The following is a public service announcement for those who do not live in the city of Atlanta, the Metro Atlanta area, or greater Atlanta area within driveable distance to Turner Field. As well as fans of other teams who like to take potshots at the Braves fanbase, who are oblivious to the facts and reasons.
I’ve been around on Talking Chop for a while, and regardless of how good or bad the Braves have been in recent years, I’ve witnessed a lot of various behaviors exhibited by my fellow TCers who have come, gone, or have for lack of a better term, joined the family. One of the most common behaviors exhibited, and not just here, but almost in any facet of society, is piling on.
Sometimes it starts with a guy like Dave O’Brien, or Mark Bowman. Sometimes, it’s Keith Law, or Ken Rosenthal, or someone else at ESPN. John Donovan, Tom Verducci, or Joe Posnanski. Or sometimes, it’s a few reputable posters who create the seeds that cultivate themselves into these gnarled tangled vines of opinion and information. Why did we trade the farm for Mark Teixeira? Why did we give up Andrus and Feliz? How come we couldn’t land Jake Peavy? A.J. Burnett? Jordan Schafer should bat leadoff. Why wasn’t Jordan Schafer demoted sooner? Derek Lowe was paid too much money. Kenshin Kawakami sucks and should be deported.
You know what I’m talking about, because we’ve all heard them – arguments that start small, but then everyone starts bringing them up, regardless of their comprehension of the facts, and it snowballs into a larger mass of rehashed, diluted opinions and often unplesantries.
So far, the topics after just seventeen games are pretty easy to pick out: Fredi Gonzalez, Nate McLouth, Jason Heyward, and the second and sixth batting spots in the order, how Fredi obviously sucks, and the ever-popular Why Turner Field Attendance Sucks / Atlanta Braves have no local fans. And since there are about three fanposts and two front page stories debating the former, I’m here to discuss the latter.
Unofficially, I speak for every Braves fan that lives in the Metro Atlanta area, who is a little disgruntled with the masses blindly criticizing us for not packing Turner Field every single home game. Coming from fans of other teams, I can understand, rivals need the smallest of pin-pricks to repeatedly stab their jeers and taunts unto. But when my fellow TCers who live not, in the Atlanta area, take their potshots and make snide remarks about us, well now, we have a failure to communicate. What we have here is an obvious lack of understanding; about rationale, and most importantly facts. I’m going to do my best to explain both aspects, and hope to shed some light on the reality of Turner Field attendance.
Popular saying: You’re not a true fan if you’re not going to the games.
For the record, since 2007, I have attended over 162 baseball games. About 85% of those games have been right here in Atlanta, cheering for the Braves. I have followed the Atlanta Braves to cities such as Boston, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia (They’ve lost every time). I have gone to Pearl, Mississippi, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Richmond, Virginia, Rome, Georgia, and right up to Lawrenceville, Georgia to watch the Braves minor league affiliates (past and present), and I’ve even made trips for them too, going to places like Woodbridge, Virginia, Birmingham, Alabama, and Durham, North Carolina to see the kids play road games.
Do the math, on average, I’m attending a quarter-season worth of baseball games each year, with just under 50% of the Braves home games. I’m told I attend too many games, but I’m rounding up, but I’m only attending half of the available games, so obviously, I must be only 50% of a true Braves fan.
Well then, what does that make everyone else, who doesn’t go to games at all? Don’t live in Atlanta? Not my problem, you’re obviously not a true Braves fan. It’s an absurd saying, and it does bother me when people speak out of their asses and bring such swill up.
But I don’t have the time and/or money to go to all these games as you do!!!
Frankly, neither do I. But I put a great deal of effort into what I love, which is sure as (crap) what I wouldn't do if I weren't a fan. My local, non-sports loving friends and I have this understanding that baseball games hold an extremely high weight with my scheduling, in competition with them directly. I put Braves and baseball ahead of a lot of things, because I love it that much. Money, well, I save a little bit by doing partial ticket plans. Sometimes, I have connections with friends who work for companies with season tickets. Sometimes, I splurge. Other times, I get to the park early, and buy a $1 skyline ticket. Problem alleviated.
A list of popular reasons (or as many of you like to claim "just excuses"), rationale for not attending more Braves games
Money - Not everyone minds the nosebleeds like me, and they want to really get down into the lower bowl and watch the action up close. And in order to do that on a regular basis, significantly more money than I exert into attending games is necessary. And with people with wives, girlfriends, kids, and/or families, multiply such costs by however many is in each party. It adds up, people. Understand it.
Location - The city of Atlanta is only one part of the Metro area. Like many growing cities, large chunks of population have moved outward into the various suburban subcities and towns on the outskirts of the city. If you want to If you want to get technical, in easiest terms, the immediate Metro Atlanta area could be classified as what is within Interstate 285; a 63-mile stretch of highway that literally encircles the perceived city of Atlanta, so consider the city of Atlanta to have a diameter of roughly 63 miles. Turner Field rests in the dead center of said circle. Within I-285 are subcities such as Vinings, Toco Hills, Chamblee, Doraville, as well as the numerous self-appointed neighborhoods and names that sprawl around the city. Outside of I-285 are where thousands more live, from Peachtree City, Newnan, Fayetteville, which are starting at almost 40 miles south from the Ted, Douglasville, Marietta, Smyrna, which are kind of the northern-west outskirts of the city, Dunwoody, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Alpharetta, Cumming, Woodstock are due north of the city, and the vast world of Gwinnett County that houses cities like Duluth and Lawrenceville stretch to the northeast. ALL of these mentioned places require a good bit of driving to get to Turner Field, or the nearest MARTA station to get to the Ted, something which isn't always the easiest thing to do because of...
Gas – The state of Georgia is one of the cheaper states when it comes to average cost for a gallon of 87 unleaded. The gas station by my house had $3.69 listed, and I live on the outskirts of town, where it’s supposed to be cheaper. It sure as (crap) doesn’t feel that cheap to me. The $5 Chevron cards they give out with family packages won’t even offset the fuel consumption for one way to the park, let alone two, for those families that live on the suburbian outskirts of town.
Job – Thanks to my work situation (I freelance), so far, it looks like I won’t hit the 40 game plateau this year. Baseball’s not football, where you can schedule your Sunday at 1pm or 4:30pm, each and every week, baseball is almost every day. Combine the 10:30 pm+ finishes for the average baseball game, factor in traveling home, winding down, and logically, most of us will be going to bed a bit later than we normally might, for those of us with 8-5 office environment jobs. I’m not 18-21 anymore, I have to get at least six hours of sleep, or else I will without fail oversleep, and/or be completely useless the following day.
Time of year – If the Braves cranked a gate of 13,000 for July 4th, there would be some severe problems. But 13,000 in April, in a night game against the Marlins? (Crap), be lucky that it was at 13,000. The time of year is a natural factor in any team’s attendance, because it ties into…
School – Naturally, the country staggers their end of year and start of year, for the vacation/entertainment industry. But in Georgia, it’s safe to say that public schools start letting out come mid-May, and by June, all kids are out of school. So lame attendance numbers during the weekdays in April and early May are not out of the norm, as are drops when public schools kick back in, in mid-to-late August, and through September. Children make up a great portion of a gate, and it’s a no-brainer that when students have no school, they’re more likely to show up than when they do.
and the Weather – when I was a kid, and when I was still living up in Virginia where they had four true seasons, 60-70 was heaven to me. I bust out the jorts at anything higher than 65. But now that I’ve been living in Georgia over the last decade, such resistance has changed. It’s worse for those of Georgians who have lived here a lot longer than I have. Suffice to say, to us, 60s is cold. Scoff if you want, but imagine going to the North Pole to visit mvandonsel, and freezing your ass off. And when mvandonsel looks at you and snorts, because you’re freezing at -16C, while he’s parading around in a speedo, you’ll know how we feel. Kind of a same situation – it’s what we here in Georgia are used to, so there’s no need to give us grief about it.
GEORGIA’S A FOOSBALL STATE – It’s undeniably true. The state of Georgia does love their football. But more importantly, it should be understood, that there are also people, that don’t like baseball. Just because the Falcons, Jackets, Dawgs aren’t playing football does not automatically mean all those people should be at Turner Field watching baseball. As hard as such a notion is to swallow, there are also people who actually like Pepsi products over Coke, and people who don’t like tater tots. No reason to give them (crap) about it all the time.
Georgia is full of transplants – This is also a very true statement. Compared to places like New York, Chicago, and even Philadelphia, the state of Georgia has much, much more reasonable property taxes and/or cost of living to where people move here to continue living. And respectfully so, they don’t change their allegiances, because I wouldn’t expect myself to stop rooting for the Braves if I ever left Atlanta. But just because they like one team, doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to start going to Turner Field to get their baseball fix. There are many an evening where a cold beverage, comfy chair, my dog at my feet and my 55" plasma HD seems more appealing than a humid-as-balls night out at the Ted. But it’s easy for a transplant to continue watching their teams from the comfort of their own home, as opposed to watching the out of town scoreboard, and hoping to see wins from a constantly updating cycle.
Braves fans have gotten spoiled – I guess this argument still holds a little bit of weight, but with the turning of the times after 2005, I think Braves fans have gotten the hunger back for some genuine success. And with the team currently oozing machismo potential, if they manage to tap into it, and bring some wins and notoriety back to the organization, the fans will come. Because…
Atlanta is a fair-weather town – This, is actually very true. Even in foosball-loving Georgia, the Falcons took a hit, post-Michael Vick, because the Falcons stunk that year. When the Hawks were the dregs of the NBA, nobody went; now a repeat-playoff team, fans have showed up a little more, albeit typically for the opposition, but at least they paid to get in. For attendance to increase, the Braves need to win. Look at the last stretch of Braves games at Turner Field in 2010, from the season finale to the two playoff games – packed.
Still haven’t convinced you yet?
The following are five notoriously poorly attended teams by reputation. The first number is their listed seating capacity, and the second number is their average attendance in 2010. Third is average percent capacity the park operated at in 2010.
ATL 54357 30990 57%
ARI 49707 25391 51%
FLA 60000* 18826 31%
TOR 52383 18463 35%
TBR 42735 23147 54%
*generously adjusted for obstructed/unusable seating
At first blush, be thankful we’re not the Blue Jays. And the Marlins numbers have to be lies. But the Rays, who won the AL East and also participated in the 2010 playoffs were in a precariously similar predicament as the Braves were. A good team, nobody was watching.
These five teams are cherry picked as notoriously popular in baseball, with large fanbases and with fans all across the country.
PHI 46528 46634 101%
NYY 52325 46492 89%
BOS 39067 37611 97%
CHC 42157 37815 90%
STL 46861 41275 88%
You saw correctly, the Phililes exceeded seating capacity on a regular basis throughout 2011. They sell an egregious amount of SRO tickets to every game, and people up there seem to have responded to a 2008 title, and the amassing of aces.
Here’s the thing though – there’s one thing that the later five have in common, that isn’t necessarily the case with the poor-attending five: COMPETENT public transportation. If you think MARTA can hold a candle to SEPTA, New York’s Subway system, The T, the L, and St. Louis MetroLink, you’ve obviously never ridden MARTA before. I’ll get back to MARTA in a little bit, but only has to look at the map I posted in the traveler’s guide to see that it’s a singular cross throughout the center of the city, and that’s it. With the most important aspect being, no direct Turner Field stop. Accessibility to a venue plays monumental importance on the attendance of a venue. All five of the well-attended parks have mass transit stops remotely convenient to arriving to each ballpark. Turner Field does not.
Location, location, location
The following is a general skymap right above Turner Field.
You can see where Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium used to be, and you can see a highway next to the park. Otherwise, this map doesn’t really tell you much else.
This next map is an attempt to elaborate on just what is around Turner Field:
The blue line is the highway, which immediately negates this space as usable real estate for anything cool, like shops, restaurants, bars, etc. Anything that is green is a parking lot. Instead of having multi-tiered parking garages, Atlanta opts to have gigantic swaths of land dedicated to parking, some of it official, some of it privately-run. But it’s the pink areas are the key here. Being as politically correct as I can, these areas are widely perceived as "sketchy," "run-down," "ghetto," and "places you wouldn’t want to get lost at night in." There may be a little exacerbation to just how much of the land is truly like that, but admittedly, it’s not like I’ve taken the time to go exploring in these areas, so it might be a little unfair for me to disclose this opinion, but the majority of like-minded individuals would agree with my assertions. If anyone’s ever seen the movie "ATL," know that the upper-left quadrant of this map is the region known as Mechanicsville, where TI’s character, and his family are from.
Since I feel that at this point, some of you might think I’m just speaking out of my ass in regards to how poor the area surrounding Turner Field is, I bring to you some screen grabs via Google street view of areas right around the park to further my case.
This is one block due east of Turner Field. You barely have to cross Hank Aaron Drive before you start to see the graffiti, boarded up buildings, and cracked sidewalks. That parking lot in the upper-left – if I’m not mistaken, that’s the spot where TI’s little brother got shot for botching a drug deal in the ATL movie.
One more block down from the first picture. Turner Field is less than two blocks behind you from this point.
You can actually still see Turner Field in this picture. This is directly outside of the third-base line gate. Love the trash piled up at the stop sign, so that nobody has to leave it out front of their own homes.
This is a block, and across the bridge west from Turner Field. More boarded up abandoned buildings, and more nothing. A polite (yeah, hard to believe) Phillies fan asked me getting off the Braves shuttle, if there was a bar or something he could hang out before the home opener. Embarassingly, I told him no. There really isn’t. Unless you’re camping at the Bullpen restaurant early, you’re not getting in, and there is no alternative.
Which brings me to the point, that surrounding Turner Field, there is absolutely nothing of any merit. No bars, no restaurants, no shops, no souvenirs, nothing. It is many Braves fans and Atlanta residents who echo this sentiment, which is what I feel is a justifiable reason for why Turner Field attendance suffers. If there’s nothing to do before or after the games, why get there early, or hang out afterward?
Well, why don’t you just leave as soon as the game is over, and find somewhere to hang out?
Despite the fact that this is a photo of incoming traffic, this is what to expect to see coming out of Turner Field’s parking lots, every game, outgoing. Rent-a-cops randomly close and shut down lanes of traffic, Hank Aaron Drive is closed completely, and sometimes a lane is one way, sometimes it’s not, and nobody tells you when it starts or stops. Parking in the green, blue, orange, gold, or Nalley lots, and want to go south after the game? Fat chance. That’s what you get for tailgating, and having fun.
Well then, why don’t you take MARTA instead??
A lack of understanding, and a lack of idea is what I think plagues the vast majority of people who take cheap shots at Atlanta residents for not going to Braves games. In the entire time I’ve been regularly attending Braves games, I have only once taken the MARTA shuttle. Just to see what it was like, and I had a tourist with me. Let’s just say, I’m glad I don’t take it regularly.
Not all MARTA stations charge you to park, but a good bit of them do. So you’re paying to park, before you have to go pay for your pass card, so you don’t have to pay to park at Turner Field. Or you could pay to park, to leave your car at Underground Atlanta, where the Five Points stop, where the Braves shuttles originate from are located. I’m not sure if they’re still doing it, but I vaguely recall there needing to be another dollar or two necessary in order to pay for "transfer" or "service charge" for the Braves shuttle too. So there’s more money spent to avoid paying to park at Turner Field.
By the way, here’s what Underground Atlanta looks like:
It almost always looks like this. Easy for it to do so, considering it’s Underground. Dark, kind of dank, sometimes over-crowded, sometimes eerily unpopulated. Kiosks and stores, selling you the same marked up crap you could find at any farmer’s market, or even shopping mall. Honestly, I never feel that comfortable being at Underground, especially when it’s later in the evening.
Atlanta's a large area with very poor public transportation, and horrible traffic. Driving is the most logical form of transportation to the Ted, regardless of how costly it can become. On top of all the other reasons why Turner Field attendance could be attributed as poor.
The Braves shuttle is a joke, and the city doesn't make it easy to get to Turner Field with its road system, and lack of convenient public transportation. How would I fix it, I don't have the foggiest idea, aside from spending billions of dollars to build new parking garages to consolidate space, as well as lay down some new tracks so that MARTA, or any of the proported rail projects could create competent mass transit to right in front of the Ted.
But in the end, we all have our reasons for not attending more Braves games, which has absolutely no bearing to "how big of fans we are." A lot of people don't seem to realize that the majority of all sporting events, and most entertainment events, are heavily reliant on the support of the fairweather fans. You don't go to a baseball game, and expect the person right next to you to be able to understand right away the importance of wOBA, let alone OBP, they're probably there because the weather is nice, and their friends are with them.
So in conclusion, think about the facts before you decide to spout off about how (crappy) we local Atlanta fans are. I probably don't exactly see you hopping on any planes to catch the Braves in Atlanta, or any nearby city where they might be visiting, major or minor league, but I won't question your excuses if I know the facts. Otherwise, dismount our legumes. But really, get off (our cases). Otherwise, you're only making yourself look the fool.