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Free to Atlanta, Turner Field Deemed Disposable After 17 Years

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USA TODAY
November 13, 2013 Wednesday
FINAL EDITION
SPORTS; Pg. 3C
347 words
Mayor says Atlanta will raze Turner Field
Ray Glier, @RayGlier, Special for USA TODAY Sports

It was the Olympics' gift to Atlanta, a stadium free and clear of debt. The taxpayers did not pay a dime for it, and neither did the Atlanta Braves. The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games built an 85,000-seat stadium for the 1996 Games with private money and gifted it to the city.

Perhaps that is why Turner Field seems so disposable. It was free.

Mayor Kasim Reed announced Tuesday that after news that the Braves will move to Cobb County after the 2016 season, the city will tear down the 50,000-seat ballpark, which will be 20 years old in 2017. He declared in a news conference that there would be no vacant, rotting structure on the south side of the town but rather a vibrant middle-class neighborhood.

It was not what William J. Moss envisioned. Moss supervised the $550 million construction of venues for the Olympics and told the Orlando Sentinel in 1991, "The idea is not to have any white elephants and for each of these things to have a use after the Olympics is over."

He was right for about 20 years, but at least Atlanta's centerpiece venue fared better than the famed Bird's Nest stadium for the 2008 Bejing Olympics. It has been labeled an "empty nest" because it sits vacant.

Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Stadium was site of one of the most memorable feats of the modern Games. Michael Johnson, wearing gold-colored shoes, won the 200- and 400-meter races in front of 85,000 spectators.

"It was one of the best examples of an Olympic facility being put to long-term use," said Bruce Seaman, an economist at Georgia State University, which is in sight of Turner Field. "Other cities struggled to find a use for facilities after the Olympics. I find it a tragedy that they will tear down this stadium. This was one of the great legacies of the 1996 Olympics."

The Braves made Turner Field a significant venue because they won nine of their unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles while playing there. The club said it had invested $125 million in the stadium but was not willing to spend more because of its location in the depressed southeast section of Atlanta.

November 13, 2013

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