In a surprising bit of off-season baseball news, the Atlanta Braves are packing up and moving out to the suburbs, less than 20 years after moving into their current stadium. The Braves declared today that they will vacate Atlanta's Turner Field for a new $672 million stadium in time for the 2017 season, the majority of which will be paid for by their home, Cobb County.
Turner Field was originally built for Atlanta's 1996 Summer Olympics and then converted from a multi-purpose arena into a baseball stadium, before the Braves moved in for the 1997 season. But the team plans to move on once their 20-year lease expires. "Turner Field, which we do not own, is in need of hundreds of millions of dollars of upgrades," Braves President John Schuerholz said in a message. He also claimed that the "massive investment would not do anything to improve access or the fan experience." The team says that the costs for upgrading Turner would have cost about $150 million in total, and so the team will instead add that money to the $450 million Cobb County will contribute the new place to play.
The Braves have now made a habit of jumping from stadium to stadium in short time periods. Before moving to Turner Field, the Braves played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium for 30 years, from 1966-96. That came after a move from Milwaukee, where the franchise had played for just 13 years.
The move is a surprise even to close followers of the Braves, who managed to keep the talks with Cobb County under wraps. And it's one that several baseball GMs don't quite understand. "Immediate reaction from first 5 people asked at GM Meetings about move was along lines of: 'What?! Turner Field is a (great/nice) ballpark,'" tweeted David O'Brien, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Braves beat reporter. The Braves executives obviously disagree with that sentiment.