Starting in 2017, when baseball fans in Atlanta close out the national anthem with “…the home of the brave(s),” that home they’re singing of will have been built in part by Alabama-based construction juggernaut Brasfield & Gorrie.
The Cobb County Board of Commissioners voted on Tuesday to approve a contract naming American Builders 2017 the construction manager tasked with overseeing the new stadium. Birmingham’s Brasfield & Gorrie is a partner in American Builders 2017, along with several other major construction companies.
The contract includes the construction of a 41,500-seat, $672 million ballpark and mixed-use development in Cobb County, just northwest of Atlanta. But the process of getting to the final deal was long and contentious.
Braves executives have claimed in recent years that the costs of renovating the rapidly deteriorating Turner Field, which has housed the team since 1997, would be more than just starting from scratch. The Braves have also complained about Turner Field’s location, which they say has led to sagging attendance. In 1997 the Braves averaged almost 43k fans per game. By 2013 that number had dropped to 31k.
Talks to extend the team’s stadium lease broke down last year. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the city was already overextended with funding a new stadium for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and would not be able to afford the upgrades the Braves were demanding.
The Braves promptly struck a deal with Cobb County Commission chairman Tim Lee to move the team outside of the city to a 60-acre tract of undeveloped land. Outraged city dwellers launched numerous ill-fated campaigns to keep the team in Atlanta, but the Braves had made up their minds and were heading to the suburbs.
59 percent of Cobb County residents backed the new stadium initially. Support plummeted to 30 percent, though, when taxpayers found out they were on the hook for almost half the cost of the project. The development will be a public-private partnership, with Cobb County taxpayers picking up 45% of the tab, but the real coup for the Braves is that they will control not only the stadium, but also the commercial development around it.
The Braves and the Board of Commissioners pushed forward, and things started moving fast.
The Braves announced in January that architectural firm Populous would be designing the ballpark, as well as $400 million entertainment district in the surrounding area. Populous has designed roughly two-thirds of the current Major League Baseball stadiums.
In mid-April the Braves outlined a timetable for the new stadium’s construction. The site should be cleared and graded by the end of 2014. Construction will begin in February of 2015 and should be completed by February of 2017.
Renderings of Populous’ design were released several weeks ago, featuring an intimate configuration that puts more seats close to the action than any baseball venue in the country. Around that same time, the American Builders 2017 team interviewed to build the new stadium.
Tuesday, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners approved their contract.
“Building the new home of the Atlanta Braves… is really a dream for our team,” said Rob Taylor of American Builders 2017. “We formed American Builders so we could draw on the resources, experience and expertise we have, both locally and nationally, and be able to deliver this project successfully for the Braves and Cobb County. We are confident in the ability to meet the schedule and look forward to the first pitch in the new ballpark in 2017.”
Alabamians will be especially excited that the new stadium has a tie to the Yellowhammer State. A recent study of Facebook data found that the Braves are the most popular professional baseball team in every one of Alabama’s 67 counties.
Are you excited about attending a game in the Braves new digs? Check out some of the stadium and entertinament complex renderings below.
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