to be horrific, exacerbating the current already miserable conditions at that time of day. The whole thing is also a vision of older suburban-focused guys (Schuerholz/McGuirk) who in my view are totally out of touch with the direction and vibrancy of development in the region and unfortunately are not counter-balanced by a Ted Turner who could have, like he did once before, told them it was an asinine move and to forget it.  (Malone doesn't know crap about Atlanta and doesn't care about it.  The tv money from MLB is the only primary motivator for a guy like that, who just looks at the financials and resale value of the team). Sadly, they were the decision-makers this time.

However, I couldn't just write the Braves off.  I've been a fan for too long, since approximately '88/89. So I've reached an odd balance where I hate the ownership, hate the executive management, but cheer for the team and hope Coppy's plan works.  No idea whether it will or not, but I hope so. 

I won't be attending any games, though, in the new stadium. I've been spoiled by MARTA!

Terpskin
Terpskin

If the Braves win more games and get back in the pennant race, the crowds at the new ball park will be great!  Braves fans are eager for John Coppelella to acquire some power hitters who can actually drive in some runs!  The Braves became pennant winners in '91 because we acquired Terry Pendleton and Sid Bream, not because we stockpiled young pitchers.  Come on, Coppelella,

find some offense for this team, and attendance at the new ball park will be no problem!

DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

@Terpskin And don't forget the tiny shortstop (whose name I forget). Those acquistions were more for defense than offense, though Pendleton and Bream were good hitters.

MoreySims
MoreySims

I'll go to 6-7 games with customers, a few more if they are any good.

CJae_EAV
CJae_EAV

The lack of more effective transportation and traffic planning will threaten to sink the project within the first 3 years.

Additionally, I believe there will be a detrimental impact to surrounding businesses and we will see decline in the shopping areas within 1/2 mile radius akin to the decline of Gwinnett Place Mall.


brewman1161
brewman1161

After the initial surge of attendance due to the newness of the facility I think attendance will revert to what it has always been - dependent upon the play of the team.  


Personally, I know I'll attend fewer games because getting to the stadium will be harder for me than, due to traffic, than it's been in the past.  The whole mixed-use thing is pretty much irrelevant to me, because I'm not going to go there when there's no game in process, and I'm not going to go early/stay late just to avoid traffic.

DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

My girlfriend, a Cobb Countian, has already said we will not be going, because of the local politics of the thing.


As for other aspects, I don't think people are going to attend in greater numbers. The Barves [sic] will make more money, which is its whole $^#& raison d'etre.


So, attendance will stay the same, but the Barves [sic] will make more money from it. Yawn.

DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

@TOJacket @DaltonbywayofBickley Is this a fan fiction site? You know, those sites where people add to their favorite writers' work? Never had a fan before.


Just kidding. She is not. I've been a Braves fan since '76. Have been to just a handful of games in that time. Watched a bunch on TV.


I agree wholeheartedly about  paying that much for season tickets. That's crazy.


TOJacket
TOJacket

@DaltonbywayofBickley @TOJacket I didn't misunderstand anything, sounds like you and your girlfriend aren't exactly crazy about Braves baseball....yawn? I will admit this though...if I paid $54,000 on tickets, I couldn't enjoy the game no matter what damn county they're in!

E983
E983

The two questions you posed aren't definitive enough to give a true answer. A rousing success will only happen if they win and use their money to add to their roster with ligitimate free agents, e.g. Greg Maddox, that make the Braves a long term commitment and keep the prospects they are accumulating now around to keep this team a yearly contender for the World Series.

The changing of MLB in the last few years comes with teams being able to consistently win but that can only come with a staff that can teach these kids how to win. One of the experts on the network says they have the oldest roster in the league and the Braves should dump the older players and load it with the prospects and take the losses as they gain the experience. I disagree. The older members have more to offer to the prospects than a coaching staff can provide. The faces have changed but also they're winning games as the prospects are slowly filtered through until they reach the show.

I'm sure the rest of this season and the next are going to be rough. But today's MLB can't support the buying of high priced free agents to win the series on a yearly basis. It's too expensive and taxing to the franchise. Look at the Yankees. Their roster is old news. They can't get past .500. Look at the Houston Astros. With a younger team and a couple of older veterans? They should be around to contend for several years.

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@Edgar Who's this Greg Maddox of whom you speak? Is that one of Lester's kin?