Braves to Move AAA Team From Richmond to Georgia

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The daunting trip from Class AAA to the majors will soon be about 36 miles for prospects of the Atlanta Braves.

Gwinnett County approved a plan yesterday to build a new stadium in the booming Atlanta suburbs, allowing the Braves to move their International League team in Richmond closer to home for the 2009 season.

The Gwinnett Braves will play just up Interstate 85 from the big league club. If the area's notorious traffic isn't too bad, it will be about a 45-minute drive from the county's new stadium, which will be near the Mall of Georgia, to downtown Turner Field.

"What started as a dream has become a team," said county commissioner Bert Nasuti, who led the effort to bring minor league baseball to Gwinnett.

Richmond has been the home of Atlanta's Class AAA team since the franchise moved from Milwaukee in 1966. But the Braves failed in negotiations to get a new stadium to replace The Diamond, a 22-year-old facility that was in need of major upgrades. The Braves have been in talks for years with Richmond officials over building a new stadium to replace the 12,134-seat stadium, which is considered economically inferior to newer Class AAA stadiums. While those talks stalled over potential sites, the deal with Gwinnett took only a couple of months to finalize.

The R-Braves will spend one final season in Virginia.

"It's painful we are leaving a city such as Richmond that has been so supportive over the years," International League President Randy Mobley said. "But the Braves have been very patient through the whole process."

Although Richmond will likely press forward to build a new stadium and lure another minor league team, Mobley said the city will likely have to settle for a lower-level league.

The office of Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder issued a statement saying other teams had contacted Richmond officials as recently as two months ago. The statement said the city opted not to pursue the opportunities because they believed they were "negotiating in good faith with the Richmond Braves."

"I'm not angry, I'm surprised," Wilder told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

-- From News Services

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