ATLANTA (AP) — Turner Field, the home of the Atlanta Braves and the 1996 Olympics, will get its "third life" when Georgia State University converts it to a college football stadium, Atlanta city leaders said Thursday.
The deal involves new commercial development and improvements to streets and neighborhoods on the city's south side, an area that has struggled as other parts of the city blossomed.
Speaking outside Turner Field, near a bronze statue of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the monument's presence was fitting.
"Hank Aaron helped unify a city — and a country — with one swing of his mighty bat at the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium," Reed said.
The project will give an economic boost to the five neighborhoods that surround Turner Field, Reed said.
"It represents a new beginning for the entire southeast quadrant of our city," he said.
Discussions about the redevelopment project began after the Atlanta Braves announced plans to leave Turner Field and build a new stadium about 15 miles away in Atlanta's northwest suburbs. This the last season for the Braves at Turner Field.
Officials announced a signed purchase and sale agreement between Georgia State and the real estate firms Carter U.S.A. and Oakwood Development Group. Details of the financing weren't immediately available, though Reed has told reporters that Georgia State has committed at least $200 million toward redevelopment of the 70-acre site.
With the redevelopment project, Turner Field will now get its "third life" as a college football venue, Georgia State President Mark Becker noted. It was built for 1996 Olympic Games, was home to the Atlanta Braves and will now become the home field of the Georgia State Panthers.
Georgia State, with more than 53,000 students, is one of the nation's largest universities. Its main campus is in the heart of downtown Atlanta, just north of Turner Field.
The overall project will also involve building a new baseball field, student housing, shops and restaurants nearby. The project "presents an opportunity to develop a world-class mixed use community," said Scott Taylor, president of the Carter firm.
Reed noted that the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, which once stood next-door to Turner Field, was known as "the launching pad" by home-run hitters who felt that its elevation of more than 1,000 feet above sea level helped balls soar out of the park.
"Turner Field becomes a different kind of launching pad," Reed said.
Information from: WSB-TV, http://www.wsbtv.com/index.html