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Thursday, November 21, 2013

OPINION: If Braves leave Turner Field, what happens to the history?

Where will all this history go?
As the Atlanta Braves and Cobb County continue to hammer out terms over the term's potential move to the suburbs, longtime Summerhill resident Tracey Long reflects on what she considers missed opportunities - and wonders how all the history that took place at the former Olympic Stadium, and subsequently Turner Field, will be preserved.

After a few days to digest the news of the our beloved Atlanta Braves moving away from my neighborhood, 12 miles north to Cobb County, many things have become apparent to me. The biggest one being things are not always what they seem. I live in Summerhill, the small forgotten neighborhood where the Atlanta Braves reside, and I'm proud to have called this my home since 2002. I also love my Major League baseball neighbors, the Atlanta Braves. As neighbors go, the Braves have been very good to us over the years supporting our efforts to improve our community.

Having been involved in my neighborhood over the years, we had been promised growth and development by the city for many years. When the Olympic Committee chose Atlanta as the site for the 1996 Olympic Games, they donated the stadium at the conclusion of the games and the Braves had a new home. The promises of revitalization, post-1996, were a series of empty promises. Not only for our neighborhood, but for the Braves organization as well.

I must admit, this news is devastating probably more so to me and others in surrounding stadium neighborhoods. We had bought into the idea of development the City has voiced to us over the last several years. The Atlanta Braves were to be the anchor in which to build around, creating a mixed-use shopping, dining and entertainment district. Many articles have been published, and are available in the AJC detailing these development plans.

I can't say I blame the Braves. They have been great neighbors to all of us, but they got tired of seeing the outside of the Turner Field gates remain in the very same condition as the day after the Centennial Olympics closing ceremonies on August 4, 1996. They are tired of the empty promises, and frankly, so are we as citizens, taxpayers and residents of all the stadium neighborhoods. Mayor Kasim Reed wants us to believe he has grand plans for the 60-acre tract of land after the Braves leave, but why should we believe him? The city couldn't manage to develop this area for the storied baseball franchise Atlanta Braves, with millions of dollars of annual revenue stream on the line for decades to come. Why should we believe the city will develop this area once the Braves leave?

As a lifelong baseball fan, and a resident of the Summerhill neighborhood, where so much baseball history has taken place, the move of the Braves to Cobb County has truly given me pause.

Beginning in 1871, as the Boston Red Stockings in Boston, the Atlanta Braves are the oldest continuously playing team of all sports teams in North America. Where will all this history go? Doesn't that mean anything to our politicians and leaders? In Cobb County, a father won't be able to show his son the exact spot where Hank Aaron hit his 715 homerun in 1974, or the place where we finally clinched the World Series in 1995 against the Cleveland Indians at the old park with a spectacular eight-innings performance by legend Tom Glavine, or where Chipper Jones, one of the greatest switch hitters and third baseman in the history of baseball played his entire career, or where we have won 14 consecutive division series titles, and have had many of the greatest ball players of all time run the bases. Or, before the Braves, where sprinter Michael Johnson shattered records and Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic flame?

I revere history, and if you listen closely you can still hear the crowds cheering for Hank, 39 years ago, after his moon shot into the night on April 8, 1974. There is much more at play here than money - there is history. And Mr. Mayor, history like this can't be replaced or moved. It is the fiber of who we are, as a City.

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