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.
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— 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.