New Braves stadium being built to cure “inadequate parking” will feature 2,500 fewer parking spaces

You know what would be a lovely birthday present for me today? If someone would make my job easier by compiling a list of all the latest developments in the controversy over the Atlanta Braves‘ proposed move to Cobb County — oh, Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein, Jim Galloway and Daniel Malloy and Smyrna Patch’s Wendy Parker, how thoughtful!

The highlights of the highlights:

  • Late on Friday, Cobb officials released an outline of a Braves fan transportation plan that relies on “a system of golf-like trams” to shuttle fans to and from their cars parked in existing lots at nearby sites like the Cobb Galleria Centre, nearby hotels, and office parks. Only 6,000 dedicated parking spaces are being planned at the stadium site, which is 2,500 less than at the Braves’ current home of Turner Field, in order to leave more room for the surrounding development that the team wants to build.
  • An undisclosed pro-stadium group paid for a “push poll” — a marketing effort where arguments on behalf of a project are disguised as a survey — last Friday, with robocalls “asking” Cobb County residents whether the “fact” that property taxes won’t be increased make it more likely they’d support a new Braves’ stadium, as well as “Does knowing that the new comprehensive transportation plan already exists and is fully funded make it more or less likely you’ll support the Braves’ move to Cobb?” As the AJC trio notes, it’s not clear what the strategy is behind the robocalls when there’s no public vote planned, but hey, it can never hurt to drum up public support, right?
  • On the other side, the creator of the new website and anti-stadium-deal petition has been identified as libertarian activist and anti-birther blogger Loren Collins. The petition is currently up to 483 signatures, though I don’t think there’s any easy way to tell how many of those of from Cobb County residents.
  • The Atlanta Tea Party and the Sierra Club are opposing the deal, with a joint rally scheduled for next Monday night. “The deal was made behind closed doors and we believe it will result in higher taxes,” said the Atlanta Tea Party’s Debbie Dooley. “We also have problems with land deals made around the stadium, because it seems like the politically-connected found a gold mine while taxpayers will be shown the shaft.” That’s not actually the shaft that “given the shaft” refers to, but points for the attempt at a mining pun!
  • Some unidentified investors found out about the Braves deal ahead of time and bought up properties around the new stadium site in the weeks ahead of the announcement. And speaking of land grabs, the AJC wants you to pay 99 cents to read more about that, so no further details are forthcoming at the moment.

The biggest news here is the bit about the trams, which seems absolutely nuts — most everyone is probably familiar with these kind of park-and-ride systems from airport parking, for example (though the Braves seem to have in mind something more like these), and equally familiar with the fact that it means showing up way earlier before your departure time and taking way longer to get out of dodge once it’s time to leave. Add in that all 41,000 Braves fans are going to be arriving at more or less the same time — and all by car, remember, because Cobb County doesn’t approve of those people being allowed across county lines by public transit — and they’re going to need an insane number of trams to avoid massive wait times.

It’s especially odd since “inadequate number of parking spaces” is one of the reasons the Braves are giving for wanting to move out of Turner Field. But I guess “We’re trying for a development land grab, and anyway people can just park in a mall lot somewhere and wait for a tram to the game” didn’t have the same ring to it.


36 comments on “New Braves stadium being built to cure “inadequate parking” will feature 2,500 fewer parking spaces

  1. I definitely think the move will work, but I wouldn’t be shocked if pedestrian bridges have to be built for people who walk from the remote lots.

  2. Happy birthday Neil.

    A few things I’m curious about concerning the “private” parking:

    1) I assume established places like the Galleria/adjoining mall are down with this? On one hand, they could be optimistic people will shop/eat before or after a game while they’re there. However, let’s say this tram system actually is efficient enough to have fewer stadium spots. Then why on earth would anyone pay $15 or more for Braves parking when they could park for free (and shaded, presuming there’s a parking garage) in these lots? It’s not like a shopping mall can “police” and make only those going to the game pay. OK, so let’s say it’s NOT efficient, and there’s a reason people would be willing to pay $15+ for official parking. If these other options are a logisitcal pain (and I tend to believe any pro team is not going to allow an attractive option to their lots), then that would seem to degrade the ballgame experience and thus ultimately attendance. An already horrible road infrastructure for getting fans in-and-out coupled with maybe 30 or more minutes (each way) just to get to the car sounds like a deal-breaker for the casual fan.

    2) As for the other private small businesses, when will Cobb County assure these folks that they’ll in fact be able to charge market rates to allow parking– especially for the inconvenience of putting up for traffic on game days impacting businesses that don’t have asperations on a service or product for fans? I ask this, becuase this sounds similar to Jerry’s World in Arlington, where the stadium lots had jacked-up pricing and generally under-capacity. A lot of small businesses and even churches started offering parking, but the City of Arlington made it a priority to go after these folks under dubious reasons to obviously protect Jones’s racket. If I own a strip-mall near the stadium, I sure as hell wouldn’t trust my county officials to in fact let me use my private property to charge a market-based parking rate if it competes with the Braves or the county comes up with some creative “permit” I have to buy.

    3) Just to be fair, the new stadium has fewer seats and attendance isn’t anywhere near capacity anyway, so (adjusting for MARTA, which isn’t an option at the new stadium) I wonder if the Braves lots could generally hold most attendees anyway.

  3. 1) If the off-site lots are too tempting an option, one easy solution for the Braves is to start charging for the tram rides. It’s a win-win! For the Braves, anyway.

    2) Malls, etc., could conceivably charge for Braves parking too, by charging fees to everyone and then exempting anyone who gets validated at a mall store. That may be seemed too much of a pain for mall customers, though.

    3) 6,000 spaces for 41,000 fans would require clown cars, no?

  4. Every day this stadium seems a little less likely than the day before. Hopefully in a few years “maybe they’ll just move to Cobb County” becomes a running joke around here.

  5. We have a big parking problem with in Santa Clara because the businesses in the vincinity of the stadium apparently aren’t allowing their lots to be used for game day parking in the numbers the council, ahem,
    “stadium authority”(unrealistically) hoped for.

    They are now scambling to come up with additional parking by breaking campaign promises regarding a local youth soccer facility.

    Be wary of assertions made by stadium promoters about parking.

  6. Since this is in Atlanta, I’m pretty sure that the goldmine/shaft comment was a reference to a well-known, old country song:

  7. I’d like to know which Santa Clara businesses are actually going to leave their lots empty rather than getting $40/spot. Citrix, Techmart, etc will all end up doing game day parking. The hotels will restrict it and maybe those Togos strip malls, but parking will be no problem.

  8. Ben, I can very easily see businesses like Citrix and the like restricting parking in their lots during games. These aren’t businesses that are necessarily closed on Sunday. And they’re not the kind of businesses that are going to want to clean up after the average slob of a football fan either. That was the problem with the SC City Council’s assumption. They assumed the lure of 40 bucks a car would override concerns the businesses had, they were wrong.

  9. Joe: Yeah, I’m genuinely starting to wonder if “We’re holding a final vote next Tuesday!” is just the Cobb County Commission blowing smoke in hopes everyone will stop asking questions after that. Especially since it’s just a memorandum of understanding — since when is an MOU a final binding document?

  10. DJ: Thanks for the clarification, and I am embarrassed to have missed a reference to a song by former Scooby-Doo guest star Jerry Reed.

  11. This pretty much sums up how most in town Braves fans feel…

    The Boys of Summerhill…

  12. A couple of decades ago (ok, I think it was three…) Skip Caray used to say the Braves were going to move to Smyrna.

    Of course, they were still in Fulton County Stadium at the time, and he usually said this on really, really, unpleasantly hot days/nights in July and August… rather than as a “Give us money or we might” threat, but still. Full marks to the Skipper.

    And Happy Birthday Neil… you should be doing something more interesting than working today. Then again, I guess so should I…

  13. Dan:

    Malls and other commercial businesses often restrict their parking lots use for “sports” businesses as you say. First of all, if they are open for actual business, it’s hard to charge sports fans $30 to park there when people going into the mall aren’t paying anything (and it’s also virtually impossible to police the people who walk into the mall, then immediately walk out another door and head for the stadium).

    Mall parking spaces aren’t “Free” of course. The mall owners and business operators fully expect each car stopping in the parking lot to be full of people who will spend a lot more than $30 while they are at the mall. In fact, when malls are thinking of expansion on their existing footprint, one of the things they sometimes do is calculate how much net revenue they are earning “per stall”. If it’s low enough, they will often convert some spaces to commercial property.

    If the Braves were only going to play when all businesses in the mall were closed, sports fan parking might not be an issue. But that isn’t the case by the sound of it.

    Mall businesses will also be concerned about the overcrowding effect/disincentive. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has headed for my favourite restaurant or bar only to keep driving when I see every space outside that business occupied…

    The one upside of the traffic nightmare and shortage of parking spaces is that surrounding mall businesses (are they outside the TIF/CRL zone?) might see a significant upswing in game night business if people know they will be waiting an hour after the game to get out of the parking lot… why not go shopping or to Original Joe’s or something instead of waiting in a slow moving snarl of traffic?

    Of course, those tend to be pretty short term benefits… eventually some fans either stop coming or reduce the number of games they go to because it takes 7 hours to get back home again…

  14. There are only 6,110 reasonable parking spots today at Turner Field. The other 1,863 “spots” are in satellite lots that are in bad areas significantly further away from the stadium on the other side of 75/85:

    There are already thousands of good parking spots in Cobb within a couple miles of the site, so 6,000 brand new spots on the premises puts them in a much better position compared to the 1,863 additional satellite spots in the ghetto. People within 1-2 miles with their cars parked at hotels, restaurants, Cumberland, Galleria, office parks will not need to move their cars.

    I don’t know enough to speculate whether a tram system could accomplish that goal but the real story here is not “2,500 fewer parking spots”.

  15. At least one tech company near the SC stadium (wife works there), has refused to partner with the entity managing the parking for the stadium. $$$ and liability reasons I assume.

    But they have told employees that on event days they need to make sure to have their badges to enter the lots, or pay the fee they will be charging.

    So they did not agree to “provide” parking but will be “providing” parking anyway and keeping all the $$$ or charging a higher fee.

    There will be plenty of parking but you going to have to pay for it. But for fans who go to games this is not a surprise. Instead of getting your pre paid parking pass with the season tickets, now you will just get season tickets and pay X amount on game day to the lot attendant at these tech companies.

  16. So thinking this through…why the hell not just use charter busses? Probably get more people on, more adaptable to routing, easier to verify tickets (if needed) at a singular point of entry, and less exposure to lawsuit the first time some drunk does something stupid in a tram.

    Is it just because trams sound totally monorail cool at this point in the honeymoon?

  17. I wonder how this will impact the Galleria being able to land conventions, big and small, if their parking will just be an extension of stadium parking. The Galleria Mall is as good as dead but the convention center hosts many events during the year. Look for Gwinnett to land more of these shows, which will again impact local businesses, and leave the productive part of that complex as much of a white elephant as the mall is.

  18. I’m sceptical about this, but one might be able to make the argument someone may want to schedule a convention that overlaps with a game that the attendees could take in.

    Or to put it another way, why the hell would anyone want to have a convention in Cobb County now?

  19. So, Turner field seats 50k now and has 8,500 parking spaces. Their attendance in 2013 was about 31,500 fans. Ergo, 6,000 parking spaces is ideally suited to a more intimate stadium of a capacity that’s about 35,000. Perfectly proportioned!

  20. Oh, sorry, unless you actually believe parking is problematic now at the place served by high capacity transportation. If you think more people need to drive further then you’ve got problems. I’ll try to keep up.

  21. Happy Birthday Neil!

    @Ben – Here’s the article on parking and traffic on Santa Clara Plays Fair’s website.

    Scroll down to see 1) The original parking plan, in which our council assumed private parking lot owners would sign up to allow their lots to be used. (40,000 spaces we were told by Council Member Kevin Moore.) 2) The current plan, which shows lots and lots of private parking lots circled in red, meaning the owners/their attorneys/their insurance companies said ‘NO’, and 3) the original map, with crossouts for the lots which can’t be used.

    The lack of parking in private parking lots is why the City is now looking at allowing parking on the golf course (which is built over an old landfill, which is still leaking methane gas) and trying to re-locate the Youth Soccer Park.
    Looking at the TMOP (Traffic Management and Operations Plan) on tonight’s city council agenda, it’s clear that the Council hasn’t updated the TMOP to account for the change in parking plans – they still list the golf course and Youth Soccer Park as open and accessible on game days. People who live here know that isn’t true. The Council is looking to move the Youth Soccer Park – and one of the locations is the only open space in Santa Clara. That’s got many groups very upset with the City. Go to the Mercury News and search on ‘Ulistac’ nature area and you’ll see the articles. The city has also backpedaled on the parking protections they promised north side residents during the stadium campaign.

  22. @mjs
    The Santa Clara Convention Center is across the street from the 49ers stadium. A recent City financial report indicated that bookings are down starting in 2014 – convention event planners seem to share your concerns.

  23. What does this Mike Plant guy know about what the Braves need anyways… oh, Exec VP of Business Ops.
    “We also recognized that what is insurmountable is we can’t control traffic, which is the No.1 reason why our fans don’t come to more games,” Plant said. “That over the last decade has grown immensely. … We are under-served by about 5,000 parking spaces. All of those things contribute to some real challenges for us that we just, looking forward, didn’t believe could be overcome.”

    Yeah, that’s pretty bad. At least on the East Coast they build these sorts of things on top of transit hubs.

  24. Not sure why the convention center would feel impacted. After all the stadium will only be utilized a handful of Sundays every fall.

  25. ChefJoe, the new ballpark will hold between 40,000 and 42,000 (not 35,000). Second, Turner Field isn’t really served by high capacity transit now unless you could the bus system.

  26. @Dan – Conventions book out two + years in advance. Conventions often run for several days through Sunday. The NFL schedule doesn’t come out until the spring after the prior season ends. How many event planners will want to run the risk of picking a weekend which corresponds with a football game? How will people get to the convention center when the EIR predicts gridlocked traffic at the intersections leading to the stadium? Where will convention goers park? Conventions use much more than just the convention center parking structure, but on game days, part of the convention center parking structure is designated for stadium parking.

  27. Look out Sunday SC convention center attendees: GRIDLOCK!!! Sky is falling people passing out because of the exhaust fumes from cars!!! stay away… you will be eaten alive by football fans!!! STAY AWAY!!!

    Note: Only a few hours before kickoff and a few hours after.

    Dan, yes sunday game traffic will affect convention goers M to F… ;) of course! Common sense escapes us all when we try to make everything fit our narrative!

  28. Thanks, everyone!

    As I told KUCI’s Heather McCoy this morning, I’m not saying how old I am, but if I were a sports stadium, I’d have been replaced twice over by now.

  29. Like a golf cart! We’ve found the way to make transit appealing to Cobb county. Maybe we can get a MARTA expansion if the speed tops out at 20 MPH and it’s open to the elements.

  30. Amazing.
    SantaClaraTaxpayer……….Sunday Football won’t be played at the Home of the Braves in Cobb County.

  31. Toby,

    She was anwsering Dan’s questions. The larger point is that if you build a stadium a realistic parking plan s/b in place. It isn’t in Santa Clara and it sounds like much the same for the Brave’s stadium.

  32. Get a load of this one:

    [Birrell] added that a referendum would take more time and money than the county is willing to commit.

    “I don’t want to say there’s no way, but if we did that, the November city elections are already past us. So in order to do a referendum, I don’t know if we could do it, with the holidays coming up, it would have to be a special election. And we don’t have any elections scheduled until May of next year. It would have to be a special election, and that would cost taxpayers 300, 400 thousand dollars.”

    So shelling out over $300m in tax dollars toward a facility that will ostensibly benefit the Braves is perfectly fine, but holding a county-wide referendum on its construction at a cost of $300-400k? WASTE OF TAXPAYER MONEY AND TIME.

    That’s too awesome.