Rand: Atlanta has a stadium fiasco on its hands

  • Updated: November 12, 2013 - 11:53 PM

A statue of Hall of Fame baseball player Hank Aaron stands outside Turner Field, the home of the Atlanta Braves, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, in Atlanta. The Braves unexpectedly announced Monday they are moving in 2017 to a new stadium.

Photo: David Goldman, Associated Press - Ap

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Say what you want about the construction of new sports facilities in the Twin Cities — love it, hate it, indifferent to it — but it’s hard to argue about the justification for teams wanting to move out of the antiquated Metrodome and into new buildings.

Whether the Gophers, Twins and Vikings all needed new separate buildings is debatable. But all of them had a decent run in a bad building (27 years for the Gophers, 28 for the Twins and 32 for the Vikings), so there was at least a good amount of use from the Dome from the major pro teams in town (not to mention the Timberwolves played there for one season as well). It was a utilitarian building — not flashy, but built on a shoestring budget to serve many needs.

If you want a better example of a stadium fiasco, please direct your attention to Atlanta, where the Braves have announced plans to head to the suburbs and leave Turner Field after the 2016 season. Now, Turner Field never was perfect, having been retrofitted as a ballpark after the 1996 Olympics. But for the most part, it still looks like a nice, functional, newer stadium.

We’re supposed to believe that after 17 seasons, it’s just not tenable? We’re supposed to believe that all due diligence for upgrades and use of the existing facility just won’t work? Absurd.

The new ballpark has a budget of $672 million, $450 million of which reportedly will be financed by the county. This plan would make Turner Field the first of 24 ballparks built since 1989 to be replaced.

It comes on top of the new Falcons stadium, of course, which has a reported price tag of $1.2 billion and will replace the Georgia Dome, which opened in 1992.

The Braves and the Falcons expect to be in their new stadiums by 2017. That would make 20 seasons at Turner Field for the Braves and 25 in the Georgia Dome for the Falcons, shorter terms in far better facilities than the Metrodome offered Minnesota’s teams.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said Tuesday that Turner Field will be demolished at that point, the same fate the Georgia Dome is slated to face.

If that’s really the plan, it’s hard to imagine what would have happened without one.


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