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  • OpEd: Atlanta Legacy Keeps Giving


    (ATR) On a brilliant Sunday afternoon the Atlanta Braves said goodbye to Turner Field, formerly known as Centennial Olympic Stadium. For 20 years since the 1996 Olympics, the major league baseball team has called the brick and girder stadium home.

    The final innings came October 2, the last day of regular season play. The Braves won, continuing a late season surge for a team that still finished in last place, far off the championship pace of past years. The game drew one of the few capacity crowds of the season, around 50,000. Stadium namesake Ted Turner wasn’t there, but former President Jimmy Carter and spouse Rosalyn were.

    The move of the Braves from downtown Atlanta to a suburban stadium beginning next April has nothing to do with the condition of the arena, in many ways as good as new from 1996. Blame it on sour relations between the ballclub and the city of Atlanta. Unable to reach terms on a new 20 year lease, the Braves told the city in late 2013 the team was moving.

    In speeches and videos at the final game abundant thanks were offered to the Olympics for making the stadium possible. Without the possibility of the new stadium 20 years ago, the Braves may have left for the suburbs back then.

    But the good deal for the Braves did not sit well with Olympic establishment grumpies. They complained that a baseball team which hadn’t dropped a dime to support the Atlanta Olympics would be the prime beneficiary of this legacy, financed with sponsorship revenue. Others fretted that the track for athletics would be torn out.

    Nearly 1,700 baseball games later, the stadium has delivered a legacy unmatched by nearly any other stadium used for a Summer Olympics since Atlanta. The construction cost, $170 million, seems like a stunning bargain when compared to the $1.5 billion now budgeted for the National Stadium to be built in time for Tokyo 2020.

    The editor and publisher of ATR at the final Braves game for Turner Field.
    However, as the Braves abandon Turner Field, the stadium will not be forgotten. There are major plans from the new owner, Georgia State University, now the biggest public university in the state of Georgia. Georgia State will refurbish the stadium for its gridiron football team while facilities for other university sports are built around the former Olympic Stadium.

    That heritage is not supposed to be forgotten in this third incarnation for the stadium. The reconfigured arena will more closely resemble its Olympics layout. The Olympic Cauldron, now a quarter mile from the stadium, is supposed to be moved closer to its original placement.

    Call it what you will. Centennial Olympic Stadium. Turner Field. Georgia State Stadium. But 20 years after the 1996 Olympics and Paralympics this stadium can’t be called a White Elephant.

    Written by Ed Hula.

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