Lets make one thing clear about the Atlanta Braves move out of Turner Field. Team ownership was justified in taking the team out of that stadium.
The vision for Turner Field was to have a neighborhood grow up around the stadium. The goal was to have the neighborhood south of downtown develop into a place where people would want to hang out before or after games.
Instead, theres blight. And who can blame the Braves for not wanting to continue to call that neighborhood home, considering the areas politicians -- and not the team or other interested businesses -- are calling the shots when it comes to developing (or, in this case, not developing) that neighborhood?
With the Turner Field lease up at the end of the 2016 season, the Braves decided to go find a better neighborhood in which to play. Considering what little has been done to improve the neighborhood around Turner Field, rightfully so. Atlanta city leaders can save some face by helping Georgia States athletics programs move to the Turner Field site, but the Braves time at that site has passed.
Which brings us to site selection for the new Braves stadium.
If the Braves wanted as many eyeballs as possible on the mixed-use development they are building in the Cumberland neighborhood, they couldnt have picked a better spot. The Interstate 75/I-285 connection on the northwest side of the Perimeter is one of the busiest parts of the metro area. In a way, Im surprised the spot hadnt already been claimed by office park sprawl.
Heres the rub: Will Cumberland -- and Cobb County in general -- be able to absorb all of the traffic the Braves will bring?
Team officials said 6,000 parking spots will be available within the stadium development. That wont be enough, although plans to incorporate other facilities nearby will increase the number of spots available.
What wont be available, however, will be a connection to MARTAs rail network. And this is where some of the math for the new ballpark doesnt quite add up.
These days, fans headed to Turner Field can use MARTA rail to get to the ballpark, albeit in a convoluted manner. The trip to Turner Field involves either a shuttle bus from the Five Points station (not an entirely bad setup, although a walk through the failing Underground Atlanta project is a bit depressing) or a roughly 1-mile walk from the Georgia State station. There will be no such luxury with the new ballpark site, however, as the Cumberland area has long been the biggest hole in the MARTA rail system inside the Perimeter.
Lacking rail, the next best way to handle the potential traffic crush would be a centralized park-and-ride system. And thats the big question as this project moves forward.
Getting buses to roll in Cobb County shouldnt be a problem, as the Braves have expressed an interest in working with Cobb County Transit to develop a shuttle bus network to connect Cumberland Mall and the Cobb County Galleria to the ballpark. To truly cut down on traffic issues, however, there will need to be ways to get to the park from other parts of the Atlanta metro area -- and beyond -- without having to drive into Cumberland.
Typical of the way transportation issues are handled in this state, unfortunately, there havent been any plans announced so far for mass transit connections to the Braves new stadium from outside of Cobb County. Considering the often rocky history between MARTA and Cobb County, it wouldnt be surprising if MARTA decides not to play ball with the Braves on the new stadium.
Right now, the biggest fear regarding this project is the potential for massive traffic jams. And while we have heard bits and pieces of plans to keep things running in the neighborhood surrounding the ballpark, we still dont know how were going to get into the neighborhood to begin with.
Thats the one question we need the Braves and Cobb County to answer.
Contact Ron Seibel at 744-4222 or email@example.com