The Marietta Daily Journal reports — and the Braves have since confirmed — that they are moving to a new, suburban ballpark after the 2016 season. The new park will be in Cobb County, near the intersection of I-75 and I-285. The move is occasioned by the end their 20 year lease agreement for Turner Field, which expires at the end of the 2016 season.
This move is completely unexpected. Turner Field, which is a retrofit of the Olympic stadium from the 1996 summer games, has only housed the Braves since 1997. There is nothing about it that is obsolete or lacking for baseball. It’s a bit big and the Braves don’t draw as well as teams who have been as successful as they have been should draw, but that speaks to the nature and popularity of baseball in Atlanta — and a bit about Atlanta geography and demographics — not the ballpark.
It is worth noting, however, that the area where this report would have a new Braves ballpark is in the prosperous and growing northern Atlanta suburbs, where a great many Braves fans (and players) reside already. So, while such a move would be against the tide of recent history, a team actually leaving the urban center to move to the burbs would not be as an insane and antiquated notion in Atlanta as it might be in other cities.
It’s possible that the idea of a move is part of a negotiating position in lease discussions between the team and the city. The story notes that the land for the new ballpark is under contract, but that a deal is not yet closed. It is possible that a Cobb County option is the Braves’ ace in the hole, as it were, and they’re getting more bold in playing it.
But with the team confirming all of this? That does seem like more than mere negotiating tactic.