ATLANTA (AP) — The Braves announced Monday they are leaving Turner Field and moving into a new 42,000-seat, $672 million stadium about 10 miles from downtown Atlanta in 2017. It's not clear how much it will cost taxpayers.
Braves executives John Schuerholz, Mike Plant and Derek Schiller said the team decided not to seek another 20-year lease at Turner Field and began talks with the Cobb Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority in July.
Plant, the executive vice president of business operations, said the team has not signed a contract with Cobb County, but he's "100 percent certain it will happen." He said talks broke down with the Atlanta Fulton County Recreational Authority earlier this year.
Schiller, the executive vice president of sales and marketing, said financing will come from the Braves and the Cobb County government. The team will be responsible for any cost overruns.
He declined to say how much taxpayers will be responsible for, but added that the information will be made public soon.
Bucking the trend of teams pushing for stadiums and arenas closer to the city center, the Braves are moving from a site just south of downtown that has been their home since the team moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee in 1966. They played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium through the 1996 season, then moved the following season into a new stadium built right across the street for the Summer Olympics.
The Braves immediately launched a website that said their new suburban stadium would be closer to the geographic center of the team's fan base in the city's sprawling northern suburbs.
"The reason for moving is simple," the team said. "The current location has certain issues that are insurmountable and will only become more problematic over the years. These fundamental issues involve how you, our fans, access Turner Field. There is a lack of consistent mass transportation, a lack of sufficient parking and a lack of direct access to interstates. Furthermore, the Braves do not have control over the development of our immediate surroundings."
The new stadium will be part of a 60-acre development near Cobb Galleria mall and just outside the I-285 perimeter.
The Braves did not explain how it will be easier to access a new stadium that will located at the interchange for two of Atlanta's busiest interstates, I-75 and I-285, and has been plagued by major traffic problems for years — despite I-75 being expanded as wide as seven lanes near the new stadium site.
Also, the new stadium cannot be accessed by MARTA, the city's major rapid transit system. Cobb County has its own, much-smaller bus system. Team officials only say there will be a reliable means of driving to and from the stadium.
Though the Braves plan to sell stadium naming rights to a corporation, Schuerholz said the team isn't concerned that the Atlanta Falcons are seeking a naming rights deal, too, for their new downtown property that also is opening in 2017.
The news was stunning because Turner Field's relatively young age. It opened in 1996 as the 85,000-seat main stadium for the Atlanta Olympics, hosting athletics as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. Afterward, it was downsized and converted into the Braves' new stadium beginning with the 1997 season, replacing Atlanta-Fulton Stadium across the street.
The old stadium was imploded and turned into a parking lot for the new facility.
Now, the stadium nicknamed "the Ted" after its namesake — former Braves owner Ted Turner — could be headed for oblivion, even though it is still newer than 14 of the other 29 parks in Major League Baseball.
The Braves shared Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium with the Falcons until 1991. The NFL team moved into the Georgia Dome the following year and is now planning to build a new $1.2 billion retractable roof stadium next door, also to open in 2017. The project will be funded by the team and revenues from the city's hotel tax.
After Turner Field opened in 1997, the Braves hosted the 1999 World Series, 2000 All-Star Game and four National League Championship Series.
"This decision to move was not easy, and we have mixed emotions about leaving a ballpark that holds so many great memories," the team said on the website. "However, knowing that our lease will expire in 2016, we have devoted our time trying to secure the best option for our fans, our team and our organization. We believe this new site will be the best location for our fans and our organization for the next 30 years."
The Braves had expressed frustration with Atlanta and Fulton County officials, who helped the Falcons work closely with the Georgia World Congress Center Authority to begin building on property adjacent to the Georgia Dome.
Plant said Turner Field needs another $150 million of infrastructure and $200 million to enhance fans' experience over the next few years. The Braves also were frustrated that the Atlanta Fulton County Recreational Authority could not help the team secure an additional 5,000 parking spaces.
Online: Braves new stadium: http://homeofthebraves.com