City to demolish Turner Field if Braves relocate to Cobb
'I certainly wasn't going to try to finance two stadium deals at the same time'
- Joeff Davis
- Mayor Reed speaks at this morning's press conference at City Hall.
Major changes will head to Peoplestown, Mechanicsville, and Summerhill if the Atlanta Braves finalize a new stadium deal in Cobb County. Among the biggest: the razing of Turner Field and a massive middle-class-oriented redevelopment of the former Olympics complex and adjacent parking lots.
At a packed press conference, Mayor Kasim Reed offered his side of what happened during negotiations with the Braves. Reed says he received a text message last Wednesday morning from Braves executive Mike Plant to set up a meeting the next day. At that sitdown, Plant informed the city that the Braves were moving.
Reed wished the Braves well, saying the ball club pushed "aggressive" demands that would've required an estimated $350 million to remain at Turner Field. According to the mayor, the city would need to take on a debt to the tune of $150-250 million, which would prevent Atlanta from tackling a major portion of its nearly $1 billion infrastructure backlog.
"I certainly wasn't going to try to finance two stadium deals at the same time," he said.
After making distinctions between the Falcons and Braves' deals, Reed said he wasn't ready to risk the city's financial standing for the baseball club. Despite having 18 months of "good-faith" negotiations - including making progress on concerns about nearby vending, sewage infrastructure repairs, and some light-rail discussions - the Braves took Cobb County's enticing offer.
If the conservative county approves $450 million in public funding, Reed said the city would demolish Turner Field, which was first built in 1996 for the Summer Olympics, once the franchise leaves. The mayor said the potential move close to the intersection of I-75 and I-285 would improve the metro Atlanta region. And he dismissed assertions that the city would suffer.
"It bothers me that we haven't come far enough as a community that a 12-mile move is seen as something that hurts the city," Reed said.
While the mayor acknowledged how difficult the decision was in the short-term, he also said it could revitalize a key swath of southeast Atlanta. No details were released regarding potential developments in Summerhill, Peoplestown, and other neighborhoods adjacent to Turner Field. But he insisted the surrounding communities could benefit from the stadium's demolition with "terrific" new projects. The 60-acre area would be an "ideal tract of land for middle class families" and would help the city create more affordable housing near Downtown - something that New York and London, he said, struggle with today.
Outside Atlanta City Council's chambers, Councilmembers Michael Julian Bond, Carla Smith, Felicia Moore, Howard Shook, and Yolanda Adrean told reporters that they were left out of the Braves negotiations and were awaiting more details from Reed. Bond said they would do "whatever it takes, within reason" to keep the ball club inside the city limits. And he urged the city to make an offer to the Braves prior to Cobb's decisive meeting that's scheduled for Nov. 26.