The former Turner Field has lived several lives in the past 22 years. After opening as Centennial Olympic Stadium for the 1996 summer games, it was converted into a ballpark for the Atlanta Braves. From 1997-2016, the Braves created plenty of memories at the ballpark, but their run at Turner Field concluded with the opening of SunTrust Park in 2017. While baseball is no longer its primary purpose, the former Turner Field is now a potential launching pad for a college athletics program.
After its use in the 1996 Olympics, Centennial Olympic Stadium was converted into a ballpark that was named Turner Field. The Braves, who had previously sought to replace Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, moved into the new facility in time for the 1997 season. When the Braves arrived at Turner Field, they were coming off of their second consecutive World Series appearance and fifth straight division title. With a talented core in place, the Braves were poised to carry their run of dominance to the new ballpark.
The Braves continued their division title streak through the 2005 season, while the 1999 World Series—which saw them come up short against the New York Yankees—marked their first and only trip to the Fall Classic during the Turner Field years. The Braves would return to the playoffs in 2010, 2012, and 2013, while several Hall of Famers—including Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz—took the field in Atlanta uniforms at Turner Field. Turner Field also had a turn with the Midsummer Classic, as it hosted the All-Star Game in 2000.
With their lease set to expire after the 2016 season, the Braves announced in 2013 that a new ballpark would open in suburban Cobb County in 2017, spelling the end of Turner Field as a baseball facility. The Braves had cited access issues to the Turner Field site and the cost of needed upgrades as factors in pursuing a new ballpark, while it was uncertain whether Turner Field would remain standing for another purpose or be demolished in favor of new development.
Turner Field’s future reached a major turning point in 2015, when the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority announced it would negotiate the sale of the ballpark to a developer and Georgia State University, with the university planning to convert it into a football stadium. The timing for Georgia State made sense, as it would need a replacement for the Georgia Dome once it closed following the 2016 NFL season.
A sale of the property eventually went through, allowing Turner Field to begin a new life. Following the Braves’ departure, Georgia State began converting Turner Field into a college football stadium. Opening as scheduled in August 2017, the newly converted facility—now known as Georgia State Stadium—once again showed that it can adapt to a new purpose.
Overall, it has been an interesting history for the venue—going from an Olympic Stadium, to an MLB ballpark, to a college football stadium. Georgia State is about to begin its second season at Georgia State Stadium and is hoping that it—along with a related development project that is unfolding in the surrounding area—can be a springboard for its athletics program. Sister site Football Stadium Digest took a closer look at this initiative in a story that was published on Thursday.
The Braves opened SunTrust Park to acclaim in 2017, and it is already serving as something of a model for future MLB ballparks. The club’s run at Turner Field resulted in a considerable amount of history over a relatively short period of time, but the facility’s conversion to Georgia State Stadium means that it will be a key part of Atlanta’s sports facilities landscape going forward.
Second photo, showing Georgia State Stadium in a football configuration, courtesy Georgia State Athletics.
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