Do the Braves really just think their fans are afraid of black people?

Enough of all the fumfering around with complaints about “inadequate parking” or fans mostly living in the northern suburbs (even if they mostly work downtown). Somebody has finally cut to the chase about why the Atlanta Braves really want out of Turner Field:

If you aren’t from Atlanta, you don’t understand the type of neighborhood Turner Field was built in and the type of environment fans coming to the games had to contend with for years…

[Joe’s Laundry & Cleaners proprietor Paul Kwan] added, “We have to face reality; they’re moving because of crime.”

Kwan nodded from behind the heavy metal screen at his counter that makes him look like a jailbird.

A heavy metal screen at the counter of a laundry/cleaning business, to protect the owner and his employees from both his customers and the residents of the community surrounding Turner Field? That is the environment Atlanta Braves’ fans must endure before and most notably AFTER an evening of cheering on their hometown heroes.

The author of this piece — titled “Who wants to fight crime on way to ballpark?” — is none other than former Braves reliever John Rocker, who knows a little something about being terrified of city neighborhoods. But it’s hardly a unique opinion — you don’t have to scratch the surface of Braves fan commentary too hard to find the sentiment that driving downtown to Turner Field isn’t distasteful because of lack of parking or traffic tieups or fear of being haunted by the ghost of Chief Noc-a-Homa, but rather because of the immediate environs:

So, is the area surrounding Turner Field really a teeming mass of criminal activity? It’s not actually so much a neighborhood per se — a large chunk of the historically black neighborhood of Summerhill was bulldozed to make way for Turner Field — as a stadium-in-a-sea-of-parking with some residential areas adjacent to it. And if you look at a heatmap of crime stats, Turner Field and environs isn’t especially high-crime: There’s a moderate amount of crime in a small area to the southeast, and a fair bit of crime on the other side of the highway, but your chances of being a crime victim in and around the ballpark isn’t any greater than, for example, some areas right near the new stadium site in Cobb County.

Still, “Turner Field = downtown = crime” is certainly the perception among many Braves fans. And given that the missing piece of that equation appears to be “= ghetto,” it has a lot of people wondering if what suburban Braves fans are afraid of is something else entirely. “The real reason for the move? Separating the team’s largely white fanbase from Atlanta’s black residents,” wrote the International Business Times’ Eric Brown last week:

Atlanta itself is a majority-black city, with 54 percent of the population identifying as black. The Summerhill neighborhood surrounding Turner Field has an even larger black population: 89 percent. For many white, suburban Braves fans, the neighborhood surrounding Turner Field has never been particularly appealing, despite the fact that Summerhill boasts a lower crime rate than most of urban Atlanta.

It’s a line of reasoning that warrants even more consideration now that the Braves have proposed outfitting their new suburban stadium with a mock-urban walking district far from central Atlanta and the people who live there. And while the team’s MOU includes a mention of possibly extending public transit to the site from downtown Atlanta, Cobb County Republican chair Joe Dendy has already made clear that he wants any transit improvements to be solely for suburbanites: “It is absolutely necessary the solution is all about moving cars in and around Cobb and surrounding counties from our north and east where most Braves fans travel from, and not moving people into Cobb by rail from Atlanta.” A sentiment that immediately found favor from several Braves fans tweeters:

This is way, way more complicated, obviously, than “Braves fans are racist.” Suburban attitudes toward urban neighborhoods are a complex stew of race, class, and rumor — I recall in the 1980s a friend of mine from Manhattan’s even-then-gentrified Upper West Side being asked by a college classmate if he felt safe walking around in his neighborhood unarmed — and it’s perfectly possible for someone to feel uneasy about going to Turner Field because they saw (or heard about) a crime there, or because they saw black people on the drive in and assumed that meant crime, or because they saw panhandlers and panhandlers mean the ghetto and the ghetto means run away. Or all, or none of the above.

Still, given that we’re talking here about the first baseball team in 40 years to move away from downtown to the suburbs — and that it’s baseball’s only team that resides in the Deep South, though Atlanta likes to pretend otherwise — it’s hard to see all this talk about fear of crime as a reason for the move without getting at least a little bit queasy about the racial dynamics at work. Even before it got John Rocker as its poster child.


65 comments on “Do the Braves really just think their fans are afraid of black people?

  1. Overgeneralizations suck, but in this case, I think there is some truth to it. This chart suggests that maybe the club is doing the right thing for itself:

    http://assets.nationaljournal.com/sport2big.jpeg

  2. Cobb County is a diverse county. That’s where your analysis fall short. Paul Kwan is a property owner in the neighborhood around the park. When the business have metal gates in the windows it usually doesn’t convey a sense of safety.

    What I love about this site is that it sheds light on the stupidity of subsidizing stadiums, but tax payers also pay for expensive rail projects that don’t work. Rail projects are too expensive, there’s not enough stops, and in order to keep them running city leaders siphon money away from other transit systems that poor people really use like buses.

    People believe that every city is like New York and it’s not.

  3. Cobb is certainly far from lily-white, but it’s also decidedly majority-white, and has far fewer black folks than most of Atlanta proper. I can’t figure out how to link directly to the Atlanta area map, but you can zoom in here:

    http://demographics.coopercenter.org/DotMap/index.html

    And the map by class is even more striking:

    http://cdn.theatlanticcities.com/img/upload/2013/02/11/atlantametroWEB_.jpg

    (New stadium would be in the bottom left corner of the big purple blob.)

  4. I’ve probably been to over a hundred games at Turner Field and am pretty familiar with the area. Although I wouldn’t feel safe walking around the area at night, by myself when a game wasn’t on, on game nights the environment is completely different. You’re surrounded by thousands of people and there are police officers everywhere. Yes, you will be approached by panhandlers (Boortz would probably call this being “accosted.”) but they’re harmless. If you stay within a few blocks of the stadium (essentially where all the parking lots are) you are completely safe. If you feel unsafe at a Braves game it says more about your own prejudices than the safety of the neighborhood. And yes, someone was murdered last year walking home from the game, but he was walking by himself, apparently hammered out of his mind, and was over a mile away from the stadium.

  5. “Cobb is certainly far from lily-white, but it’s also decidedly majority-white, and has far fewer black folks than most of Atlanta proper”

    It’s far more diverse than most of New York City.

    Yes, there are racists in Atlanta. There are racists everywhere. 3 million more people live in Metro Atlanta than in 1970. Most of these people have come from different parts of the country.

    Atlanta is a much different place than it was 40 years ago.

  6. Nice race baiting article. I live in Atlanta. In the city actually. Its not about “Race” as you put it. It is about crime, (statistics can lie, and they do in this situation), and its about the City of Atlanta being greedy. I drive all over this town for work. And I see the best of the city (West Paces Ferry) and the worst of the city (Southwestern and Southeastern Atlanta/Dekalb County) The city has really taken off with the mixing of both races. However, the crime is everywhere. Not only by the stadium but the entire metro area. People who live in North/East Cobb, Cherokee, Forysth Counties do not want to go to the stadium b/c of the issues of crime and aggressive panhandling. You leave a game and 40 people are lined up begging for money. Does that sound very “appeasing” to you? Cobb county has a great deal for the Braves, why not take it!
    A large majority of the “unspoken reasons” are political motives. The politics of this town are a joke. Look at the recent Falcon’s stadium debacle. We paid 36 MILLION dollars for two churches to move. 36 MILLION! The Braves are moving to an area that they control and they don’t have to line the pockets of the local politicians. Its a smart move by the Braves. They are a privately owned company. The city does not “own” them like so many people think. Look at our sordid history of Mayors. Bill Campbell is still doing time for his bribery scheme for the airport runway. Its all just a matter of time till Kaseem gets his hands caught in the cookie jar.

  7. I’m going to disagree with your statement that “Turner Field and environs isn’t especially high-crime.” As someone who attends many games at the Ted, it’s not nice. Turner Field at a minimum does not feel safe, especially in comparison to the Cumberland area. Using a Trulia heat map for new stadium site shows zero crimes (but admits limited data) (http://www.trulia.com/crime/Atlanta,GA,30339/). That area on the other side of the highway, where you note there is crime is where many fans park and walk under or over the interstate to Turner Field. It’s where I normally park when I go to games (traffic is better coming in from the West). As with all issues in Atlanta, race is a factor, especially when we talk about crossing the Chattahoochee, but from a fan comfort issue, safety is a legitimate concern at around Turner. And I will grant that the area likely is much safer than it seems to me, particularly around game-time when there is a heavy police presence. But, I don’t think the heat maps support your contention that the area isn’t high crime.

  8. “It is about crime, (statistics can lie, and they do in this situation)”

    Brian, please elaborate. How, exactly, are the statistics “wrong” re crime in the area around Turner Field? Because there’s a large panhandler presence or is there more to your theory? No snark . . . genuinely curious.

  9. “How, exactly, are the statistics “wrong” re crime in the area around Turner Field? Because there’s a large panhandler presence or is there more to your theory? No snark . . . genuinely curious.”

    Because that area on the other side of the highway he references with crime is where hundreds of cars park for every game. And it’s in a pretty bad neighborhood.

    I rarely, if ever, feel unsafe, but there’s really no denying that there is crime in the area.

  10. Attendance is absolutely an issue, Wade. Unfortunately the author thinks that’s because all Braves fans are racists. I’m glad JC could provide the data proving what is obvious to every fan that has ever been to Turner Field. This was more than just wrong, it’ embarrassing.

  11. You can tell I think all Braves fans are racists by the way I wrote “This is way, way more complicated, obviously, than ‘Braves fans are racist.’”

  12. Lots of crimes go unreported, especially petty thefts and vandalism. That was a big problem at the Orange Bowl before the Dolphins moved to Joe Robbie Stadium.

    A lot of people who avoid pre-gentrified areas are racist in some way, but it’s really more about the environment than the race or class of the people. For example I tend to dislike a lot of the corporate types who live in newer suburbs, but it’s more so the sterile, wide, pedestrian-unfriendly streets that cause me to stay away.

  13. Sure, we can focus on the one critique rather than the fact that your article is based on a false premise. You can’t get away with saying, “Braves fans are afraid of black people” and “Braves fans see black people and assume crime is high” and “Braves fans in the suburbs don’t want black people in their neighborhoods”, and then claim you aren’t calling them racist. You can say you’re not but I’m not dumb enough to believe it.

  14. Zach: I didn’t actually say any of those things, either.

    Let’s try to make this really simple: A bunch of Braves fans are saying “I’m afraid of crime around Turner Field.” The area around Turner Field is mostly poor and black, and has low-to-moderate crime, most of it pretty far from the stadium. “Fear of crime” has often been used as a cover for “fear of non-whites” by white Americans. Some suburban Braves fans don’t want public transit to where they live because they don’t want people from the city “shuttled to their backyard.”

    Does all this add up to “all Braves fans are racist”? Of course not. Does it all add up to “some Braves fans are racist”? It’s America — some *everybody* is racist. Does it add up to “some/many/any Braves fans are afraid of Turner Field, and it’s really hard to tell how genuine safety, perceptions of safety, and stereotypes of race and class and suburban vs. urban populations is playing into it, but where this conversation is headed is giving me a bad feeling”? That one.

  15. “Some suburban Braves fans don’t want public transit to where they live because they don’t want people from the city “shuttled to their backyard.”

    AND

    Some suburban Braves fans don’t want public rail transit to where they live because it’s expensive, too few people use it, and will siphon funds away from a more efficient a more used bus transit system.

  16. It doesn’t seem as though attendance is an issue for the Braves. I lived in Atlanta 10 years. I always enjoyed going to the games. I parked at the same place for 10 years. It was a small minority owned building just outside the overpass. The people were extremely nice and I never, ever felt any potential danger was in the forefront either walking from or to the stadium. I think that MLB and the owners are being spiteful because of all the public coin being given to the Falcons and henceforth, they came up with this ruse. The greed and manipulation in the sports industry is despicable. I started weening myself from the overhyped-sports-machine about 6 years ago.

  17. I live in one of the neighborhoods around Turner. Personally, I’ve never felt threatened en route to the stadium. In particular, I’ve never felt threatened at the stadium either. The crime issues just aren’t there. People coming in may not feel safe, but that doesn’t mean the area isn’t safe. It simply means they don’t trust the area, which when looking at it rationally, is an unjustified opinion.

  18. “It doesn’t seem as though attendance is an issue for the Braves.”

    A first place team that barely draws 20k for a week night game in September has attendance issues.

  19. want me to elaborate. Fine. As a poster said, the “other side” of the interstate is a crime riddled neighborhood with liquor stores and folks hanging out on the corner. A lot of the “crimes” are unreported or closed for the simple reason for reporters like you to “quote”. My car was broken into in the Little Five Points area. Again, not a bad area at all, but the only thing that was stolen was a bag of racquetball items. Was it counted? Probably not, it was a petty crime. Does it make me more vigilant in that are and subsequent areas similar. You bet!
    Also, a stones throw from Turner Field is Azars. If you buy anything in the store you have to ask the guy behind the metal grate. Why would they do that?? Its a “safe” neighborhood according to your “statistics”. Come to Atlanta, experience the area yourself before you write an article.

  20. I’ve never felt unsafe around Turner Field. I also never felt any reason to stay around after the game. There’s nothing other than the Bullpen bar around the ballpark. It’s been that way for 50 years. The Braves don’t own or have any influence over the last around the park.

    Why should anyone believe it’s every going to change?

    Driving to and from the game has always been a nightmare. I’ve taken the MARTA bus and that’s not great either. I don’t see how the traffic or development issues are ever going to be fixed.

    At least there’s a chance they can come up with something at Cobb. There’s more ways in and out of the new park.

  21. Whenever I went to Braves games, it always struck me as a little strange that there were so few blacks in attendance, even though Atlanta’s population is majority black. Baseball tends to be the least expensive of the four major sports, so (all things being equal) I would’ve expected to see more come out. Not saying this is any way the Braves fault; I have no idea what kind of marketing (if any) they use specifically in urban areas. I personally never felt at risk, though I used MARTA to get the games instead of parking. I can say with certainty that being at a game was not unlike being in Alpharetta: lots of families, typically well-to-do, and typically very white. Not saying that’s right or wrong, just that it is.

  22. As I recall, a fan was beaten into a coma at a Dodgers-Giants game last year. In fact, it’s not the first time there has been fan violence (and I mean serious fan violence, not name calling and handbags at 20 paces stuff) at a game between the two rivals. There is some parallel to the Braves ‘situation’ here as a very poor neighbourhood was bulldozed to make way for the stadium at Chavez Ravine in the 1950s. The people that lived in the ravine (and were eminent domained right out of their multigenerational homes) were offered new public housing in a fine new location… which was of course never built because the O’Malley’s wanted the land for a stadium. Bygones people…

    But the history aside, if crime and violence are the reason the Braves must move then when will the Dodgers and Giants be moving to new locations to eliminate their problem? And the Yankees. I remember the 1970s too, and the area to the north of Yankee stadium looked like much of Europe immediately after the second world war… so clearly they were encumbered by a bad neighbourhood and need to move as well. I can’t believe MLB has allowed them to stay in the S. Bronx for so long… it’s cruel and unusual punishment I tell you…

    Excuse the sarcasm, but as Neil notes, this is much more complex than it’s being made here (the incendiary article title notwithstanding… that’s what article titles are supposed to do, of course… one rarely clicks on an article titled “things pretty much ok everywhere except for a 2km radius around Rob Ford”).

    The one thing we can pretty much take as a matter of fact is that the construction of Turner field did not lead to amazing economic development and wealth creation in the stadium area. Chalk one more example up to the “stadium economic benefit claims are generally BS” crowd.

  23. For the record, I spent several days in Atlanta and environs last year. Went to both a Braves game *and* Little Five Points, as well as Cobb County, though it was the unfashionable southern end.

    I don’t pretend to be an expert on the place, but I wouldn’t have written this in this way if it had been entirely from my armchair.

  24. Neil, tell me exactly where you think this conversation is headed. Please. The comments here are littered with great explanations and alternatives to, “must be race”. Yet you insist on only one topic.

  25. I am a native of Atlanta. I have seen the beauty (Olympics, Braves winning the WS)and the warts (80, Atlanta Child Murders, 86 Forsyth County) The city has a huge fear of race. It has abated to some degree with new people moving in from other parts of the US. However, white flight is not just an issue in Atlanta. Glad you could really get a “feel” of the city in a short amount of time. Drive through West End at 9pm at night. Tell me if you feel safe. Regardless of color.

  26. Keeping in mind that the article quotes John Rocker… it’s likely to be hard not to at least think of it as partially a race issue. That said, in my view it is not. It’s a poverty issue, as most issues commonly attributed to race tend to be. It doesn’t matter what ancestry the people of a poor neighbourhood have, they tend to have many of the same socioeconomic problems.

    A question for those more familiar with Cobb County than I am (which wouldn’t be hard)… do we really believe that moving to Cobb County will fix the problems the Braves think they have regarding “area”?

  27. I’m surprised by the backlash here. This comment isn’t constructive in any way, but for what it’s worth, I enjoyed your thoughts, Neil.

    (Because I know you were going to shut down your site if you didn’t get a positive comment. Obviously.)

  28. Moving off the race topic- its funny how stadiums are often credited with sparking development in nearby areas, or are sold as ways to jump start urban renewal. So why didn’t turner field make the surrounding area the new destination for urban hipsters and tech start ups? Umm, maybe downtown stadiums are more an effect of an urban core with development potential rather than the cause of that development?

  29. And yes, you very briefly mentioned class in an article with a title referencing race, and comments you picked out to support the explanation you obviously subscribe to. Race. I’m very interested in your thoughts about how this could be tied to poverty or class, rather than race. I’ll check back for it later for that article.

  30. Interestingly enough, if you go on Yelp, you’ll find that very few (maybe 3 or 4 out of 209) complain about the safety of the surrounding neighborhood:

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/turner-field-atlanta?sort_by=date_desc

    Yelp reviewers actually appear pretty happy with Turner Field. Many of them applaud what they view as modern and up to date amenities within the park.

    The only major repeated complaint appears to be lack of a MARTA station on-site, and it’s not as if the new park will that that either.

    So the bigger question is, who really is unhappy with Turner Field?

  31. I’m not sure there’s any disagreement over who is unhappy with Turner Field. While the area around Turner Field is a wasteland, the actual stadium is pretty nice. I don’t know anyone who would disagree with that. The Braves are the ones who are unhappy with Turner Field because they were unable to generate a competitive revenue stream and the city of Atlanta was an unwilling partner to remedy the situation.

  32. Zach, you claim the comments to this article are “littered with great explanations and alternatives to, “’must be race.\'” Care to identify any? All I see here is hyperbole, posturing, and strong aversion to facts and reason (particularly with regard to brian’s antagonism to statistics-in-quotation-marks). The criticisms made against Neil’s post seem shrill and defensive, hardly the stuff of credible public discourse.

  33. For a city that lost it’s hockey team and has been known country wide as a place that lacks passionate fans, “20k fans” during a week night is a great draw, all things considered. Placing a new tax boondoggle somewhere else won’t help the apathy.

  34. Here’s a news flash for all of you, attendance no longer generates the optimal/desired revenue. TV deals do. They want you to think attendance matters.

  35. Wade, I can’t speak for everyone but that’s not a newsflash for me. I will say the Braves are stuck in a long-term TV contract way way below market value so alternative forms of revenue outside of TV deals are imperative to them.

  36. Zach: As I wrote in my original item, any debate about suburban perceptions of urban crime is inevitably going to involve race *and* class. It’s possible that the people talking about “the ghetto” and not wanting “[city] people in your backyard” aren’t intending those terms to be racially coded — and honestly, I hope they’re not — but that’s sure how they’re used most of the time.

    As for the Braves being “unable to generate a competitive revenue stream”: They’re baseball’s 15th most valuable team, have the 12th highest annual revenue, and are 13th in attendance, while placing 13th among MLB teams in market size. Sounds like they’re right about where they should be.

  37. Zach/Wade:

    Aren’t we talking about the same team that rarely sold out when they were world series favourites (ok… WS appearance favourites…) every year?

    Attendance at Braves games isn’t that bad… as Neil notes they finished just outside the top ten (13th) markets in Baseball at approx 31,500 in 2013. They were 14th at just under 30k in 2012 and about the same in 2011. In 1995 they were 5th at just under 36k.

    Maybe they need to rebuild Fulton County Stadium?

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/2013-misc.shtml

  38. Neil, so I guess your answer is you have a bad feeling that the discussion is heading towards race and class? If so, I’d strongly urge you to read your article again to be sure your very strong inferences were directed towards both race and class, and not just race. If you think they were, who am I to argue.

    Regarding the revenue streams. Atlanta is absolutely a mid-market team right now. No question about it. However, the TV money is just now starting to boom with more and more teams cashing in very recently. Atlanta is already on a slight downward trend when it comes to both revenue and attendance. That downward trend is only going to get steeper as the TV market continues to explode and Atlanta continues to be stuck in a long-term agreement.

    John, attendance doesn’t look that bad when you compare it to the entire league. You are correct, they are right about the middle. But they have been a top performing team almost every year and if you compare the attendance with other top performing teams in big markets, they are severely lagging. They couldn’t even sell out a playoff game a few years ago. They should be able to draw a lot more in that market with their winning tradition. I think that’s what people are referring to when they say Atlanta is struggling with attendance. And like I mentioned earlier. Atlanta is probably more sensitive to attendance than most teams considering they don’t have a sweet TV deal to tap into.

  39. It will be interesting to see if vehicular fatalities/injuries don’t go up around the Cobb site. Possibly enough to offset the crime argument?

  40. I’ve been an employee at Turner Field for the past 2 years. I also have family that live in short walking distance to the Ted. I can say as an employee and as someone who’s family is familiar with the area I can say the most dangerous people at Turner are the drunk rowdy guys within and leaving the stadium. There are hardly any extreme incidents the way some people claim to be. How could there be? On game days, law enforcement are out in full force so those “undesirables” (as some are calling them) are likely to try anything, and when there are no games it’s a great lake of parking lots so there are hardly anyone to take advantage of. It’s baffling how many people still fall for the okie-doke and make this about race (and even class), when I’m sure the Braves’ owners were the LEAST concerned about skin color. If any color they are concerned about, it’s green.

    Besides, who’s to say there won’t be any form of crime at the new site? I am a resident of Cobb County (specifically, I live in Mableton) and almost half the county are minorities/non-Caucasians. Are people still gonna be spooked that well-dressed minorities will likely want to hang around Six Flags Over Cumberland, use slang, talk loud and/or play loud music and panhandle for a dollar or two to take the CCT?

    As far as attendance goes, from what customers tell me is that over the years they simply cut back on their “entertainment” expenses (let’s be real, there is no “economic recovery” happening right now) and watch games at home. I remember on most days I’ve worked crowds were between 20,000 and 30,000. I mean, when the Braves leave the 50,000-capacity Ted to the new 42,000 palace it would seem like an attendance boost percentage-wise, but it’s still just that 20k-30k. And if the franchise does raise prices I can see that number remaining stagnant and likely decline.

    Unfortunately the Braves’ move won’t spark any change in public transit. The CCT is a joke and there likely won’t be any expansion of that system, as they already cut 3 lines. Atlanta is a metro region where people love its cars and lust its sprawl. The idea of efficient public transit is considered a dirty concept around here and MARTA does little to change people minds, as it has been in operation with major deficits for the longest time. It has little to do with race they way people are claiming [yeah, there’s the term (M)oving (A)fricans (R)apidly (T)hrough (A)tlanta, but go north of Buckhead and that first A changes to “Anglos” and go northeast past Lenox and you can change that first A to “Asians”], and very much to do with people needs for it to go someplace.

  41. Neil, you can’t be shocked that “nobody wants to talk about class”, and only race, when you title your article as you did to get clicks,

  42. Hmm, would “Do the Braves really just think their fans are afraid of poor people?” have gotten fewer clicks? What about “poor black people”?

    This is something that the hierarchy of oppression people have never spelled out: What does it mean for SEO?

  43. We live just over 5 miles from the proposed stadium site, in a neighborhood with high home values and a well-regarded elementary school. The principal of the school sent a letter home with students two days ago, advising parents to exercise caution in the school parking lot due to break-ins in the afternoons. In broad daylight. There is crime everywhere. I have never felt unsafe leaving a Braves game. You’d have to be pretty paranoid to feel unsafe surrounded by thousands of other fans and dozens of police officers. Way more dangerous just to drive home up I-75.

  44. Zach:

    I don’t think the Braves attendance “problem” (such as it is) has anything to do with Turner Field or it’s location. I think most sports fans know that Atlanta teams simply do not draw the way others do (especially when they are winning – lots of other markets will fill the stadium when the club is in the playoffs and then ignore it during the season…). The Braves have on occasion been exceptions (as have the Falcons), but if you look at the history of sports franchises in Atlanta, I think you’ll find that they tend to draw poorly compared to other markets of Atlanta’s size.

    I honestly don’t know if that is because of fan apathy, less available discretionary income, staggeringly hot summer weather or what. Will a Cobb County move necessarily help that? Could it actually hurt attendance?

  45. It’s bogus to think that fans don’t like going to games in the area because many white fans go to Comerica in Downtown Detroit and don’t have a problem with it. Looking at Google Maps, the area around Turner does NOT look bad at all. Lots of stadiums are in downtown areas. That’s not really the issue here.

  46. Can’t forget a population with more people that grew up in other places following other teams than most other major league towns. Much like the Florida cities, it’s hard to build a fanbase when residents root for their hometown teams and the stadiums are full of visiting fans.

  47. John: I 100% agree with you that there are many factors inherent to Atlanta and not related to Turner Field that deflate the Braves attendance as it relates to other winning franchises. I definitely think apathy plays a role, as does the fact that many residents of Atlanta are from outside the area and don’t feel an allegiance to any Atlanta teams. That doesn’t mean it’s not a problem though. The Braves obviously felt they needed to be creative in finding a solution to this problem given that it’s a unique one among sports franchises. The new stadium may or may not accomplish their goals but it’s clear they needed to do something and they have much more freedom to be creative in Cobb County than they were given in Atlanta.

    Neil, you could have named this article a lot of things. Considering you chose a race themed title and inferred throughout the entire article exactly where you thought this conversation was heading, you can’t come back and say we are the ones focusing on race. You focused on race. You gave an incredibly small amount to of time to any other potential factors. Own it. If you truly want a discussion on the possibility of any number of factors, including race, let’s see what you have. All we see here as well as the last line of your previous article, is one theme. And that’s what we’re talking about.

  48. The article focused on race, sure, in part because that’s what Eric Brown and others have been focusing on. But it’s not like you can separate race and class out here as distinct “causes” — I’m guessing people would be reacting differently to Turner Field’s environs if it were a majority-black suburb, or a majority-white poor neighborhood. “The ghetto” packs a lot of race, class, and crime assumptions into one term.

    My point here was to raise the question of whether Braves fans are complaining (or the Braves are worried about some of them complaining) about Turner Field not because of anything wrong with the actual experience in and around the ballpark, but because of the kind of people who live near there. If I distracted you from that by putting “black people” in the headline and not “poor black people,” I apologize. But we can still talk about it now.

  49. I don’t think anyone is complaining about the experience in the ballpark. It’s the fact that there is absolutely nothing within walking distance to do around the ballpark unless you want to walk a long way through those high crime areas. Terrible transportation options are another complaint, and like JC said, some of the closest places to park if you don’t park in a designated lot, is right in the middle of those high crime areas. The poverty level of the area probably has something to do with the crime and the general feeling that the area isn’t very safe. Race has nothing to do with the fact that people would rather leave the stadium and walk to an establishment for the evening rather than having to navigate through a poor, high crime area.

  50. Zach- “it’s clear they needed to do something”. But why build a new stadium? When a restaurant wants more customers they change the menu, or prices, or advertising. Moving is a drastic step. But then again, the Braves getting a new place built with the taxpayers’ dime, so, what the hell.

    In a hypothetical world where localities weren’t willing to outbid each other to provide luxuries for sports fans; I wonder if the Braves would have spent money to improve the area around Turner field. Maybe they would have built a mall or retail area or something creative. A lot cheaper than a stadium. Shame.

  51. Tom:

    It’s a good point. I’m not clear on why the prevailing view seems to be that the city ‘prevented’ the Braves from building something approaching a ballpark village around Turner Field. Is there actually any truth to that? Or did the city just refuse to pay to build it for them?

    This is part of an argument I’ve always felt deserves more exploration… if amenities around a stadium are so vital, why not build them around existing stadia for a few tens of millions as opposed to starting over from scratch at a cost in the billion range (or more, depending on the city, sport and deemed “needs” of the franchise). It’s fine to say “Downtown revitalization”, but the reality is that in most cities comparatively wealthy paying sports fans tend not to live in inner cities. It’s also true that a great deal more revitalization could be achieved using $500m in public money in another way…

    If there is a reason amenities simply can’t be built around Turner, I’d like to know what it is. It seems to me that doing so might actually lead to some improvements in the area (that the stadium by itself did not, obviously) for the local residents. Right now they seem to get the drawbacks (traffic, drunk people pissing on their lawns etc) and few of the benefits.

    As I recall, the decision to raze much of Summerhill was not a popular one in the early 90s. As is generally the case, the poor people pushed out weren’t so much relocated as they were driven just ahead of the bulldozers… As noted above, there are still families who’s parents/grandparents were pushed out of Chavez Ravine who despise the Dodgers 50 years later. Fewer today than in the 1970s I’m sure… but people don’t forget their neighbourhoods being demolished.

    Is it possible that this is why the Mayor had alternate plans for the area so ready at hand when the Braves made their (apparently) surprise announcement?

  52. I don’t what or if there were obstacles to building an entertainment district around Turner Field. I do know that the Braves made an offer to the city that involved several improvements to the field and in the area. They gave the city until early November to respond to it and nothing ever came so they moved on. The city claimed they didn’t know they missed the deadline. Maybe that’s just posturing considering they had alternate plans but it seemed pretty clear the Braves weren’t getting a lot of feedback. With their current lease ending and with the state of their revenue stream, they had to make a decision now to ensure they had a long-term vision to retain a viable revenue stream. Whether this new Stadium will achieve that goal remains to be seen. But I think they knew and most everyone else could see exactly where they were headed if they kept the status quo.

  53. Among the comments I’ve read here, the biggest “A-HA!” moment for me came from some of the commenters who referenced the fact that time & time again “economic development in the area,” is an excuse that is trumpeted for public dollars being allocated for a private sports stadium. That is, a new stadium will invariably lead to good economic development in the area around the new stadium…yet what happened when Turner Field was built? Comerica Park in Detroit? US Cellular in Chicago? If anything, the folks in Atlanta/Cobb County should be vocally opposed to a new stadium paid with taxpayer dollars (perhaps not 100% on the backs of the taxpayers…but its still a substantial amount), and especially debate the merits of a new stadium being a panacea for local economic development.

  54. If there’s little public transportation, you’re creating a stadium “island” surrounded by an “ocean” of parking space. There’s been no case of economic development surrounding such an area that I’m aware of other than what the sports teams get their pound of flesh for or run themselves.
    Of course it also takes away money that would be spent locally while also spiriting that money out of the local economy.
    So I’m waiting for the county to add a parking tax that they’ll collect for the team like they do for Jerky-Whirled in Arlington.

  55. Cujo, you hit the nail on the head! Amen. Even in Chicago at Cubs games, I pretty much head out of dodge after the game. I don’t stick around. It’s a myth that it spurs development. Look at any city in any part of the world. The area around it is always a ghost town. London is a great example. Wembley, Emirates Stadium, pretty much abandoned when no games are going on, no business thriving around them. And actually, there is great public transportation to those areas!

  56. Roger/Cujo:

    When you have older (30+) year old stadia that do not have the types of “commercial opportunities” available inside, it might be possible to create the type ancillary development that can generate revenue. But as has been discussed here at some length, the whole point of new facilities is that all those cash extraction opportunities are contained within the facility itself… so if you are an “arena district business owner” you likely get to pay the CRL/TIF/BRZ, but probably won’t see much upswing in business (you may even see a reduction, given that your competition has increased thanks to the arena/stadium).

  57. “For a city that lost it’s hockey team and has been known country wide as a place that lacks passionate fans, “20k fans” during a week night is a great draw, all things considered. Placing a new tax boondoggle somewhere else won’t help the apathy.”
    I was gonna say. Unless you’re a top market, 20K in September on school nights is pretty good. When did this whole expectation of selling out every game become the norm? Before the 1990s, baseball wasn’t a big consistent draw; not even at Wrigley.
    The biggest problem today is it costs too much to go to a game. Tickets, parking, concessions; everything. It’s just too much. Bud Selig is an asinine jagoff for expecting people to drop everything they’re doing just because the team is in 1st place. I don’t blame fans one bit for not selling out playoff games. It’s not our obligation to put money into our team’s pockets. The problem is MLB itself. And they’ll get you too if you have cable with all these TV deals. That money has to come from somewhere.

  58. Prices, for me at least, are an obstacle; although I don’t know what they were in the past (adjusted for inflation). I stopped watching baseball because playoff games take so long and are on so late. Coors Field is nice though, and was a good build (though partly because Colorado didn’t have a baseball stadium previously).

  59. So instead of maybe putting tax payer money towards battling crime….use it to move a baseball team……logic?

  60. OMG!!! How ironic….We heard the same arguments, and conversations from the Fanbase who wanted the 49ers to move to Santa Clara, CA. Because right now the 49ers Stadium in SF is located in a very diverse area, with the majority of the folks being African Americans. We heard, “you have to drive through the ghetto to get to the stadium,” “the crime around the stadium was due to the riff-raff that lived nearby” & “the thugs are horrible near Candlestick.” Never mind that these folks in the ghetto supported the stadium & the 49ers during the real down times, which were many…

    When I saw remarks like this in our local newspaper blog, I “Had” to write to the commenters, “excuse me, but let me remind you that the majority of the players on the 49ers came from the ghetto. And you love cheering for them.”

    And lastly all the 49er fanbase truly believes that when they get to the suburbs it will be Nirvana…Ha, the same boozy, drunk, rowdy, fighting, tailgating Fans are gonna show up in Santa Clara for Game Day!

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