Yeah, it’s still hard for me to believe, too.
But if everything goes to plan, the Braves are going to build a $672 million mixed-use development complex — with the stadium as its jewel — at the intersection of Interstates 75 and 285, just outside Atlanta’s perimeter. It is expected to open for the first pitch of the 2017 season.
At this point, no plans have been put on the table as to what a new stadium might look like and what amenities it might offer.
Will it be a retro-style park like Camden Yards in Baltimore or PNC Park in Pittsburgh, where the old-time jewel box stadiums were made of brick and stone and included green seats?
Or, will it go retro-modern? A park like Progressive Field in Cleveland, where the inside looks like a traditional jewel box stadium, but the exterior features steel that is usually painted grey or white?
Of course, there’s also a contemporary option, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen — see Marlins Park in Miami.
In center field of Marlins Park, the organization constructed a 75-foot tall structure that details what the city of Miami is famous for — sun, surf, sand and palm trees. When a home run is hit, the movable parts of the structure have marlins jump around to a laser-light show.
To this day, the best thing many people in Miami can say about the contraption, which cost $2.5 million, is it’s different.
Considering Atlanta is famous for football, Coca-Cola and Southern cooking, the Braves are unlikely to make that mistake.
But while we can fully expect Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-A to have a strong presence in the ballpark, by taking a look at some of the other newer venues across the country, there are some ideas that might be worth borrowing.
When the new Yankee Stadium was completed in 2009, it paid homage to the old stadium by keeping the same wall heights and field dimensions, and they placed Monument Park — the area where they pay homage to all the past Yankee greats like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle — back behind the center field wall.
This is something the Braves could do. Bring the current field dimensions from Turner Field, and start a more organized monument park — an area that could be accessible year round to fans — somewhere in or around the park. The 10 Braves who have their numbers retired — Hank Aaron, Bobby Cox, Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Eddie Matthews, Dale Murphy, Phil Niekro and John Smoltz — would make for a pretty good start, and they would make a great companion piece to a Braves museum and hall of fame relocated from Turner Field.
The Yankees’ museum also has a “Ball Wall,” which has hundreds of baseballs autographed by current and former Yankee greats, and they are trying to make sure they have autographs of every living player who ever wore pinstripes. That would be a pretty cool feature for Braves fans of all ages, but the new Yankee Stadium cost $1.5 billion, so maybe the Braves can go without the autographs of Rick Cerone, Andy Marte and David Nied.
Nationals Park in Washington, which opened in 2008, has a couple of things worth copying, too.
When construction started, the ballpark was being built in a rundown industrial area of the city, on the waterfront of the Anacostia River.
Eventually, the park is expected to be the centerpiece of a thriving business and entertainment district called Half Street with shopping, restaurants and areas for pre- and post-game activities.
This sounds a lot like what the Braves want to do.
The property they purchased is a 60-acre tract. The stadium itself is expected to take up 15 of those acres, which leaves plenty of space to help the new stadium flow into the Cumberland Mall and Galleria areas, where the shops, hotels and restaurants will likely see a significant jump in business.
This is what the Braves will be able to sell as the complete game-day experience. There will likely be plenty of things to do and plenty of places to go before and after the game.
That’s something the neighborhood around Turner Field just could not accommodate.
While not a baseball stadium, the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, has one of the largest and most unique art collections in the country. The collection runs through the stadium and serves as a gallery that is open to the public for tours when the Cowboys aren’t playing.
Then there’s Target Field in Minneapolis, which opened in 2010.
This ballpark was shoehorned into a downtown space that encompasses no more than a few city blocks. It has wide concourses, easy access getting up and down from the highest parts of the stadium and a great view of the downtown skyline.
And the best part? It has a light-rail system that drops thousands of passengers off each day right at the ballpark’s front door.
Of course, we’ll see later if that’s an idea worth copying.
Currently, there’s a study for a rapid-transit bus system to link Kennesaw State and downtown Atlanta. That study is expected to be finished next summer.
In 2012, voters rejected a proposed tax increase that would have been used to for bus rapid transit with a potential upgrade to light rail if it included federal funds.
If it’s not an idea worth copying, maybe it will at least be one worth revisiting.
John Bednarowski is sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.