ATLANTA — Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz played up regionalism and downplayed concerns about traffic in discussing the Braves’ surprising decision to relocate the team’s stadium outside of the city limits.
The Braves announced late last year they would relocate the team to Cobb County in time for the 2017 season.
The team has played in downtown Atlanta since moving from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966. The Braves played first at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium and Turner Field, a facility built for the 1996 Olympics, starting with the 1997 season.
“We’re only 12-and-a-half miles away,” Schuerholz said during a speech before the Atlanta Press Club. “It’s not like we’re moving to three states away or two counties away.”
Cobb County, a county of more than 675,000 residents, is a major suburb of Metro Atlanta, located northwest of Atlanta proper.
“We’re still going to have the ‘A’ on our cap — the Atlanta Braves ‘A’ — representing the great city of Atlanta. We’re going to have Atlanta across our chest,” Schuerholz added. “We’re going to be playing in a beautiful facility only 12-and-a-half miles away.”
Many residents have expressed concerns about the stadium’s location near the busy interchange of interstates 75 and 285. And, a recent study estimates more than 20,000 additional cars will pass through the area on game days.
But, during his Thursday speech, Schuerholz attempted to allay those concerns about congestion, saying Atlanta is a traffic city and that the new location has 14 access points versus the one for Turner Field, the team’s current home.
“We believe that it will be more accessible, which has been one of the main complaints we’ve gotten from our fans over the years,” Schuerholz said. “Access to our facility now is a real challenge.”
He added: “We wish we could do something about that. We are but tenants in Turner Field.”
City officials have indicated Turner Field, which is less than 20 years old, will be razed once the Braves move out. While the future of the stadium site is unclear, Georgia State University has expressed interest in building facilities on the site, according to published reports.
The planned 41,000-seat stadium will be smaller than Turner Field, and the Braves are planning mixed-use development surrounding the stadium — in which a local brewery may have a presence, Schuerholz indicated. The development is expected to open at the same time the stadium does — a first for a baseball team, Schuerholz told the audience.