Even at 34-66, the Atlanta Braves remain a major-league franchise. There are but 30 of those in these United States. As of April 2017, Cobb County will house one of them. As you roll south on I-75 out out of Cherokee County or north from Fulton across the Chattahoochee, that’ll be your new welcome sign: “Welcome to Cobb, home of the Braves.”
Think of it this way: Gwinnett has a Braves’ farm team; Cobb will have the real thing.
Even if you’re a Cobb Countian (I am) concerned about the traffic SunTrust Park will bring to the Galleria/Cumberland/Windy Hill area (I’m that, too), you still must admit: One of the 30 major-league teams setting up housekeeping in your neck of the woods is a huge deal. It mightn’t be quite the financial windfall that some envision — economists insists that promises of revenue streams from sports teams/stadiums are always overcooked — but the advent of a major-league team isn’t to be confused with the opening of a trendy restaurant that, two years hence, will have trended out of existence.
The Braves are contractually obliged to play in SunTrust through 2047, by which time Dansby Swanson or Kevin Maitan might (or might not) have a plaque in Cooperstown. Say what you will about the Braves’ move, but this is, pun semi-intended, a game-changer for Cobb in the way that nothing — not Cumberland Mall, not Town Center, not the flowering of Kennesaw State — has ever been.
You’d think the individual most responsible for luring the Atlanta Braves from downtown Atlanta would be having a statue cast to sit outside SunTrust alongside the new monument to Hank Aaron. And maybe someday that will indeed happen. Tuesday, however, was not a day for commemoration. It was a day of dismissal.
Cobb Commission chairman Tim Lee lost his bid for re-election to Mike Boyce, who drew 49 percent of the vote in May’s primary and a 64 percent mandate in Tuesday’s run-off. It’s significant that Boyce didn’t campaign against the Braves per se — just against the way in which the Braves were wooed.
“Cobb County is a very conservative county,” Boyce told the AJC, “and people simply want the respect shown to them that if you’re going to use their money, you have to ask them.”
We know the Braves were desperate to get out of downtown. (They were miffed that the city of Atlanta appeared to have picked the Falcons’ new stadium to champion.) We know Cobb and Lee sniffed a once-in-a-millennium opportunity. That rush and its accompanying secrecy served to make a marriage. Old saying, though: Marry in haste, repent in leisure.
The perception that Lee didn’t consult his constituency was conceded by Lee himself. “I think voters are expressing a dissatisfaction with what they believe to be true,” he said. And it’s entirely possible that, 10 years on, Lee will be viewed more kindly than on July 26, 2016. For now, though, we’re left to ponder this massive incongruity: The man who brought the big-league Braves to his county won’t be in office when they arrive.