The Cobb County Commission will vote Tuesday on whether to approve a financing package for a new stadium for the Atlanta Braves. The team says it wants move to out of the city, and if it does, it won’t be the first time the Braves abandon a stadium. The city of Atlanta has said if the team leaves, it will demolish its stadium, which was originally built for the 1996 Olympics. That decision isn’t surprising in a city that some argue loves to tear down its own history.
Turner Field, as it became known after the Braves moved in, played host to the Olympic track events.
Once the Olympics wrapped up, the city replaced the 30-year-old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium as the Braves’ home.
The announcement that the Braves want to move out of the city has caused consternation for many. But for Boyd Coons, head of the Atlanta Preservation Center, the news felt closer to déjà vu.
“I thought, ‘That’s Atlanta’,” he said in an interview at the center’s offices in Grant Park, not far from Turner Field.
“People here have such short memories, partly because there are no landmarks to remind them of certain experiences,” said Coons. “But what we’re going through right now just seems so terribly familiar from 16 years ago and then before that. Again, this is very familiar in Atlanta.”
Coons is referring to the last time the Braves wanted a new stadium. And he’s also reaching back to a much older chapter in the city’s history. He says the area where the parking lots are now was the city’s best neighborhood in the 1860s.
“My own great-great-great grandparents’ house and their children’s houses were there where the parking lots are now,” he said. “So that went from being a wonderful residential area to something else to a stadium and now to another stadium complex.”
Richard Dagenhart, a retired professor of architecture at Georgia Tech says unlike New York or Savannah, Atlanta doesn’t have a set street plan. Instead, he says business drives Atlanta’s development.
“Everything about Atlanta is about making a transaction,” said Dagenhart. “It’s not about building things that are permanent. It’s not about history at all. It’s about making of transactions. That’s the entire mentality and history of Atlanta.”
All those transactions leave the city with a spotty record on marking its history. Atlanta has torn down two seminal train stations: Terminal Station and Union Station. Most recently, the city gave the approval for the demolition of all but the façade of the Crum and Foster Building.
Now that the city is poised to tear down another stadium, Dagenhart says there’s one thing that will survive: a wall from Atlanta Fulton County Stadium over which Hank Aaron’s 715th homerun ball flew in 1974.
It’s preserved in the parking lot outside of Turner Field and he says it will be part of any future development.