Good morning. This is LEADOFF, the early buzz in Atlanta sports.
With SunTrust Park experiencing its 11th rain-delayed game Tuesday night, you might be thinking: Tell me again why the Braves didn’t put a retractable roof on their new stadium.
Glad you asked, if you did.
The Braves considered putting a retractable roof on SunTrust Park, but “I think it was a relatively brief conversation,” Derek Schiller, the team’s president of business, told me during the ballpark’s construction last year.
“Early on, we discussed a facility that might include a roof, but there are a variety of reasons we didn’t go down that path,” Schiller said at the time. “Some of it is cost. It is cost-prohibitive. But at the end of the day, the real reason is we believe baseball is an outdoor sport.
“I think our fans would prefer to be outside in the elements, albeit with as many of the amenities and protections and things like the canopy that we can make part of the design. … We all felt watching Braves baseball was better outdoors than indoors.”
By some estimates, a retractable roof would have added $150 million to the cost of building SunTrust Park, plus increased annual operating costs. And a roof as complex and problematic to build as, say, the one on the Falcons’ new stadium might have added hundreds of millions of dollars more than that.
So a roof might have turned the Braves’ $672 million stadium into, say, an $822 million stadium. Or more.
If the Braves had wanted to add a roof, they presumably would have had to pay for it themselves, since Cobb County’s considerable contribution already seemed maxed out.
Instead, for the amount of money the Falcons are spending on the roof for Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Braves were able to build much of The Battery, the mixed-use development adjacent to SunTrust Park.
Speaking of the Falcons: You might recall they didn’t want a roof on their new stadium to begin with, either.
For several years, the Falcons pursued the goal of building a roofless, open-air stadium for their games and leaving the Georgia Dome standing for other events that required a roof, such as the SEC Championship Game and Final Four. In April 2012, that dual-stadium goal was deemed financially unfeasible and a retractable roof was added to the Falcons’ plans.
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During a conference at SunTrust Park on Tuesday, Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei and Braves CEO Terry McGuirk fielded questions from investors about a range of issues, including the team’s valuation, its local TV deal and the possibility of an eventual spinoff of the Braves to shareholders. See their answers here.
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