Area residents sound off about Braves leaving Turner Field
By KATE BRUMBACK
ATLANTA -- Some residents around Turner Field said they were shocked Monday by the Atlanta Braves' announcement that the baseball team plans to build a new stadium in suburban Cobb County.
Surprise gave way to sadness and anger for many living near the existing stadium just south of downtown. Meanwhile, many in Cobb County said they were excited to welcome the Braves, even if some were a bit concerned about traffic and cost.
Tracey Long, 41, has lived several blocks from Turner Field for about a decade and said she's very involved with her neighborhood. While out walking her dog Monday, she said she and other neighbors were disappointed by the news.
She hopes it's a negotiating tactic the Braves are using to force a better deal to keep them at Turner Field.
"It's our hope that this is a ploy, if you will, by the Braves organization to get the city of Atlanta to come through with a deal that's acceptable," she said, warning there could otherwise be local backlash.
However, Mayor Kasim Reed said in a release that the city was unwilling to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to keep the team in Atlanta. The Braves announced earlier in the day that they plan to move to a $672 million stadium about 10 miles north of downtown in 2017.
Long and her neighbors had been encouraged in recent years by talk about potential mixed-use developments bringing more housing, dining and entertainment options to the area around Turner Field.
"As far as we knew, the city was talking to developers and it was going forward, so this was a complete shock," she said.
Kristen Rogers, a 28-year-old IT project manager, said she bought her townhouse within view of Turner Field 2 ½ years ago because she thought being close to the stadium and potential new developments would be a smart investment.
"I guess I'll be selling," she said. "I think it will bring the value of my property down."
Rogers hasn't been to a game since she moved to the area, but enjoys the game-day atmosphere when the team is at home. She can see the stadium's giant screen from her roof.
Tiffany Bridges, 42, a stay-at-home mom who lives in the same row of townhouses, said she was disappointed. She blamed the city for dragging its feet on developing the area.
"Maybe they'd stay if the city would spruce up the neighborhood," she said. "You have people coming in from out of town for games and there's no shopping or restaurants or anything around here."
Reed said the city has been talking to organizations that might be interested in redeveloping the area.
Sammy Powell, an executive in a Cobb County engineering firm adjacent to the wooded area that is the proposed site for the new stadium, said he's thrilled. He shares Braves season tickets and owns part of the building that houses the firm where he works, so he said it's a win-win situation for him.
"If we stay in this building, I'll have the Braves stadium right next door, and if they buy us out we'll make a lot of money," he said.
Sheri Kell, who lives in East Cobb, had her first date with her husband at a Braves game at the previous stadium before Turner Field was built. She's excited.
"It's closer to home, so it's easier to navigate and to take the kids to a game on a weeknight," she said, adding new tax revenue, job creation and associated retail activity would benefit the county.
Pete Clemmons and his wife, Ofelia, said they think the new stadium complex will be a good thing for the county's economy, but expressed concerns about traffic.
The new stadium is to be built near the nexus of two major interstates, I-75 and I-285.
"I think there might be a backlash from the commuters who live in Cobb County or farther north and who drive home on I-75 from downtown in the evening" on game nights, Pete Clemmons said.
His wife wondered how much taxpayer money would be used. Cobb officials have declined to comment about public financing.
Elected officials in both communities echoed their constituents.
Fulton County Commission Chairman John H. Eaves said the Braves' decision to leave Turner Field will result in significant damage and blight to the surrounding community.
"There is no entity that can step in and fill the big shoes that the Braves will be leaving," he said, disappointed.
Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee said he looks forward to welcoming the Braves.
"The response has been very positive, very enthusiastic and supportive of this investment, which will bring significant economic growth to Cobb County and the region," he said.