Situated south of downtown Atlanta, Turner Field replaced Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, once the home of both the Braves and the National Football League's Atlanta Falcons, who moved to the Georgia Dome in 1992.
Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium opened in 1966 and hosted its final game on October 24, 1996, when the New York Yankees defeated the Braves one to zero in game five of the World Series. The old stadium site today serves as a parking lot for Turner Field, which is located across the street at 755 Hank Aaron Drive. The address honors Braves player Hank Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth's home-run record in 1974 at Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium and ended his career with a total of 755 home runs in 1976.
When Atlanta won its bid to host the 1996 Olympics, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) began planning for the construction of several venues, including a track-and-field stadium. The Braves organization, ready to be rid of the obsolete Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, arranged with ACOG to become the tenants of Centennial Olympic Stadium when the summer games ended. The original cost of the stadium was $207 million, which was financed by ACOG.
Since the opening of Camden Yards, a number of cities with major league teams, including Atlanta, have constructed similar old-style facilities: Arlington, Texas (Ameriquest Field, 1994); Cincinnati, Ohio (Great American Ballpark, 2003); Cleveland, Ohio (Jacobs Field, 1994); Detroit, Michigan (Comerica Park, 2000); Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Miller Park, 2001); and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (PNC Park, 2001).
Turner Field is owned by the city of Atlanta and Fulton County, and the Braves have a forty-year lease—at $1 million per year until 2016, and $1.5 million thereafter—to use the stadium. Turner Field hosted its first baseball game on April 4, 1997, when the Braves defeated the Chicago Cubs five to four. On October 23, 1999, the stadium hosted game one of the World Series, in which a crowd of 51,342 saw the New York Yankees defeat the Braves four to one. Game two was played the next day before an audience of 51,226, and the Yankees won again, seven to two, en route to a four-game sweep of the series.
In Turner Field's first seven years of operation (1997-2003), average attendance for Braves games was 37,449 per game and 3 million per season. With regard to attendance, the team's first year was its best, with average attendance at 42,771 per game and 3.46 million for the season. After a several-year decline, average attendance at Turner Field increased each year from 2005 to 2007, when the average attendance was 33,891 per game, and 2.75 million for the season.
Turner Field's largest baseball gathering took place on July 21, 2007, when the Braves defeated the St. Louis Cardinals fourteen to six before 53,953 fans. Other record-setting attendance days include July 4, 2005 (52,274 fans; Braves beat the Chicago Cubs, four to zero); July 3, 2004 (51,831 fans; Braves lost to the Boston Red Sox, six to one); September 24, 2005 (51,775 fans; Braves beat the Florida Marlins, six to one); April 1, 2002 (51,638 fans; Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies, seven to two); and July 31, 2004 (51,125 fans; Braves beat the New York Mets, eight to zero).
As is the case with many of the new stadiums, there is much more to experience at Turner Field than baseball. The facility includes more than a dozen attractions, including Coca-Cola Sky Field, the Braves Fun Zone, the interactive Scouts Alley, Turner Beach, Monument Grove (where the retired numbers of former Braves players are displayed), the Ivan Allen Jr. Braves Museum and Hall of Fame (named for former Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen Jr.), Tooner Field, and the "My South Cooks" Suite.
In 2005, at a cost of $10 million, Turner Field introduced BravesVision, a video display board in the center-field stands that has been called the largest high-definition video board in the world. BravesVision is seventy-one feet high and seventy-eight feet wide, weighs nearly forty-nine tons, and features more than 5.2 million individual light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
In 2006 four LED scoreboards, which enhance Braves games with statistics and crowd prompts, among other features, replaced the old dot-matrix boards. The stadium also underwent a complete overhaul of its Lexus level, which holds all private and party suites at Turner Field.
Although Turner Field is best known for baseball, it also hosts many non-baseball events each year, including music concerts, weddings, receptions, holiday parties, product launches, and student proms. The stadium's parking lot has hosted vehicle ride-and-drive events, road races, and a circus.
Gary Caruso, Turner Field: Rarest of Diamonds (Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1997).
Chris Starrs, Athens
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