The Atlanta Braves have announced their intention to move from Ted Turner Stadium, just south of downtown Atlanta, to a new facility that will be constructed in Cobb County in time for the 2017 season. From Yahoo News:
The Braves announced Monday they are leaving Turner Field and moving into a new 42,000-seat, $672 million stadium about 10 miles from downtown in 2017. Atlanta’s mayor said the city wasn’t willing [to] match an offer from suburban Cobb County worth $450 million in taxpayer funding.Oh, goody.
Don’t get me wrong. I like baseball. It’s probably the only professional sport in America that I give the tiniest shit about. It is, after all, America’s game. And it’d be nice to be able to see a game without having to deal with a drive on the Connector. (Since no MARTA station services the Ted today, using mass transit is not especially efficient, alas.)
And I understand the Braves’ rationale for moving, as well. Most of their customers are drawn from the northern ’burbs, not from the center city and points south. A stadium in Cobb County puts the baseball closer to where the fans are. In addition, it gives the club a chance to create a more welcoming (read “money-making”) environment surrounding the ballpark: The Ted is surrounded by a relatively inhospitable neighborhood, one that will, alas, become a lot rougher after the Ted closes down.
But $450 million? From a county that is still furloughing teachers because it doesn’t have enough in the till to pay them for a full school year? You have gotta be fucking kidding.
What a society is willing to spend money on tells you a lot about its priorities, and I’m not too crazy about our county valuing panem et circenses more than the education of its future citizens.
Apparently, my friend Houston Steve is not overly enthralled with the news either, having expressed similar sentiments on his Facebook page. But his son Josh put matters into the proper social and historical context:
Dad. People will come, Dad. They’ll come to Cobb County for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn into your county, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your stadium, as innocent as children, longing for the past. “Of course, we won’t mind if you look around,” you’ll say, “It’s only $50 per person.” And they’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it, for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk off to the bleachers and sit in their short sleeves on a humid Southern afternoon. And find they have reserved seats somewhere along the baselines where they sat when they were children. And cheer their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Dad. The one constant through all the years Dad, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This stadium, this game, is a part of our past, Dad. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh people will come, Dad. People will most definitely come.Say, can I get some guns and butter to put on my bread and circuses?
And if they don’t, you’re just out $450 million.
Update: Another take on the matter, from Will Bunch at the Huffington Post.