To AC and ATL, Part 2: The 21-year-old Stadium They Had To Replace

Atlanta, Georgia (Map)

Summer 2016


We were only in Atlantic City for 12 hours before leaving Absecon Lighthouse and heading back up the Atlantic City Expressway. Driving over swampland and causeways, we were heading inland towards the Atlantic City International Airport.

The Atlanta skyline from Turner Field. The blue wall is the old outfield from their first stadium.

There were two things in play here: one, that I wanted to see Atlanta's Turner Field before it closed this year and two, flights from Atlantic City to Atlanta were only $59. For the same cost as the gas to get from Corner Brook to Port-aux-Basques, suddenly I was jumping from New Jersey to Georgia.

The one worry was that this flight was on the low cost carrier Spirit Airlines. I'd never flown Spirit and with only a 26-hour trip to Atlanta, delays and cancellations were a concern. But for all of the awful online reviews and complaints, we totally lucked out and everything went smooth - and especially for Shelloo, as she took the middle seat next to a handsome, well-dressed southern black man with offers of peach gum. For some reason this bird didn't offer me any peach gum though. Unbelievable.

Our AirBNB was on this street.

Taking the light rail into downtown Atlanta was a breeze, even as I was distracted by the College Park stop ("that's where Young Joc chops cars!") We stopped downtown for a quick explore, easily walking around since we were avoiding airline fees by only having Shelloo's purse and my camera bag.

It was hot out. And as it always is in the south, people were dressed in suits and layers and hats, seemingly oblivious to the heat (a gorgeous lady in a business suit was right in front of us, totally unfazed). Those were southerners though, whereas we only explored a couple of blocks around Phillips Arena and Centennial Olympic Park before we had enough. We soon headed up to 10th Ave and our AirBNB rental in Midtown Atlanta.

Shelloo had scouted out the restaurants in Midtown and this brought us to Henry's Tavern, a new-age place with a friendly waiter and a pleasant wood patio with large trees. I was skeptical of them allowing dogs on the patio, but I soon realized that I think I like dogs in the south more. It was so hot that they were just chilling out and panting or sleeping, rather than barking, growling and terrorizing other animals and children. Dogs in the south seemed much more my level.

Taking the subway back downtown, we were headed to the Braves game and going early to tailgate and photograph the stadium. One of the major criticisms of Turner Field is that they never built a dedicated MARTA transit stop, so I had written out what bus number we wanted and found it amongst a handful of waiting busses.

As we sat down, I noticed that none of the other 10 people were wearing Braves gear or looked like they were excited for a baseball game. Another 10 people would board, all of them in the same garb & temperament. One of the last people was Leonard, who turned around and laughed while asking if we were on the right bus. "I hope I am. This goes to Turner Field, right?"

"Well they have a special bus for y'all, but this will work. You're on the bus for people who actually live around the ballpark and need to get around." Leonard went on to explain how this bus changes its route on gamedays and how he forgets about baseball until it messes up his whole afternoon. He talked of how everyone hates the ballpark because they can't park at home and how he and his wife have friends that will come to Leonard's house to avoid the hassle of trying to get to their own house.

I was loving this insiders view, but I was also trying to pay attention to figure out where to get off the bus. For how much people bitch and moan online about the dangerous neighbourhoods around Turner Field, I figured I didn't want to accidentally ride the bus 5 or 10 stops too far.

Just as I was recognizing a church turned nightclub near Turner Field, Leonard let us know this was our stop and that he'd join us as his wife was picking him up by the stadium. We'd finish up our pleasant exchange with him asking what kind of tickets we had and explaining that we were simply going to buy some cheap tickets in the second deck. He found this acceptable because "two people like us" could easily sneak down, lamenting how the ushers are always on top of him checking his ticket and making him go back to his designated seat.

Leonard's wife pulled up just then and we quickly said goodbye and thanks, before making our way over to the parking lots to tailgate. And even though we didn't have cars or chairs like the fancy tailgaters, we found a nice tree and a shaded curb, which was a good enough place to drink our grocery bag of cold beers.

As we sat there next to the VIP parking lot, Turner Field was to our right and the ballpark it replaced (Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium) was honoured to our left. We could see the whole outer concrete wall of the old stadium, while they also saved a piece of the outfield wall that Hank Aaron hit a ball over to break Babe Ruth's home run record.

Soon enough our beer was finished and it was time to walk over.

A plaza known as Monument Grove is on this side of the park and as we walked upon the redbrick building, I was blown away by its beauty. As I was here to visit something that "needed" to be replaced, I guess I was expecting something uglier. Instead, I was walking up to a ballpark that looked just as nice as many of the current ballparks that everyone loves.

Of course the reason for replacing this 21-year-old stadium is not because it is outdated or broken, but rather a combination of traffic congestion, the inability to tear down any nearby neighbourhoods for surface parking lots, the nearest subway stop being 3/4ths of a mile (1200m) away, the surrounding neighbourhoods not housing many Braves fans, and the fact that the Braves don't control nearby shopping and entertainment.

(Other teams, like the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Cardinals, have constructed little faux districts next to their new stadiums so all gameday entertainment/food/drink money is funnelled to their billionaire owners instead of local restaurateurs/entrepreneurs.)

The Braves tried to get Atlanta to pay for renovations, but the city thought they were too pricey (and they had just given money to the Atlanta Falcons to replace their stadium). This meant that the Braves abandoned Turner Field for Cobb County, building a stadium in a place that Google tells me is a 52 minute subway/bus ride to reach from downtown. They of course built a hotel into the new ballpark so you can just stay out in glamorous Cobb County, instead of trudging through all those skyscrapers and great restaurants downtown.

The new stadium started checking things off before the first pitch was even thrown, as the Braves got local Cobb County government officials to create a new law that the team controls all vending around their new stadium. Now you won't have pesky hagglers offering you $1 water or $2.50 peanuts before you enter - you can just buy those things inside for $9 or $12 or $15 instead!

I could keep going, about how they created another law where no one within 0.5 miles of the new stadium can rent out their own parking, but I'll stop. It's obvious why the Braves were making this move & I laughed at all the artificial nostalgia as we were at the 40th-last Turner Field game, which was noted by someone coming out and pulling off the #1 atop '41'. I suppose at least it's nice for fans who loved Turner Field and all of the decent Braves teams that played here.

Today's Braves are markedly not decent, but everything was good with these ~$20 seats. Even the scalper harassing me at the ticket kiosk was like, "shit that's a good deal. See ya."

(The funny thing is that I'm going to have to go see the new SunTrust Park because of Clarkman missing Atlanta; and we'll pay 45% more for those tickets. He tried to visit Turner Field during the last home series against the Detroit Tigers - which would have been awesome - but he couldn't make it work with his schedule.)

Sitting in our seats, the heat was getting to my travelling partner who was feeling lethargic and off. I retrieved water and offered to sneak down closer to concession stands, but she thought it better to simply stay put.

And so we did, through ominous dark clouds that didn't deliver rain, and Chimney Swifts darting about the evening sky. The heat wasn't bothering me at all, so away from the worry whether my friend was going to pass out, I was loving life up here at Turner Field.

One complaint would be that the only draft beer I could find was at the Chop House, a long walk away each time I wanted one. I didn't end up with many "interior" photos because of these long walks and making sure I wasn't gone from my friend for too long.

Speaking of chopping, yes, there was a point in the game where the Braves were rallying and they played the warchant music to get the Tomahawk Chop started.

I laughed and shook my head, while everyone in unison moved their arm back and forth chopping. This certainly felt like a throwback to an older time. I thought about my PC friends back where I live and what they would think of this whole stadium "chopping" and chanting "oh, oh ohhhhh, oh o oh oh ohhhhh!"

There's a greater push to rename the Redskins or zap Chief Wahoo, so this tradition will probably be around a while regardless.

In the end Shelloo started to feel a bit better, I was enjoying myself, and we didn't run into the 3 Canadians that we saw buying tickets who all had identical red & white maple leaf shirts on for some reason. Things were looking up.

I would definitely return to Turner Field sometime and it's up there in terms of my favourite ballpark. Even though it's a renovated stadium from the 1996 Olympics, it had the same feel of the new and beautiful throwback parks, but located in the fascinating and enjoyable American South.

Alas, if I ever return it'll be for Georgia State Football. The original plan was to simply demolish Turner Field, but Georgia State University came forward with interest in converting Turner Field into a 30,000-seat football stadium. They did this in record time, avoiding leaving Turner Field to abandonment by both being quick with the sale and splitting the renovation into two parts. Their first game at the new Georgia State Stadium was on August 31st 2017, a 17-10 loss to Tennessee State in front of a sellout crowd.

I would be interested in returning and seeing the transformation sometime. In addition to the football field, GSU also plans to build a new baseball stadium which will incorporate the Hank Aaron wall piece, by building right upon the footprint of the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

Snuck down to some lower seats. No one checked our ticket.

After the game, the night ended at a decent bar that Shelloo had scouted out - she killed it on the Atlanta scouting - before walking back 4 or 5 streets to our AirBNB.

The walk was through a neighbourhood of well-maintained homes that were bigger and nicer than our AirBNB, with elaborate fencing, stone retaining walls and stairs leading up small hills to their entryways. It was an enjoyable late night walk (even as cockroaches scurried from the odd sidewalk along the way).

The next day we had a flight booked for 2pm, so there was plenty of time for a sit down breakfast and a meander afterwards.

Breakfast was at another great place, The Flying Biscuit, where my fried green tomatoes were aight and an interesting item off the bucket list; but the real winner here was the grilled mac and cheese pieces. It was like biting into a solid mass of mac and cheese, but with extra cheese and the baked goodness of additional hardened oven-baked cheese on top. Holy Toledo were they good.

Eventually it was time to get going to the airport, but only because we were tired and had sore feet. Fighting against those feelings though, I knew that we hadn't seen enough of actual Atlanta so I proposed that we walk to the next subway stop and give ourselves a little more. This brought us by the impressive Fox Theater (above).

We would make it to the airport with plenty of time, even as we reacquired the worry that Spirit Airlines would delay or cancel our flight.

Hilariously enough, after turning down seat upgrades, our printed tickets said seats 1A and 1B. We ended up with the upgraded seats anyway, since no one was paying $80 for a seat upgrade on a $59 flight! Through all of those worries, the flight left right on time as I stretched out my feet and could barely touch the wall in front of me. I was in store for a great 2 hours back to the Garden State.

More to come.


Go Back to the Main Page of this Website

To A.C. & ATL (Roadtrip 2016)

Part 1:
Getting There

(North Sydney, NS
to Atlantic City, NJ)

Part 2:
Seeing Turner Field
(Atlanta, GA)

Part 3:
Mostly Delaware
(Cape May, NJ to Point Judith, RI)
Part 4:
First Lights of Rhode Island
(Point Judith, RI to Newport, RI to Scituate, MA)

Sources: 1 - Turner Field, On Game Day and After - Atlanta Magazine
2 - Turner Field - Wikipedia
3 - SunTrust Park - Wikipedia

< Older Update:
To Atlantic City & ATL
Part 1: Getting There

< Older Update:
An Extravagant Home Across The Bay
(Sunny Cottage, Bay d'Espoir)



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