A year and a half ago, the Atlanta Braves announced that they had had just about enough of half their moniker–and not the racist half!–revealing plans to leave downtown Atlanta for the 345-square-mile Cheesecake Factory known as Cobb County, Georgia. The next day, the team outlined the reasons for the move to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
That is to say, of course, they outlined the outline-able reasons for the move. Noticeably absent from the list were impetuses such as "fewer black people" and "more white people." In their place, the old standbys: "This sixteen-year-old stadium needs $200 million in new seats and lights" and "We need to own the land surrounding the park if ChipperVille is ever going to happen."
Tucked away in the Braves' list, and rightfully overlooked by outsiders in favor of the racial undertones, the taxpayer pillaging, and the fact that Turner Field opened in 1997, is the following:
Even with a significant capital investment in Turner Field, there are several issues that cannot be overcome – lack of consistent mass transit to the facility, lack of adequate parking and lack of access to major roadways.
Let's parse this bad boy out, huh?
"[L]ack of consistent mass transit to the facility" – MARTA, Atlanta's rapid-transit system, provides pre- and post-game buses to shuttle fans the mile and a half between its Five Points station and Turner Field. In the spirit of fairness, though, you have to walk through Underground Atlanta to get from the train to the shuttle, and Underground Atlanta is exactly as gross as you are imagining. Anecdotally, the shuttle has not once failed me, but let's assume for the moment that my experience is not universal. In that world, a heaping helping of the word "consistent" could nudge this argument in the Braves' favor.
Except. Prior to MARTA's inception, the City of Atlanta and its five counties voted on whether to approve its creation. Guess which county was the only one to vote it down? Although two other counties eventually pulled support, Cobb County has been staunchly opposed to mass transit within its borders from the beginning. Doug Monroe's piece for Atlanta Magazine (linked above) offers a far more comprehensive look at metro Atlanta's history of MARTA woes, but for our purposes, Cobb County GOP Chairman Joe Dendy's November 2013 statement sufficiently sums up how wonderfully Cobb's citizens have taken to the idea of uniting communities via—
It is absolutely necessary the solution is all about moving cars in and around Cobb and surrounding counties from the north and east [...] and not moving people into Cobb by rail from Atlanta.
"[L]ack of adequate parking" – Currently, the Braves advertise eleven "official" parking lots surrounding Turner Field, but there are at least that many unsanctioned lots within a five- or ten-minute walk to the stadium. As for the new park? The Braves claim, without explanation, that the Cobb stadium will have more parking spots than Turner Field. Does that include the unsanctioned lots? Will the new spots be within walking distance of SunTrust Park? Who the fuck is Alberto Callaspo? We don't know!
We do know that the Braves have made considerable noise about fans' ability to park at nearby Cumberland Mall and ride a shuttle to the stadium, and that the mall is super pissed off. But don't worry, Braves fans:
[W]e need to have a very effective parking plan. We know that. — Braves VP Derek Schiller
That reminds me, I need to have a job that pays me one hundred billion dollars.
"[L]ack of access to major roadways" – Major roadways? Hell, Cobb's got those in spades! SunTrust Park will be nestled at the intersection of I-75 and I-285, which, at 6:00 PM on a typical Tuesday, looks like this:
Atlantans will skip the births of their children to avoid this area during rush hour (12:00 AM - 11:59 PM). Still, the Braves' public statements regarding the traffic concerns have amounted to a shoulder shrug until yesterday, when Executive VP Mike Plant told the Marietta Daily Journal that, yeah, there are definitely going to be way too many goddamn cars:
"We're working closely with the CIDs because we're going to have a lot of bikers, and we want people to ride there, certainly on the weekends and take cars off the road," Plant said.
Plant quickly re-toed the party line–we can't reveal the plan yet, but the plan is real and good–but, fuckin', yikes. A full two years before SunTrust Park's first Opening Day, the Braves are encouraging their fans to hop on their bikes and Miss Gulch their way to a stadium bordered by two interstate highways and the road that birthed Dickey Betts. Good luck.
Plant's statement is emblematic of why SunTrust Park is not just a blatant cash grab, though it most definitely is that, but also a giant middle finger to the City of Atlanta proper. These problems–the racist history of Cobb's MARTA aversion and the traffic purgatory created therefrom–existed and were well-known years before the Braves announced their move. The team could have used its relocation to effect meaningful change in its city, pushing for rail expansion, for instance. Instead, the Braves play the role of the bumbling stagehand, tripping over themselves and pushing the spotlight onto a part of the scenery they didn't want anyone to notice. A conscientious franchise would have addressed, or at least acknowledged, the salient issues its actions have dredged up in its community.
But since their announcement, the Braves have offered nothing but empty reassurances to the people who actually live in the city–we'll still have "Atlanta" across our chests! Now, after a year and a half of skirting real and longstanding issues both social and logistical, the Braves finally have a message for their Atlanta fans: "On your bike."