In 2009 the Atlanta Braves, which unlike most MLB Franchises happens to own their own AAA franchise moved the Richmond Braves to a new stadium built in Gwenette a suburb of Atlanta, now know as Coolray Field. The move was curious at the time because, while the Richmond Diamond was not the most modern of facilities, the team always was an average AAA draw and the affiliation with the city was long standing. In fact the Richmond Braves used to be the Atlanta Crackers before the the franchise from Milwaukee relocated to Atlanta. The best comparison to DC would be moving the team to Leesburg, Manassas or Germantown. This move was less financial decision, more a deliberate strategic retrenchment plan the Braves organization developed . That is for another post.
The stadium is a generic minor league Populous design. It was built in the middle of an empty field with ample parking, It has none of the charm or sense of place that most of the successful minor leagues stadiums have. The stadium seats 7000 but an additional 3000 can sit on a vast grass field in the outfield. The Food offerings were limited to a little league snack bar selection, minus the assortment of snow cone flavors and Big League Chew. The between innings entertainment was uninspired. There was some sad looking person dressed as a bug or bee that proceeded to sweep the outfield with a broom as the grounds crew groomed the base bath. The big event the night I attended with was baseball bingo, where after each half inning the announcer read off baseball events as if he were working at a bingo parlor. “That half inning we had a steal, a bunt single and pop up to center field.” Those that got bingo could redeem their card for some cheap plastic thing with the team’s logo. The game had the aura of retirement home on meatloaf night.
The stadium and the teams location is about extending the Braves brand to a growing part of the Atlanta region by providing a cheaper alternative to the big league product. The evidence is the huge banner of Bobby Cox, Chipper Jones and Hank Aaron as you enter. The team has virtually the same uniforms as the parent club and obviously shares the same name.
The Braves simply seem to be working off a different business model than most minor league organizations primarily the ones run by Ripken and Mandalay Baseball. The team seems to run on a low cost model, not trying to optimize the fan experience, but doing the minimum expected by the modern baseball fan. If that truly is their goal, than success has been achieved.