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.
More than a thousand people attended the event, watching as governor Carl Sanders, a former UGA football star, Allen, the silver-haired scion of Atlanta’s business community, and other dignitaries wielded shiny ceremonial shovels. After the fancy shovels were out of the way, bulldozers moved into the spot and churned up more red clay as they went straight to work. And no wonder; Allen had set an impossible deadline of one year to complete the project.
The stadium was completed on time and under its $18 million budget, and the following April, the first game was played. It would be another year before legal wrangling cleared the Braves to officially move from Milwaukee to Atlanta.
“All during the summer of 1964 this magnificent structure was slowly rising out of the ground, like another phoenix from the ashes, and the construction of the stadium—right there at the interchange for everybody to see—had baseball fever running high in Atlanta,” wrote Ivan Allen in his memoir.
Thirty-three years later, Ivan Allen presided over another ceremonial event, opening the museum named for him in Turner Field, the 1996 Olympic stadium that was retrofitted as the new Braves’ home and opened April 4, 1997. That summer, Ivan Allen’s original gamble of a ballpark would be imploded. It’s now the Turner Field parking lot.
When the final Braves game was played in Atlanta’s original ballpark, Allen, then in his eighties, offered a characteristically pragmatic take. “Sure I’ll miss it,” he said. “But look what we’ve replaced it with. You simply can’t have two stadiums sitting out there. And you’re sure not going to tear down a $250 million stadium for an $18 million job.”