The MLB Team Relocation Debate… Don’t Take the Braves for Granted

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan and Babe Ruthless.

This is quite the debate we are having today. Living where I live, and rooting for the teams that I root for, you would never guess that I could even consider this possibility. I’m not saying this will ever happen, and perhaps this speaks more to my frustration with the lack of support this team has received over the years from its city. And yes, I know this city is a huge market (population wise). But, from an interest standpoint, I believe a case could be made that the Atlanta Braves should be relocated.

Gone are the days when the stadium is packed with crazed tomahawk-chopping fans. As a young Braves fan I remember the fire and the passion at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, and then later at Turner Field. But it’s now gone.

I specifically remember going to a game in 1993 against Barry Bonds and the Giants on a weekday. The “Launching Pad” was packed as the Braves were in the midst of a pennant chase. Those days are gone.

Flash back to a couple of weeks ago. The Braves, riding the buzz of Jason Heyward’s arrival and the fact that the Phillies were in town, managed to draw less than 25,000 all three games. Unacceptable. I know it was in April and the kids were still in school. But still, that’s embarrassing. The Braves currently sit 13th in the league in attendance at just a shade under 29,000, and those numbers are heavily inflated due to an opening series against top draw Chicago. Judging from the look of some of the crowds, I’m fairly certain that the number reflects how many tickets are sold and not the number of “people in attendance.”

There are many reasons for this. Take a look at the Braves radio affiliates. Yes, many stations in Georgia carry Braves baseball, but eight states currently have Braves radio affiliates. You can’t be many places in the Southeast and not find Braves baseball on your radio dial. Many fans outside of Atlanta rely on the Braves radio network to get their fix. The passion that doesn’t exist in the city of Atlanta most definitely exists in other parts of the state. I know adults in South Georgia in multiple counties that will call their satellite provider and fuss when a Braves game isn’t being carried for whatever reason. Many people not only in the Southeast but throughout other parts of the country grew up watching the Braves on TBS, even when they were terrible. Also, as scary as this image may be to you, it’s not uncommon for Loyal Homer to lay in the pool on a hot Sunday afternoon and listen to the Braves on the radio (Editor’s Note: Gross.). I wonder how often this takes place in Atlanta and its suburbs.

Part of the problem with the lack of passion amongst “fans” in Atlanta is that many residents in the city didn’t grow up in Georgia, much less Atlanta. Being a big market, and being a business and media hot spot, many Atlanta residents have moved there from other parts of the country for professional reasons. They don’t have the attraction to Atlanta’s sports teams because they didn’t grow up with them. It’s one reason why Georgia Tech has a hard time attracting fans while the Georgia Bulldogs, an hour away, usually has a waiting list for season tickets in football.

I initially balked at this idea when suggested by Sports Geek during our production meeting last week. But the more I thought about it, the more it intrigued me. I’m not saying it’s going to happen. But there are other parts of the Southeast where Braves baseball is more popular. Up until the arrival of the Tampa Bay Rays and Florida Marlins, the Braves were the only professional baseball team in the Southeast. Trust me, that means something. It’s a reason why the Braves have passionate fans in places like Charlotte, Memphis, Birmingham, and other places. Atlanta better tighten up, or who knows what could happen in the future.

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25 Responses to The MLB Team Relocation Debate… Don’t Take the Braves for Granted

  1. Al says:

    A couple of things in defense. Atlanta is a suburban city, with most of the money and people outside the perimeter. That combined with a subpar transit system is why traffic is terrible going into the city. It’s not like other major cities where you can hop on a bus or train to go wherever the hell you want to… Also, look at the area around Turner Field. At least the Georgia Dome and Phillips have some attractions worth walking around to and experiencing. Turner Field is adjacent to the ghetto, and I don’t say that to be a jerk or suggest its unsafe. It’s just that even as a huge Braves fan, going to the game seems to entail taking whatever drinks and food I can, driving through sucky traffic, walking to the stadium, and repeating the drive. Tailgating with college friends in the parking lot is fun, but considering the fact I’m in a large city I just wish there was more.

  2. antifish says:

    I think one of the main problems is the location of Turner Field. Not only is it in a bad place traffic-wise, but there is nothing around it as far as amenities or places to hang out while waiting for a game. I live in the burbs and try to go see three to five games a year, but I have to say, it’s a pain getting to the stadium and getting parked most of the time, meaning I have to leave two or three hours in advance to avoid sitting in traffic. Then I have nothing to do until the game starts. Maybe if the city is concerned about losing the Braves, they should redevelop the area around the stadium to draw larger crowds and make it more fan friendly.

  3. seezy says:

    Ya’ll should do a debate on where the teams should move to.

  4. Loyal Homer says:

    I’m going to respond to these one at a time.

    Al, I do agree with you. It is straight ghetto around Turner Field. You really dont notice it while tailgating but coming and going from the game, you really notice.

    I take it you aren’t a fan of MARTA Al?

    Attendance is off a bit at Philips Arena for the Hawks also unless they are playing a team that’s a big draw (Lakers, Cavs, etc) And the Falcons, while selling out, had a lot of no shows last year.

  5. Loyal Homer says:

    Antifish,

    Thanks for the comment. I agree. There isn’t much to do in that area other than go to the game. Perhaps attendance will pick up if the Braves have a good summer. The addition of Heyward helps. I actually read in the AJC today where attendance is up 20% from this point last year, but thats been helped by a series with the Cubs and a HUGE opening day crowd.

  6. Loyal Homer says:

    Seezy,

    We’ll definitely consider that idea!

  7. DAP says:

    attendance at turner field is up, by the way.

  8. Loyal Homer says:

    DAP,

    Thanks for the comment! And yes I know its up! As a Braves fan, I am glad to see it up. However, take away the 52,000 there for the opener and it drops a little. J-Hey’s presence has certainly helped and I hope it continues to stay up. The Braves are going to need that extra revenue to sign Hanson and J-Hey to long-term deals eventually.

    I still think it could be better though. See the Phillies series a couple of weeks ago. And let’s not re-hash playoff attendance problems from the latter part of the division title run.

    Some of you guys in the Atlanta area need to raise complaints toward the city about improving the area around the ball park.

  9. DAP says:

    “take away the 52,000 there for the opener and it drops a little.”

    why would you do that? if its up, its up!

    ive attended several sold out games the past several years, and was even turned away at the gate for a game in the last weekend series a couple of years ago…game was sold out against the mets, and the braves were already eliminated!

    turner field is one of the largest stadiums in the majors, which makes it very tough to sell out, along with the other reasons you mentioned. attendance might not be huge, but it isnt poor. braves rank about middle of the pack in the MLB when it comes to drawing fans.

    a train from the perimeter to the ballpark would be nice, though.

  10. Loyal Homer says:

    Thanks for the quick response. Yeah you’re right, attendance is about middle of the back. I believe its around 13th or so.

    I too have attended some sold out games this past few years and even have bought skyline seats before. I’ve also been to some poorly attended games as well. I will admit that the Braves and other teams in the NL East get the short end by having to host the Nationals 9 times but that may be a good thing when Strasburg gets called up.

    From what I understand DAP, there should be some protestors outside the stadium tomorrow night! I think you should go check it out and give us a report if you are in town this weekend!

  11. Wes says:

    The Braves organization and MARTA should really work together on getting a train station near Turner Field. A better public transportation system would boost attendance. But like everyone said above, the location of Turner Field is horrible. Back in 1966 when the Braves moved here from Milwaukee, the city should’ve renovated Ponce De Leon Park and just let the Braves played there.

    Another thing about Atlanta is it’s a great place for jobs, so all the transplants that move here are wealthy enough to have their own vehicle, which contributes to the traffic problem. Have you seen 85 Sound bound on ANY GIVEN weekday? It’s just a sea of brake lights. While growth is good, Atlanta has had way too much of it.

    And whenever any northeastern ball club comes to town (Phillies, Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, etc.), it seems like their fans outnumber Braves fans at Turner Field!! Being from Georgia, that makes me want to go insane.

  12. Loyal Homer says:

    Wes, I totally agree with you. The city should work with the organization to make the atmosphere a lot more fan friendly.

    Coming up I-75 from the South, I miss all the I-85 traffic when coming to Braves games but I have certainly been in that traffic before on other occassions and have heard horror stories.

    I actually was coming to a Braves game about a month ago when they hosted the Rockies but decided not to because there was major construction happening on the Connector.

    Also, in addition to those teams you mentioned Wes, by all means, please add the Cubs to that list of fans who sometimes outnumber Braves fans in Atlanta. It’s sickening. But yet, there are a lot of Braves fans in other parts of the country. That was the whole basis of my argument. And yes, transplants are a cause of a lot of the attendance problems also! They have no rooting interest in the Braves and other teams because they didn’t grow up in Georgia like many of us. That’d be like me moving to Seattle. I wouldn’t have any passion for the Mariners!

    Wes, thanks for the comment! Come back and see us!

  13. Wes says:

    Yes, the Cubs have a HUGE fan base as well, and unfortunately they outnumber Braves fans at the Ted too. The reason why Braves fans exist in other parts of the country is TBS (in my opinion). I believe TBS was the first station to broadcast baseball games nationwide (either them or ESPN).

    Another thing about Atlanta is that it’s so spread-out. You got several cities in and around Atlanta. Do you think someone who lives in Alpharetta or Cumming wants to drive all the way downtown and fight the traffic after a hard day’s work just to attend a Braves game? Only if he or she is a true fan… There’s a reason why the Richmond Braves moved to Gwinnett.

    • Sports Geek says:

      Isn’t that what Marta’s for?!

      • Wes says:

        Yes, anyone can take MARTA to the game but, because of its ineffectiveness, it’s not widely used. You’ll have to get off at Five Points and walk to the shuttle, and take the shuttle to and from the Ted. That, to me, sounds like an ordeal.

        The point I was attempting to make is that the majority of Braves fans don’t take MARTA to the game because there’s no train station near the Ted. Most of them (including myself) thinks it’s just easier to drive and pay the $12 to park, which is what I’m doing tonight for the Braves/Mets game.

        And, while I hate to say it, MARTA has a bad reputation anyway. Remember the “where my du-rag at?” video, and the music video “b*tch, you ride MARTA bus”? That’s horrible publicity, and just backs the notion that MARTA transports criminals and degenerates, so why would anyone want to actually pay to ride it?

      • Sports Geek says:

        By “ineffectiveness” do you mean “super scary and sometimes dead guys ride around for a week without being noticed?”

        I will say that in Chicago, for one example, there is an L stop RIGHT next to Wrigley. Like, less than a block. It’s a difference maker.

      • Loyal Homer says:

        MARTA most certainly has a bad reputation. I personally don’t mind riding it when it town but I understand that others don’t.

        But as Wes was saying, yeah, once you catch MARTA to downtown, you have to get off and then get on a connecting bus to get to Turner Field. It definitely makes a difference.

      • Wes says:

        I don’t think MARTA (nor the people that ride it) are necessarily scary, but have you ever been in one of their train station’s restrooms? Now THAT’S scary!! MARTA just has poor management… plain and simple. But I do think some people’s perception of MARTA is “scary,” which is probably why Gwinnett County has refused expansion time and time again.

        Just a few weeks ago, I read an article on ajc.com, and it reported that some guy videotaped a MARTA bus driver urinating on a street somewhere with his cell phone, and MARTA suspended him without pay for 3 days. Now where I come from, public urination while on the clock is grounds for termination.

        But I digress… by “ineffectiveness,” I meant exactly that; MARTA is ineffective because they don’t have a train station at or near the Ted. I’m willing to bet money that every other MLB club has a train station at or near their stadium, so why can’t Atlanta?

        If they did that, then I would certainly ride MARTA to more games. It would obviously take away the joys of tailgating, but at least I would be able to save some money.

      • Sports Geek says:

        Do you think the team needs to invest its resources in MARTA, then? Is the fate and health of the franchise ultimately tied to better transit and improved accessibility?

      • Wes says:

        Yes, I think the team needs to work with MARTA to build a train station near the Ted, which is probably easier said than done. And no, the fate and health of the Braves franchise is NOT tied to better transit, but it sure as hell would help if it did have better transit.

      • Sports Geek says:

        Fair points. When the team is heavily behind transit everybody wins. Braves may need to up the ante a bit there.

      • Loyal Homer says:

        I don’t know what the answer is. Marta works for the Hawks, Thrashers, and Falcons due to location. Logistically, it provides little to no advantage for the Braves.

        Wes, did you go to the game last night?

      • Wes says:

        Yea, I went last night. We were in the club level on the 3rd base side. Unfortunately we had to leave after the 8th inning.

        Despite the Braves losing and not taking advantage of their opportunities, I still had fun.

      • Loyal Homer says:

        Well if you went last night, maybe you enjoyed yourself a little more. Looked like a decent crowd.

        I’ll be at Glavine’s jersey retirement in Ausgust but hopefully up to a game before then. I’ll stick away from MARTA! :)

  14. stynes says:

    Look, I’m a season ticket holder and what several folks have already mentioned is spot on. The attendance doesn’t have as much to do with the lack of enthusiasm for the team (although that can be a factor here in Atlanta) as it does for making it easy to get to games. The population centers in Atlanta are NW (Cobb) and NE (Gwinnett) but the stadium is on the South side of Atlanta. There’s ZERO to do around the stadium and while I’ve never had problems coming and going from games, I wouldn’t want my wife parking in some of the far lots and walking back to the car by herself. In some sense, perception is reality and a lot of people perceive that the area around the stadium is unsafe.

    There’s also the issue of transportation. It’s horrible to get from the population centers (Cobb, Gwinnett, and North Fulton) to the stadium. The downtown connector is a crap shoot on the weekends depending on paving and other events and it’s always bad during the week when rush hour doesn’t have time to finish before the game traffic is heading in. Yes, I know Marta runs to the stadium but Marta is bus traffic there, not train traffic. And again, a lot of people coming from the population centers aren’t comfortable / familiar riding Marta. Marta doesn’t even go into Cobb County.

    When all is said and done, going to a game is EASILY a 5 hour event for me. An hour to drive, park, walk to the stadium, a 3 hour game, and another hour to get back home. Most people just don’t want to take that much time for ONE event. If I go to a show at the Fox, for example, I can stay in one of several nice hotels in the area, walk to restaurants, and have a number of other things in in the area to do from shopping to other attractions. At Turner Field, the Braves are the only attraction and that’s the real problem.

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