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Braves publish highly-objective account of stadium deal, alternative transportation push, not leaving Atlanta

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It's been approximately one year since the Atlanta Braves announced that the team would be moving to Cobb County. To mark the anniversary, the ball club's media staff last week decided to publish a series of articles about the progress that's been made toward its eventual move in 2017.

What a surprise! Team execs took an extremely optimistic outlook in the riveting four-article series that includes story titles such as "Unprecedented growth highlights year off the field" and "Access easy with plans in place." Each article glosses over all kinds of minor details like the questionable use of hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars being used for the project, the lack of transparency surrounding the deal, and the serious concerns brought forward by numerous legal challenges and ethics complaints. (Hell, even Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee has apologized for the stadium deal.)

Here's some of the highlights featuring entirely-objective accounts from several Braves execs, written by a Braves media relations trainee:

On change, respect, and vision (which can be a scary thing):

Change, though, is a scary thing. The Braves have spent their entire 49-year history in the city of Atlanta just south of downtown, creating memories in the hearts and minds of Braves Country from two little plots of land. It's where Hank hammered. It's where Sid slid. And it's where the team of the '90s had its world championship.

While frightening, change is also inevitable, and not intrinsically negative. Without it, Atlanta wouldn't have a baseball franchise to begin with, as the Braves would still be splitting a fan base in Boston where the club's storied history began.

"One of the things that we realize in our business is that there are deep emotional connections and emotions that come out when you talk about the Atlanta Braves," Schiller said. "There's always going to be a certain percentage of people that may disagree with this decision, and we respect them and want them to be long-term Braves fans as well. Our hope is that when we open this ballpark and mixed-use development and they go there for the first time, they understand the same vision that we are looking at and the rest of our supporters see as well."

On the inevitability of legal challenges (which definitely won't stop the team's progress):

Despite approval from all five commissioners, several legal hurdles have provided pause to the process, including a challenge to the bonds that will help fund the ballpark. Challenges, though, are part of the process, and the last of those objections should be wrapped up by the middle of 2015.

"In a project of this magnitude, it's not unusual to have a certain amount of debate and even legal challenges," Schiller said. "That is expected, and it's extremely typical in the process. We're managing that and continue to have full faith in our partners in Cobb County, as well as knowing that we are progressing with everything the way it should be legally and continuing to make sure that this process with our fans is as transparent as it can possibly be."

"We're 100 percent confident that after we go through the process there will be a successful outcome," Plant added. "None of that is inhibiting us or distracting us from moving forward with our planning and our execution of both the mixed-use development and the ballpark project."

On SunTrust being the perfect partner to name the stadium after (which has absolutely nothing to do with the corporation potentially paying boatloads of cash):

As part of their planning for the project, the Braves entered the marketplace early with the intent to sell the naming rights for the ballpark, and they quickly found a partner that shared the Braves' Atlanta roots and national reach. The Braves surprised guests at the official groundbreaking of the project on Sept. 16 and announced they had partnered with SunTrust Banks, Inc., on a 25-year agreement that includes marquee signage as well as promotional opportunities throughout the ballpark and mixed-use community. The two organizations have been partners for decades, making the marriage a logical match.

"I think it's unusual, but certainly a testament to this project and the strength of our partnership with SunTrust, that we were able to get this agreement with them completed ahead of the ballpark opening," said Derek Schiller, Braves executive vice president of sales and marketing. "It reflects well upon the matching of two great brands."

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On the mind-blowing mixed-use development adjacent to the new Braves stadium (which will satisfy your "inner foodie" and more!):

The club certainly recognized the vastness of Braves Country, a fan base that stretches to the far reaches of the nation and internationally. SunTrust Park and the accompanying mixed-use development will serve as a destination not just for fans in Atlanta, but for those across the Southeast and United States.

Restaurants and shops along a spacious boulevard will allow visitors and residents to satisfy their inner foodie, shop for the latest fashions and take advantage of unique retail offerings all year long. Roads inside the community will be open most days, but on game days streets will be partially closed to provide a more walkable environment for fans heading to the ballpark.

"Many of the tenants that we have been looking for, especially on the retail and restaurant side, would be destination type of retailers and restaurants," Schiller said of the companies who will occupy space in the development. "Some of which may be new to the area and not have any locations in Atlanta, and some of which are here and very popular and would bring an added dimension to the development."

The final list of tenants is still to be determined, but the Braves have opened up the sales process to start creating a finite list. Options for potential tenants aren't being generated solely from the Braves executive team and retail developer, but the team is also seeking information through research.

"This wasn't just our executive team saying, 'We want X,Y and Z store or restaurant there,'" Plant said. "But a lot of what's going to go there has been driven by some really solid market research and data that tells us what the market trends are and analytics that tell us what's missing in that area that matches up with our vision and our desires."

On making the stadium accessible to bicyclists and pedestrians (which will totally work):

The Braves and their partners are committed to increasing access to alternative methods of transportation in and around the ballpark. The Cumberland area has been identified as one of the most walkable communities in the region, and this will only enhance that.

"We understand the need for not only adding sidewalks where they don't exist today but for expanding current sidewalks," Plant said. "We're working with the Cumberland CID because they have a vested interest in how people move throughout that whole area and years of history making these improvements. One of the things we've had active discussions with them about is increasing and augmenting the bike path. Looking at Turner Field, you can't find a bike rack there. At the new ballpark, we're going to be advocating people using all different modes of transportation with two wheels and four wheels in addition to their own two feet."

On the mischaracterization of the Braves leaving Atlanta (which they more or less are doing):

While the Braves are putting time and effort into the area neighboring SunTrust Park and the mixed-use development, the club remains committed to improving the area surrounding Turner Field as well, a philosophy that won't change in 2017. It's all done with the intention of improving the city the Braves call home.

"The biggest misnomer on this project has been that we're leaving Atlanta. I think one of the things that we've come to appreciate even more over the past year is that Atlanta is the center of a thriving region," said Derek Schiller, Braves executive vice president of sales and marketing. "Atlanta is an entire metro region. We are still the Atlanta Braves. We are moving a short distance from Turner Field. That distance is important, but we are not leaving Atlanta. This is an Atlanta address, we'll still have Atlanta across our chest, and we'll still be the best representative of the city of Atlanta as we can be."

Thanks for the update, Braves staff!



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