Why Move the Triple-A Braves to Gwinnett County?

The Richmond Braves are moving to Gwinnett County. This is an interesting development. The organization has been upset with the arrangement in Richmond for several years, so a move is not surprising. However, I did not expect the team to move so close to the parent club. On my way home from work yesterday evening, most of the feedback I heard on the radio was negative, which surprised me. The main concern was that the Triple-A club would draw fans away from Turner Field. However, I’m not concerned about this for a few reasons.

— If fans in Atlanta have a cheaper and more convenient option for watching baseball, isn’t that a good thing? I don’t cheer for the Braves to be a more successful business, I want baseball. There is the possible downside that a poor business decision will harm the team’s ability to win, but I don’t think there is much danger of that.

— The map below highlights three points of interest: Turner Field (A), an approximate location of the Gwinnett Braves (B), and Marietta (C) the city where I live—my grandfather was once the coroner here. While I am more likely to see a Triple-A game in Gwinnett than Richmond, the probability does not improve all that much. I’m about 40 miles away—about 45 minutes without traffic. Going to a weekday night game would probably take me two hours, if I am lucky, and I know the back roads (they don’t help). It would take me less time to go to Rome, to see the Low-A Braves. Like most other Braves fans outside of Gwinnett county, Turner Field is a superior option for me. This team will truly be the Gwinnett Braves. Gwinnett has been successful in supporting a minor league hockey team and an arena league football team. I think the baseball team will survive.

View Larger Map

— As for the team’s affect on Gwinnett residents attending MLB games, I think the result will be positive, not negative. As I told Thomas Stinson of the AJC,

“What the minor league fan wants is an affordable ticket, eat a hot dog, watch three or four innings and then take his kids home and put them to bed,” said J.C. Bradbury, a Kennesaw State associate professor and author of “The Baseball Economist.”

“You just can’t take your kid to a mid-week major league game. It’s just too expensive. But this could enhance your desire to go to a Braves game over the weekend.”

I consider major and minor league sports to be complements not substitutes. While I am sure there will be some families that will choose to attend more Gwinnett games at the expense of Braves games, I think this loss will be minimal. The opportunity cost of going to a Gwinnett Braves game is most likely doing something at home, not going to a Braves game. The proposed stadium site is nearly 40 miles from Turner Field. My guess is that most fans will switch from doing something else in Gwinnett rather than canceling trips to Turner Field; thus, this will be a net gain to the big club.

I also think that a minor league team will increase the fanbase of the big-league club, not decrease it. Fans who never visited Turner Field before might be more inclined to do so after making the easy trip to see the Triple-A players. It will likely increase television ratings as well.

I also think moving the club to the Atlanta MSA has a few other benefits.

— The geographic consolidation of the organization is a benefit that should not be overlooked. Scouts, coaches, and doctors can easily get quick looks at players. Plus, the organization can employ fewer people by using individuals to work for both the major and minor league clubs. And travel time is reduced significantly.

— There will be some gains from shuttling players between levels; however, I think these benefits are not so great. With both teams traveling quite a bit, my guess is that transferring players will still be a pain. I do actually worry that the proximity of clubhouses could create some awkward situations with clubhouse culture. Triple-A veterans may spend more time with their friends on the big-league club rather than grooming the younger guys.

14 Responses “Why Move the Triple-A Braves to Gwinnett County?”

  1. Frank says:

    RE: It would take me less time to go to Rome, to see the Low-A Braves.

    Yeah–put us on the map too! 🙂

  2. This is interesting to me on a few levels. One, I used to live in Richmond, and it was amazing to me how many of the people there were Braves fans. Braves fans were the clear majority. Admittedly, this was right before the Nationals came to DC, two hours to the north of Richmond, so I don’t know if there has been a sea-change or not, but in my mind, the Braves were able to expand their market for memorabilia, etc. all the way into Virginia. Now they are going to lose that.

    On another level, I now reside in the Philly suburbs and the Phillies AAA affiliate is moving to a town about 60 miles north of Philly. I haven’t really seen too much concern about that proximity, but then again, it is twice as far as Gwinnett is from Atlanta.

    I’m not surprised they are moving. The Diamond was a dump of a stadium in a shady part of town. There were literally drainage ditches in the outfield. I’m a huge baseball fan and I really only went there to see Ryan Howard come through in AAA [didn’t hit a homer, but surprisingly made a nice play at first].

  3. flournoy says:

    I think the Braves are consciously forfeiting the national market in favor of the local one. Almost every business decision they’ve made has reflected this. They’ve phased out the TBS national TV audience, and are now on regional networks like most other teams. They’re pulling their minor league affiliates closer to home. They focus their marketing on the “hometown kids.”

    I anticipate that there is solid business reasoning behind all of this. Back in TBS’ hey-day, it was no sure bet to even find the local team on TV regularly. Now teams are always televised in their local markets, and you can watch any team you want with satellite and internet packages. The Braves aren’t the only option anymore and their national market is disappearing. So they’re making the best of the situation and focusing on the market that they still have.

  4. t ball says:

    Another benefit is many more fans will be able to follow the minor league prospects much more closely, and therefore develop loyalties to that many more players. Local media will increase coverage of the minor league team (that has happened in the Dallas area with the Rangers’ AA team in Frisco).

  5. Max says:

    I think moves like this are a trend in baseball. Look at the Mets for example. They have their low class A in Brooklyn, ie, the same city as the big club, but more importantly there are some rumors that they want to move the AAA affiliate into NJ. The Yankees have also had a history of keeping affiliates close their former affiliates the Navigators were in Connecticut, they have an affiliate in Staten Island, they also have a team in Trenton, NJ (i dunno if i should mention the team in PA, some parts of PA are very very close to NYC). I guess my point is if teams are doing or entertaining the idea of keeping minor league teams close, its probably not bad for business. Its actually probably better for business. For example, the Mets would probably convert more people into fans by moving a team to the NJ area then by having a team thousands of miles from shea. the proximity, i believe plays a role here.

  6. Basil says:

    One, I used to live in Richmond, and it was amazing to me how many of the people there were Braves fans. Braves fans were the clear majority. Admittedly, this was right before the Nationals came to DC, two hours to the north of Richmond, so I don’t know if there has been a sea-change or not

    There hasn’t been, at least not yet. And, judging by the reaction in the media and at work, lots of Braves fans are pissed at the city and at the mayor (Doug Wilder). I’d soured on the Braves’ treatment of Richmond several years ago, but it’s undeniable the process dragged on and on, and it appears time is up.

    It’s probably unrealistic to put a Triple-A affiliate for the Nats (or anyone else) here in the foreseeable future, but I’d gather it would not be surprising to see the Nats move their Carolina League affiliate here. The Nats have already tried some inroads here (they’re on local radio now, not the A-Braves), and in time they might win a large section of the baseball fans here. But not yet; it’s still Braves country. Forty years of affiliation does that.

  7. Rick says:

    I live here in Richmond and LOVE the braves!!! Basil is right, we are pissed at Doug Wilder because he acted as though we were doing the Braves a favor by letting them stay here……I know I hate to see them go, but will always be a braves fan……hey, maybe we will get another AAA Team, before the braves we had the Yankees with the Richmond Virginians, (I do not want the yankees) but I know I will miss the braves…….good job Gwinnett, you are gettin a hell of a ball club

  8. soccer dad says:

    I wrote about the recent realignment of some major league clubs. The term used is “clustering.” It appears to be a good thing.

    The Yankees were thrilled to get Scranton-Wilkes Barre and they sold out season tickets, I think, in hours. (I believe that Columbus only signed with Washington for two years in hopes that Cleveland would consider it after 2008.)

    Being able to sell your up and coming players to your fan base, is valuable. From a marketing standpoint, it’s a great idea.

  9. Gwinnettian says:

    Just heard the good news. I live less than three miles from the new park location. A few years back I was in Richmond and went to several of the games. I loved it. I have been a Braves fan all my life but due to the drive downtown and the ticket prices I do not go to the games. I will however go to the Gwinnett Braves. I can’t wait. I think many other fans in this area will also do the same.

  10. dan says:

    I’m sorry this is irrelevant, you can delete this post without complaint from me, I just want you to see this…

    This is the book Donald Fehr had at congress today, according to TangoTiger (I didn’t see the whole thing)

    It’s old and might be false for all I know, but it throws a wrench into your “HGH isn’t a PED” campaign, if you will.

  11. JC says:

    It’s not much of a wrench. In fact, if people see that this is the type of “science” behind these claims they might become more skeptical.

  12. mraver says:

    JC- You mentioned that the Rome Braves would be an easier trip for you, even with a AAA club in Gwinett. I just wanted to point out that next year at least, it’s also going to have many more of the Braves’ top-teir prospects. Nearly every pitcher in the Rome rotation is a top 10 or top 20 guy on their prospect list, and the middle of the lineup will feature 2006 and 2007 1st-round picks Cody Johnson and Jason Heyward. That team is going to be stacked!

  13. tim in new england says:

    The short hop from Gwinett to Atlanta will prove to be a huge benefit in the long run. The Red Sox have had the same situation between their AAA club (Pawtucket, RI) for years now — they’ve also added their AA club in Portland, Maine and a A club 20 miles from Boston — by doing this they’ve solidified themselves as New England’s team. The Braves are smart to pull the AAA team close to home.

  14. Joe Brooks says:

    I live in a home 1.5 miles from where the new stadium is being built and I am like a kid in a candy store!!

    We get to see the site being developed every day!

    My wife and I sell real estate in the North Metro Atlanta. Any thing that brings jobs and paying customers to our neck of the woods is a good thing for all of us here in Gwinnett County.

    I applaud our leaders and as always Gwinnett Is Great!