It’s the ultimate example of Atlanta’s ahem, ballsy boosterism. On April 15, 1964, ground was broken for a new stadium. Never mind that the city didn’t have a baseball franchise and details of how it would all be paid for were still being sorted out. “We expect to be playing major league baseball here this time next year,” mayor Ivan Allen confidently told the New York Times.
Our fair city’s romance with the wrecking ball and bulldozer is well documented. So it seemed like cause for huzzahs when the Atlanta Urban Design Commission denied a request to demolish the Auburn Avenue building that once was home to the Atlanta Daily World, the country’s first black-owned daily paper. The Integral Group — a developer with a track record of working on urban projects, including the redevelopment of Grady Homes — planned to preserve the World’s facade and replace its guts with new apartments, affordably priced and presumably appealing to Georgia State University students. Critics said saving the façade wasn’t enough, and more than 1,100 people signed a petition protesting Integral and GSU (never mind that the school wasn’t formally associated with the project).
It took $12 million to transform a 276-acre dairy farm west of Downtown into the Southeast’s first theme park; that Magic Kingdom down in Orlando wouldn’t open for four years. But all the clearing and construction didn’t eradicate the red clay and scrubby pines of the Cobb County surroundings when Six Flags Over Georgia opened for business on June 16, 1967. That rustic flavor added to the verisimilitude of Six Flags Over Georgia’s prime attractions: the Dahlonega Mine Train roller coaster, which hurtled from a thirty-seven-foot peak, and the Tales of the Okefenokee boat ride, which took passengers past slightly creepy scenes based on Joel Chandler Harris fables.
It might have seemed like an awful lot of fuss to make over the death of an ape: thousands of mourners, a live TV broadcast, corporate sponsors vying for the right to transport his remains back to Africa, and a eulogy by an icon of the civil rights movement. But in February 2000, when Willie B. died of complications from cardiomyopathy at a