• Exclusives

    A Ridiculous Critique of Braves Stadium Plans…

    To many, it may seem odd or even somewhat absurd that the Braves plan to abandon Turner Field before its 21st birthday for a shiny new crib north of town. I’ll admit that on its face, it does sound silly. There are, however, very good reasons for the move, which I recently began to explain here.

    Artist rendering of planned development around new Braves' new stadium.

    Artist rendering of planned development around new Braves’ new stadium.

    But hey, I know there are plenty of critics. And that’s cool. Rational objections and sensible debate are always welcome in my book. However, I recently stumbled upon an article at TheAtlanticCities.com titled The Atlanta Braves Are Getting a New Stadium and Yes, That Is Ridiculous” that was just, well … ridiculous.

    The author may be a fantastic and generally well informed writer. I have no idea. But after reading his critique, I strong suspect he has never attended a game at Turner Field. And I must say, what he wrote was awfully snarky for someone who apparently has canyon-sized knowledge gaps on the topic.

    ACCLAIMED STADIUM??

    Let’s start at the beginning. The author wrote “as young and acclaimed as Turner Field may seem…”

    Turner Field is a nice enough park, but acclaimed? Seriously?  Sure. Almost as acclaimed as Adam Sandler’s last three movies.

    Adam Sandler

    Adam Sandler

    Alright, that’s an exaggeration. It isn’t nearly that unsightly. Not by a long shot. But it most definitely is not an acclaimed ballpark.

    This ranking of MLB’s best ballparks, which appeared in a USA Today publication, ranked Turner Field 22nd out of 30. The writer adds “Among parks built since 1990, it’s number 18 out of 23.”

    A Grantland ranking of the best ballpark experiences, which also included a few now-defunct stadiums for context, ranked Turner Field 29th out of 36. Here are a couple of highlights of the writer’s Turner Field review: “The stadium feels like it was designed for something other than baseball (it was)” and “MARTA might be the worst major transit system in America”.

    And yet another ranking, built from Yelp reviews, slots The Ted at #20.

    Turner Field is by no means a dump, but neither is it anything special by today’s standards. If you were to tour all 30 MLB stadiums, I believe you would find Turner Field to be among the least memorable.

    But of course, the team’s planned relocation has very little to do with the ballpark itself. It’s all about the real estate. The Braves like the house well enough, but not the neighborhood, which brings us to the next point.

    HIGHWAY ACCESS TO TURNER FIELD

    The writer of the Atlantic Cities piece cites a Braves’ press release, which states that the needed stadium upgrades at Turner Field “still wouldn’t address the logistical challenges outside the stadium – lack of consistent mass transit options, inadequate number of parking spaces and limited access to major highways.”

    Turner Field satellite view

    Turner Field satellite view

    The writer then points to a satellite image of Turner Field and responds:  “…they cite the current stadium’s lack of highway access as a major problem. That’s just not true. There are three different highways in walking distance from the stadium”.

    Wait … did he really just count the downtown connector as two highways?

    Um, okay.

    Not only has he evidently never been to Turner Field, but it would appear he’s also never driven in Atlanta.

    I will concede that the team’s statement was woefully incomplete on that point (highway access). Obviously, there are two major highways adjacent to the ballpark. However, I-20 doesn’t do them much good, since a very small percentage of their fans travel on I-20.  And Braves officials have certainly explained the accessibility challenges in greater detail outside of that press release.  Access is a legitimate problem for the team, but that’s a topic for another day.

    Still with me? Good, because we’re getting to the best part.

    PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

    The writer also highlights the plethora of public transportation options to and from Turner Field:

    AC (300px)BUS STOPS! That’s right boys and girls, the Braves’ lamentations about bottlenecked access to The Ted are invalid because there are five bus stops nearby!

    To be fair,  he also points out that fans can easily walk from Five Points station downtown to the stadium. He writes: “Turner Field is a 25-minute walk from the nearest MARTA station”.

    Now, I’m only making an educated guess that he’s never driven in Atlanta and I suspect (strongly) that he’s never been to a game at Turner Field. But I will wager my next paycheck that he’s never made the “25-minute” casual stroll, as he seems to characterize it, from The Ted to Five Points.

    And I will give him $100 from my wallet if he will videotape himself walking it both ways and then, with a straight face, call it an easy 25-minute walk.

    Oh, by the way, I just looked it up on Google Maps myself. Google lists the walking time for the most direct route at 31 minutes, not 25, and that doesn’t include delays for traffic before and after games. I’d love to know how he came up with his 25 minute estimate.

    Google Maps also notes:  “Use caution – This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths”.  It should also state “Use caution – pedestrians may go missing.”

    Okay, that’s another exaggeration. That particular route is not especially sketchy, but Atlanta is not a pedestrian-friendly city. The average Braves ticket-buyer will not feel as secure walking in and out of downtown as they might feel walking around much of Boston, for example.

    And then there’s the FREE SHUTTLE! service from Five Points the the Ted that RUNS LATE!  It’s such a wonderful convenience that all of 6% of Braves fans took advantage of the FREE SHUTTLE! service last year.

    I took the Braves shuttle once — once.

    Turner Field's neighborhood

    Turner Field’s neighborhood (At intersection of Ralph David Abernathy Blvd & Windsor St.)

    After waiting at least 15 minutes for a southbound train at the Chamblee rail station, I arrived at Five Points, then had to walk all the way through Underground Atlanta to get to the shuttle station. Then I waited in line to board the shuttle. I estimate getting to the park via MARTA took me 20 minutes longer than if I had driven there.

    When the game was over, I took one look at the mob of fans waiting for shuttle buses and immediately opted to walk to Five Points instead (yes, unlike the writer of the new stadium critique, I HAVE made the walk). After the near 40-minute walk (with traffic), I waited quite a while to board a northbound train back to may car. It took me at 40 minutes longer to get home than if I had driven.

    BOTTOM LINE

    Turner Field itself is not a bad ballpark and it could live a much longer life, were it not for its address. It is a very difficult place to get to for most of the Braves’ fan base (we’ll talk more about that in a separate post very soon) and there is no potential for the team to optimize revenue by developing the surrounding area. The move makes sense. It is in no way “ridiculous”. But calling Turner Field “acclaimed”, counting the ATL downtown connector as two highways, and citing bus stops and walking distance to Five Points as evidence of easy access to the stadium, well … ridiculous seems like a pretty good word for that.

    Kent Covington is a national radio news reporter and BravesWire Editor. Follow Kent on Twitter: @FriedbasballATL