A few days ago, the Atlanta Braves made waves across the sports world when they formally announced the team would be moving from Turner Field to a brand-new stadium in Cobb County (outside of Atlanta) in 2017.
Before we try and make sense of the move and it's impact on the Tampa Bay Rays situation, let's amuse ourselves with a few of the more enlightening reactions from Rays fans regarding the stadium announcement.
Certainly, Rays fans are upset at this news. While their team so desperately needs a new stadium, it doesn't seem fair that the Braves are leaving a perfectly capable one for brand new digs after only 16 years.
The move also may come as a shock to many, considering Turner Field is widely considered to be at the very least a "good" baseball stadium and "The Ted" acted as the centerpiece for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The stadium carries a lot of memories for many of the Atlanta natives over the last 20 years and even its predecessor, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, was right next door in downtown Atlanta.
I would caution Rays fans not to shake their head at this move. Even though the Braves are in a much bigger market, their move to the suburbs of Atlanta solves the team's issues, which happen to be very similar to those of the Rays.
Here's what David O'Brien, the Braves beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had to say about the matter:
People saying ATL doesn't need a new baseball stadium are missing the point -- it's not the stadium, it's the location. Stadium is fine.
People saying ATL doesn't need a new baseball stadium are missing the point -- it's not the stadium, it's the location. Stadium is fine.— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) November 11, 2013
Rays fans: Where have you heard that one before?
Tropicana Field is far worse than Turner Field, but the Braves were also having attendance issues, despite their history of success and first-place finish this season. Much like the Rays, it's been the location of the Braves' stadium that has acted as a dampener on the team's attendance. Growth around Turner Field is stagnant. Lack of effective nearby public transportation causes enormous traffic issues before and after games and a majority of the Braves' tickets sold come from areas north of Atlanta, which is where the new stadium will be located.
Similarly, Rays owner Stu Sternberg said back in February that only about 300 season ticket holders come from St. Petersburg addresses. That number includes businesses, and Cork Gaines broke it down and concluded the team would see a big jump in both corporate and individual season ticket holders if a stadium was build closer to or in Hillsborough County, and our own DRaysBay stadium proposal noted the significant differences in population surrounding Tropicana's current location and a prospective Tampa spot.
Nothing can be accomplished unless local politicians and the Rays can agree on an early exit from the stadium lease, and whether or not publicly funded stadiums are an appropriate use of taxpayer money is a complicated and thorny issue, but all signs and evidence point to a more lucrative franchise if the stadium could be moved closer to or inside Hillsborough County.
Simply put, the logistical challenges facing both the Rays and Braves have been worked out for one team, and it's only a matter of time before the other is able to do the same.