As the sports world continues to mourn the recent death of Hank Aaron, Georgia State announced they would pay their dues to the Atlanta Braves legend.
On Friday, the school announced plans to honor Aaron by building a new complex at the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium location. The home of the Braves until its 1997 demolition, only one thing remains from the ballpark: the wall where Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record.
For the university and its athletics department, the new complex will represent Aaron personally, not just as an athlete. The school estimates it will cost approximately $10 million in private funds to build the 2,500-seat baseball field and the Aaron tribute.
“Mr. Aaron was so much more than a baseball player,” associate athletic director Mike Holmes said. “He came up through the game of baseball when there was still a great deal of racism throughout the South and our country.”
Georgia State had plans to honor the “Home Run King” for a while, but when they reached out to schedule a February meeting, they found out about his passing.
“No sports figure has stood taller in Atlanta than Hank Aaron, the greatest home run hitter in the history of Major League Baseball,” former Georgia State University President Mark Becker said in a statement. “He is a sports legend, was a pillar of the Atlanta community and needs to be remembered as a first-class human being who displayed dignity in everything he did.”
Georgia State Athletics Director Charlie Cobb noted that the stadium would include Aaron’s statue hitting his iconic 715th home run and the wall he hit it over as well. Both came with Turner Field, which the university purchased in 2017.
“It’s just an amazing sports moment to be able to be able to capture that and capture the essence of Hank Aaron as a man is something that’s really important to our University,” Athletics Director Charlie Cobb told FOX 5 Atlanta.
Sports fans will always appreciate the facility, expected to come 12 to 18 months after the university gathers the funding. The stadium serves as an opportunity to understand the beauty of sports for both fans of the game and outsiders.
“[Aaron] worked hard at his craft but also used his skill to eventually … bring people together over the love of baseball,” Holmes said. “He deserves all the recognition for what he accomplished, breaking the great record in sport and for what he did for the country.”
With such a great honor also comes significant expectations. From donors to Panthers baseball fans and even baseball historians, the university understands the task ahead and welcomes the journey to create a unique structure.
“I think there is a little added pressure, but at the same time, we want to build facilities at Georgia State that our student-athletes, coaches, staff, fans and alumni can be proud of,” Holmes said.
Sure, it may not be Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium or Turner Field, but it will represent how highly the world views Aaron. Aaron will always embody a man of the people, someone who battled adversity for over two decades and one who gave everything he had to the game and mentored those who came after him.
“When that is the basis for what you want to try and accomplish, the only way to do it is first-class,” Holmes said. “In honoring Mr. Aaron, we want to do it in a first-class manner, so it falls in line with exactly what we believe in. Hopefully, we can accomplish that goal.”