It was party time in East Cobb, Tuesday morning be damned, courtesy of the county’s newest corporate citizen. The Braves laid down AstroTurf beneath the dance hall-sized tent they pitched in the middle of the barren Cumberland construction site that will, in two years time, be their new home—the newly christened SunTrust Park. The team shuttled in four-hundred wealthy and well connected supporters, who, safe from the din of dissension, reveled in the pumped-in AC and smooth jazz, the catered ballpark fare, the professionally produced short film waxing on the connection between a team and its fans. They greeted the new commissioner-elect of Major League Baseball Rob Manfred, Governor Nathan Deal, and even the Home Run King Hank Aaron, all of whom bestowed their blessing, doffed Braves-helmet hardhats, shouldered shiny silver shovels with personalized baseball bats for handles, and broke ground on this massive project.
But just as the actual players and coaches, still living out the old lease at Turner Field, are trying to promote optimism in the face of impending doom as the season implodes, the Cobb County government is still facing a tough sell. Outside of the tent, the new name, a surprise announcement during the groundbreaking, has apparently generated all the excitement of waiting in line for a SunTrust teller. (Aside: What shorthand nickname will replace “The Ted?” “The Sun?” “The Trust?” “The Bank” would have a delicious irony . . . ) Every bi-monthly commission meeting has become an open-mic for disgruntled citizens (when they have been able to speak, that is) not to mention threats of lawsuits and an SEC complaint.
Not that any of that matters. Everyone knows that the deal was a fait accompli. By now even the national media, tuning into the groundbreaking via the web, know the score. As ESPN baseball analyst Keith Law tweeted:
You can watch a live stream of the subversion of the democratic process on the Braves’ official site
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) September 16, 2014
Underneath the Big Top, far from the persistent criticism, Commission Chairman Tim Lee, was noticeably more excited and animated about the deal he brokered and this milestone en route to its fruition. “[The stadium] has always felt real to me,” he said afterward. “But this groundbreaking brings it into more clarity. Now all we have to do is step back and let the Braves build their stadium.”