In 2016, the Atlanta Braves will play their final game at Turner Field.
After that, Mayor Kasim Reed says, the world-class ballpark will be torn down to make way for “one of the largest developments for middle-class people that the city has ever had.”
Never mind the fact that without a stadium or an affluent surrounding area, there’s little to no incentive for middle-class residents to move to the area. Or the fact that the city has planned “mixed-use” developments for the area for years already with no action.
So we’d like to present another solution, one with a guaranteed buyer and an established history of revitalizing Downtown Atlanta. An institution with tens of thousands of alumni ready to see their school do well and an unquestionable need to expand.
With support from the Georgia State University Foundation, which has demonstrated time and time again its commitment to helping the University flourish through its purchasing of Downtown real estate, Georgia State is well positioned to buy all or part of the Turner Field complex.
The benefits would be both immediate and long term.
Right off the bat, Georgia State would own thousands of new parking spaces in the lots it already uses with permission from the Braves. If necessary, it could always build multi-level parking facilities on top down the road, much like the ones it already has on campus.
Parking is by far the most prominent issue about which students complain, and a major buyout of the Blue, Green, Gold and Orange lots for starters would go a long way in helping solve the problem.
In this case, Georgia State already uses the lots around Turner for its commuter students and runs buses back and forth continually during the school year. Expanding service wouldn’t be difficult.
As the University knows, space in Downtown Atlanta is at a premium, and there are notmany places where Georgia State can expand on its own terms.
Even if not all of the spaces would be used immediately, having the land allows the University to begin building things from scratch to best suit the needs of its student body, rather than merely adapting existing structures as they become available.
That brings us to the problem of what to do about our athletic facilities for virtually every sport except for basketball and maybe football.
It’s been said that finding space for new athletic venues has been the most difficult part of fulfilling the 2012 Athletic Master Plan. The Braves moving is the answer to the University’s prayers.
The current facilities at Panthersville, more than 10 miles away from campus, simply cannot support continued Division I college sports. The distance and hassle involved in getting to games is too great for most students, let alone fans, to make the trip.
And if we’re going to take on major schools like Georgia or Georgia Tech, we can’t keep playing on what appears to be a rented, run-down high school field. We need a space of our own where we’re proud to say “The Panthers play here.”
Building on top of the aforementioned parking lots, we can do that. And we can do it quickly.
What’s optional is whether we buy Turner Field itself. It’s really not that crazy – it just comes down to how much money we want to spend.
After all, “The Ted” was once the Centennial Olympic Stadium, an 85,000-seat stadium built for the 1996 Summer Games and later converted into a baseball stadium by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.
Of course, the University wouldn’t need that much space – based on best-case projections for football attendance, a stadium with about 30,000 seats would be about the right size for Georgia State to grow.
That’s assuming, of course, that Athletics would be willing to give up their space at the new Falcons stadium and take on the project of retrofitting a massive stadium into a multi-purpose facility that could host athletic events outside of baseball.
It’s a tall order, but it’s one well worth considering. This is a make-or-break opportunity for Georgia State and its administration.
Let’s hope they make the right decision.