by: Tony Thomas Updated:
ATLANTA - The City of Atlanta and the Braves want to make the Turner Field area a year-round destination -- not just when the home team is playing.
The city says the 55 acres could be a boon for development in the entire south downtown/Summerhill area and believes now that the economy is starting to rebound is the time to begin thinking about the project.
The Braves' lease on Turner Field and the parking lots is up in 2016, and while there is no indication team owners would think about leaving the area, the Braves do want the area improved in order to attract more fans.
The request for bids calls for a mixed use development involving retail, restaurants, possibly residential, along with at least 10,000 parking spaces in decks to handle the crowds.
Not every fan likes the idea.
John Picker sat with his family in the parking lot tailgating before Sunday night’s game.
"This is the way it's supposed to be in our minds," Picker said as he referred to the acres of paved lots allowing easy parking.
The city said the area is too empty the majority of the year the Braves aren't playing at Turner. The team is only scheduled 81 homes games a season.
Atlanta officials imagine a complex that will be a destination year-round.
"It would bring more people around and more stuff going around, and cleaning up the area a little bit probably wouldn't be a bad thing," said fan Marguerite Cheetham as she walked into the game.
The president of the nearby homeowners association also likes the idea.
"I think the opportunity to bring businesses into the neighborhood would be phenomenal," said Josh Murtha of the Organized Neighbors of Summerhill.
The plan is only in the early innings. Millions of dollars in funding plus a developer interested in tackling the project are still needed.
The city also wants the proposals to include ways to honor Braves history, including Hank Aaron's record-breaking home run which was hit over a spot which would be right in the middle of the new development.