Today, we will see the last baseball game played at Turner Field. Turner Field has seen (per official attendance figures) around 52.4 million visitors since it opened in 1997, 12 playoff teams, 3 managers, and countless players take the field with a Braves uniform on. Sadly, the only World Series that would be played there was in 1999 where the Braves were swept by the Yankees, but the field also saw greats such as Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and many others give us hope each year.
Some may not feel the same way, but I am both sad to see Turner Field go and excited as to what SunTrust holds both as a patron and as a fan.
I went to one game in the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in addition to seemingly countless games at Turner and there is nothing like going to a game live. The atmosphere is always electric even when the crowds began to really wane in recent years. Going to the one-game wild card playoff against the Cardinals was both terrifying (sitting in field level seats as folks are throwing things is less than ideal) and a reminder that Braves fans are as rabid as any fan base out there. My current fandom and many of my memories of the Braves have been forged at Turner Field.
That era ends today.
At least in this article, we are not going to go into the debate over how SunTrust was funded, the transparency or lack thereof throughout the process, or the use of taxpayer dollars for stadiums in general. There are very valid concerns there, but ultimately that beyond the scope of this writing. What is striking is that we are now going to not only be seeing a new ballpark next season...but a new era being ushered in.
See, Turner Field, in many ways, is not just the house that the Olympics and Ted Turner built. It’s the house and legacy that Bobby Cox, John Schuerholz, Chipper Jones, and the best rotation in recent memory built. Schuerholz stepped back from day-to-day operations earlier this year and Bobby, Chipper, Glavine, Smoltz, and Maddux have all retired and are either already enshrined or waiting to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. They gave us countless moments to cherish, but in many respects...their time is over.
Starting in 2017, begins a period of time that will be defined by others. After a couple admittedly painful years of rebuilding, 2017 will be a year of heightened expectations created by the company line as well as a very strong finish to the season. This will be Coppy and Freddie and Dansby’s time. This era will begin to be defined by the wave after wave of exciting talent that should reach the majors including Ozzie Albies, Dustin Peterson, Sean Newcomb, and basically the entire 2016 Rome Braves roster.
Who knows what the future holds for the Braves. Ultimately betting on prospects is a crapshoot for even the best of player personnel departments and SunTrust could be the disaster that some have predicted, but this is the most excited I have been as a Braves’ fan in a long time and you can count me amongst the more optimistic folks here. At the same time though, its sad to see a stadium that has been the setting for our favorite team go.