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Braves say new suburban stadium will be 'play, work, stay' destination when it opens in 2017

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ATLANTA - The Atlanta Braves released renderings of their new suburban stadium Wednesday, a ballpark that will seat 41,500 and be surrounded by plenty of revenue-generating amenities.

The Braves said on their stadium Web site that the new facility in Cobb County will be the hub of a "play, work, stay" destination including shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, as well as a boutique hotel, office space and approximately 500 residences.

The county is set to contribute $368 million toward the cost of the $672 million project, with the team providing the remainder of the funding. The new stadium is scheduled to open in 2017, replacing Turner Field.

"It will be a first of its kind: a new place that will simultaneously create a major sports venue and surrounding community, which will fit seamlessly together from the first pitch," the team said.

The proposal includes:

— A main boulevard leading to the stadium, lined with retail businesses that are open year-round. Roads inside the complex will be closed on game days to allow fans to walk safely.

— A plaza beyond the right-field wall that can used for concerts, festivals and other activities outside of baseball season. Team monuments and championship flags will be moved to this area, as well.

— A 90-foot roof, three times the size of the one at Turner Field, to provide more protection from Atlanta's blazing summers. In addition, all levels will be air conditioned on the concourses to provide a respite from the heat.

— Sightlines that will supposedly put more fans closer to the field than any other ballpark, plus a new version of the "Chop House" restaurant overlooking right field and a hotel with views of the ballpark.

— A one-acre "water feature" to anchor what is billed as a "park-like setting" incorporating the sloping terrain of the area. However, it is clear from the drawings that most of the trees in the largely undeveloped tract will be removed, and the water feature will apparently replace a small lake that stadium backers were hoping would be incorporated into the design. They dubbed it Lake Hank Aaron and started a Web site asking that it be saved.

The city of Atlanta, meanwhile, is considering proposals for the Braves' current home, which was built for the 1996 Summer Olympics and converted into a baseball stadium the following year.

Georgia State University has proposed converting Turner Field into a 30,000-seat football stadium and building a new college baseball park on the footprint of the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, which was torn down in 1997. Georgia State's proposal is part of a $300 million development that would also include retail space, residential housing and student dorms.

Critics of the Braves' new stadium say it will contribute to the city's notorious suburban sprawl and add thousands of additional vehicles to a stretch of interstate highways that already are among the busiest in traffic-clogged metro Atlanta. The Braves point out that the site is just outside the city limits, about 12 miles northwest of Turner Field, and claim a bus circulator system will ease traffic congestion on game nights.

The team and county officials also say that complaints about using public funds for a privately run stadium ignore the significant economic revenue that will be generated by the new project. The county commission is set to give final approval to the stadium deal this month without putting it before Cobb voters.

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