Apparently This Matters: The Column
At certain angles, far beyond the outfield bleachers of Turner Field, you can see Georgia's state capitol dome shine majestically from downtown Atlanta.
And, in the later innings, after you've had a bunch of those big stadium beers, you can see two of them!
I took special notice of the capitol dome just the other day when I attended what could very well be my last ever Braves game. We were entertaining foreign guests who had never seen baseball. That's why I was reluctantly there, breaking my ongoing personal protest.
Quite simply, I can't, in good conscience, financially support a baseball team that willingly plans to move to the suburbs. It goes against everything I stand for in life. Which is to say I don't stand for much.
My moral compass points toward the nearest bag of Funyuns.
|Georgia's state capitol dome.|
But it was in this brief moment of seeing the distant capitol dome on a warm, beautiful night that I became wistful and nostalgic for something that wasn't yet gone, and something that, frankly, isn't all that wonderful to begin with.
There's nothing uniquely special about the Braves current confines at Turner Field. Save for its history.
It was built for the 1996 Summer Olympics, and was originally called Centennial Olympic Stadium. President Bill Clinton sat in awe as Gladys Knight sang "Georgia on My Mind" at the opening ceremony.
That kind of history.
After the Olympics, the temporarily elongated northern part of the stadium was reconstructed from athletics to baseball and gifted to the city. Which temporarily elongated the ownership of the Braves, who now had a sexy new home.
Most modern Olympic venues become tenantless, rotting eyesores, so everyone was generally aroused by this rare moment of logic.
The city leased the stadium over to the Braves. That lease expires in 2016. In November 2013, the team announced that they would not renew it.
Thus, in 2017, the Braves will begin play at the architectural abortion now known as SunTrust Park.
I'll get back to that uninspiring heap of bad ideas in a moment.
|Centennial Olympic Stadium before it was reconstructed as Turner Field for baseball|
But here's the thing about Turner Field. It's not bad. It's just not great.
To be fair, the biggest blunder of Turner Field has nothing to do with the look or structural design. Despite having about 10,000 too many seats, I actually don't dislike the stadium - the brick and mortar and beer dispensers.
Again, it's nothing special. But certainly not bad. And not anywhere near as terrible as that giant toilet bowl they pass off as a stadium in Tampa Bay.
Quite simply, the big mistake here in Atlanta was not connecting Turner Field with a direct stop on the MARTA train line. MARTA is our subway. So long as you have a loose interpretation of the word "subway."
I do. So I call it that.
The nearest MARTA stop to Turner Field is a mile and a half away. That's a 30 minute walk in the blazing sun. Which is dangerous and also requires burning calories.
Thus, after getting off the train, sensible fans have to transfer onto a shuttle bus - another tedious step in the process.
Ain't nobody got time for that.
|Turner Field parking lots. Ha! Ha! Weeeee! Fun!|
That means most people drive. And that means most people have to park. And that means instead of enjoying local bars and restaurants around the stadium, most people wander through giant empty spaces of nothing so everyone can have convenient places to temporarily stow their cars for a few hours prior to dangerously weaving home drunk after the game.
It seems everyone got greedy. The city. The Braves. They all saw the potential money to be made from charging people to park. What they didn't see was the potential to create a truly urban experience around the ballpark. Everyone failed from the get-go.
Alas, the area adjacent to Turner Field is a complete wasteland of asphalt and sadness. But at least it's sorta kinda close to downtown.
You see, baseball stadiums - and all other sports arenas for that matter - should be downtown. Period.
To be downtown is to be somewhere.
And Turner Field is more or less just that. Sure, it could be a lot closer to the center, but it's near enough to count - basically, the same justification I adhere to when using the urinals in between innings.
"Meh. Close enough."
Downtown is everything.
When I was a suburban kid growing up in Phoenix, seeing a Suns or Coyotes game was just about the coolest thing you could do because, hot damn, you were going to the city!
Tall buildings! Shiny lights! Hookers on Van Buren street!
|Rendering of the new Braves stadium in the suburbs ... and future home of a Margaritaville Cafe.|
Even when I lived in Denver for a year after college, I used to walk to Coors Field from my downtown apartment. We'd sit in the centerfield Rockpile. It was glorious. Sometimes I even made it home without vomiting on 20th Street.
Nevertheless, despite every other professional sports franchise now understanding the importance of being closer to the core, the Braves are going to leave Atlanta for a giant new mixed-use, force-fed entertainment district in the Cobb County suburbs.
It's even further from MARTA, and they're literally going to drop this thing in the middle of the state's biggest traffic nightmare.
This decision was likely made while hunkered under a tarp in the the spray paint aisle at Home Depot.
Which, coincidentally, is where I like to go to get my thinkin' on. So, I'm not judging.
And, truthfully, the traffic is going to suck regardless of where the Braves play. It's Atlanta. Excessively burning fossil fuels is sort of what we do best.
I'm just saying that I've seen this movie before. And it doesn't end well. Trust me.
In 2006, my beloved Arizona Cardinals built their new stadium in a barren wasteland of dirt and broken dreams, far west of downtown Phoenix.
For when you absolutely, positively want meth, but don't mind a long drive.
Now, make no mistake. The Cardinals stadium is amazing. I've been there twice for international soccer, and it's absolutely fantastic.
However, everything around it is hell on earth.
And it kills me to know that the Cardinals and the city of Phoenix had one chance - ONE CHANCE - to put this masterpiece downtown, but they let money and politics get in the way of making their city a bit more world class.
|Gort dirt? Construction of the University of Phoenix Stadium. In Glendale.|
Instead, it sits in the middle of nowhere. They built manufactured forced fun all around it. And, for a while, they even leased out space for a friggin' Margaritaville Cafe.
The only word I can use to describe Glendale's Westgate Entertainment District is: Soulless.
I've been there. It's terrible. There's nothing authentic about it. Just chain restaurants with high prices and bad nachos.
And now we're getting what looks to be the same thing in Atlanta.
Truth be told, I really don't care about the economic factors - the taxes and bonds and all that other stuff I barely understand because it requires math and a general understanding of civics.
I just like sports. And I like stadiums. And I like cities.
I don't even blame the Braves for wanting something better. And I'm sure the new digs are going to be comfortable and technologically advanced.
My disdain for this move to Cobb County is purely emotional. Baseball shouldn't be in the suburbs.
This certainly isn't a new story. We've known about this move for almost two years now. But after months and months of denial, I saw that capitol dome the other night and the reality finally set it.
The Braves are getting a stupid new stadium in the suburbs.
And once it's built - once they move to Cobb County - there's no going back.
They had one chance.