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Much has been written this week about the Atlanta Braves decision to move from their downtown stadium, Turner Field, to the city’s northern suburbs (so much, in fact, that links may prove a bit overwhelming). It is a strange move for many reasons. The stadium is only sixteen years old and feels like a new ballpark (I only live about two hours from Atlanta and, though I loathe the Braves, I normally go to one or two games a year – and, I can attest, it is a great stadium). The team also moves from the inner city of Atlanta and into the suburbs – reversing a couple of decades of downtown stadium development (though, Turner Field is just south of downtown and really has nothing but parking lots and residential areas around it). Supporters of the move have pointed to the fact that the vast majority of the Braves ticket sales come from the northern, affluent suburbs (and, as Bomani Jones points out in his tweet below, it is way more than a ticket sales map, as Atlanta is a very racially divided city as well):
In any event, the city of Atlanta has announced that it will demolish Turner Field once the team moves north.
Although there are larger issues at play in this decision, such as the willingness for municipalities to use stadiums as a substitute for urban policy, there are some heritage preservation concerns as well – and, as far as I can tell, they haven’t yet been raised. The first, and most obvious, is that Turner Field as a baseball stadium is a heritage venue – perhaps not through age, but through the ongoing ritual of games being played, fans attending, forming memories, and creating a sense of place. Whenever a team moves venues, this is an obvious heritage concern. Secondly – and, a fact that has been largely overlooked – Turner Field was actually also the Olympic Stadium for the 1996 Games. Now, it is hardly recognizable as the Olympic Stadium (it underwent a massive renovation post-Games to make it into a baseball-only stadium) and there are few markers in the stadium now that recognize it’s Olympic past, but this still will disappear once the stadium is gone. Finally, there’s the Hank Aaron wall in the parking lot across the street from Turner Field:
When Fulton County Stadium was demolished to make way for the Olympic Stadium/Turner Field, they kept the wall over which Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record:
Beyond that home run being important in baseball history, it also had a broader impact in highlighting racial issues in the US. In Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary, while Aaron’s homerun is showed, the soundtrack is the hate mail Aaron received en route to breaking Ruth’s record. It makes his record all the more superhuman. However, presumably, this location will be gone along with the rest of the stadium area.
It is not unusual for teams to “relocate” their heritage to a new stadium – in part for the new venue to have a project a sense of history and legitimacy. I have little doubt that Aaron’s wall – and the legacy of Hank Aaron himself – will move it’s way north and be transplanted in the new ballpark (however, given the antipathy the Braves displayed for the stadium’s Olympic past, I imagine that heritage – at least at that space – is gone). However, this move does raise the issue of in situ heritage, and whether it ought to be part of the discussion in stadium relocation.