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  • Andrew Young Weighs Future of 1996 Olympic Venue -- ATRadio


    (ATR) One of the men responsible for bringing the Games to Atlanta in 1996 has mixed feelings about the future of Turner Field.

    The Olympic cauldron is lifted into place prior to the opening of the 1996 Games. (Getty)
    Andrew Young, U.S. Ambassador and former mayor of Atlanta, spoke with Around the Rings following the announcement that Georgia State University would take over the redevelopment of the ballpark.

    Formerly Centennial Olympic Stadium, Turner Field is the site where Olympic leaders staged the opening and closing ceremonies as well as track and field events during the 1996 Games.

    Since then, Turner Field has been home to the Atlanta Braves. Now the Major League Baseball team is leaving next year for a new stadium being built in suburban Cobb County, 10 miles north.

    "We gave them the stadium for nothing," Andrew Young, U.S. Ambassador and former mayor of Atlanta, tells Around the Rings. "And we refitted it according to their specifications.

    "Then they pack up and move. Which is ok, I guess."

    As mayor of Atlanta, Young agreed to former ACOG president Billy Payne's plan to bid for the 1996 Games. The ex- U.N. ambassador is credited with winning international support for the bid.

    On Monday, the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority (AFCRA) board announced Georgia State and real estate firm Carter would take over the site in 2016.

    Over the past two years, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed dropped hints of prospective bids from large scale development groups, corporate entities, and casinos. Georgia State was the only prominent contender in the running. The university and Carter announced a proposal in 2014 for the redevelopment of Turner Field.

    According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the entities are behind a rumored $300-million project that includes student housing, retail, and the conversion of Turner Field into a football stadium.

    Andrew Young, U.S. Ambassador and former mayor of Atlanta (Getty Images)
    Now, Georgia State is also faced with a decision on what to do with the 1996 Olympic Cauldron. AFCRA currently maintains the cauldron that Muhammad Ali famously lit at the opening ceremony of the 1996 Games.

    Despite his reservations about the Braves leaving, Young tells ATR he is hopeful about the future of the ballpark.

    "I have not talked to the mayor, but I'm sure that between the mayor and Georgia State there's some big thinking going on.

    "That is probably the most valuable piece of real estate in the state. Anybody that's looking at the future of the South knows that’s the center of progress and prosperity for the next several decades."

    Young adds that he "feels fine" about the possibility of Turner Field becoming a football stadium. "My only concern is that we make good use of it.

    "This is not going to be a problem for Atlanta. We will make the most of it."

    If the Olympic Stadium were to go away, Young adds, "It would go away to a bigger and brighter cause."

    Click the SoundCloud link below for ATR’s full interview with Andrew Young.

    Written and produced by Nicole Bennett

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