Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium

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Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium
"The Launching Pad"
Atlanta Stadium.jpg
Former names Atlanta Stadium (1965–1976)
Location 521 Capitol Avenue SE
Atlanta, Georgia 30312
Coordinates 33°44′22″N 84°23′22″W / 33.73944°N 84.38944°W / 33.73944; -84.38944Coordinates: 33°44′22″N 84°23′22″W / 33.73944°N 84.38944°W / 33.73944; -84.38944
Broke ground April 15, 1964
Opened April 9, 19651
Closed October 24, 1996
Demolished August 2, 1997
Owner City of Atlanta and Fulton County
Operator City of Atlanta and Fulton County
Surface Grass
Construction cost $18 million
($135 million in 2014 dollars2)
Architect Heery & Heery
FABRAP1
Structural engineer Prybyloski & Gravino3
Services engineer Lazenby & Borum3
General contractor Thompson-Street Co.34
Capacity Baseball: 52,007
Football: 60,606
Field dimensions 1966–68 & 1974–96
Left field – 330 ft.
Left-Center – 385 ft.
Center Field – 402 ft.
Right-Center – 385 ft.
Right Field – 330 ft.

1969–1972
Left field – 330 ft.
Left-Center – 375 ft.
Center Field – 402 ft.
Right-Center – 375 ft.
Right Field – 330 ft.

1973
Left field – 330 ft.
Left-Center – 375 ft.
Center Field – 402 ft.
Right-Center – 385 ft.
Right Field – 330 ft.
Tenants
Atlanta Braves (MLB) (1966–1996)
Atlanta Falcons (NFL) (1966–1991)
Atlanta Chiefs (NASL) (1967–1969), (1971–1972), (1979–1981)
Atlanta Crackers (AAA) (1965)
Peach Bowl (NCAA) (1971–1991)
The site where Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium once stood is now a parking lot for Turner Field. The fence and wall display in the center of the picture commemorates the spot at which Hank Aaron's 715th home run landed on April 8, 1974.
Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium before opening in 1966
Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium in June, 1974
A city view of Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium c. 1996–97 with Turner Field behind it
August 2, 1997, Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium being demolished

Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, often referred to as Fulton County Stadium and originally named Atlanta Stadium, was a multi-purpose stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. The stadium was built to attract a Major League Baseball team and in 1966 succeeded when the Milwaukee Braves relocated from Wisconsin. The Braves and Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League shared the venue from 1966 until 1991, when the Falcons moved into the newly completed Georgia Dome. The Braves continued to play at Fulton County Stadium until the end of the 1996 season, when they moved into Turner Field, a converted Centennial Olympic Stadium originally built for the 1996 Summer Olympics.

History

During his 1961 campaign for mayor of Atlanta, Ivan Allen, Jr. promised to build a sports facility to attract a Major League Baseball team. After winning office, Allen chose a 47-acre plot in the Washington–Rawson neighborhood for the building site, citing its proximity to the Georgia State Capitol, downtown businesses and major highways. Allen, along with Atlanta Journal sports editor Furman Bisher, attempted to persuade Charlie Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics, to move his team to Atlanta. Finley was receptive and began discussing stadium design plans with Allen. The deal, however, ended in July 1963 when the American League did not approve the move.1

In 1964, Mayor Allen announced that an unidentified team had given him a verbal commitment to move to Atlanta, provided a stadium was in place by 1966. Soon afterward, the prospective team was revealed to be the Milwaukee Braves, who announced in October that they intended to move to Atlanta for the 1965 season. However, court battles kept the Braves in Milwaukee for one last season.5

The new stadium was built on the site of the cleared Washington–Rawson neighborhood, which 50 years previously was a wealthy neighborhood home to Georgia's governor, among others, but which by the 1960s had fallen on hard times. 47 dignitaries took part in a groundbreaking ceremony on April 15, 1964. Almost a year later, construction was completed on April 9, 1965 for $18 million, and on the same night the Milwaukee Braves and Detroit Tigers played an exhibition game in the stadium.1 During that year the International League's Atlanta Crackers, whose previous home had been Ponce de Leon Park, played their final season in Atlanta Stadium. In 1966, both the NL's transplanted Braves and the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, an expansion team, began to use the facilities. In 1967, the Atlanta Chiefs of the National Professional Soccer League (re-formed as the North American Soccer League in 1968) began the first of five seasons played at the stadium.6 After Ted Turner purchased the Braves in 1976, the stadium's name was changed to the compound Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium.7 The Falcons moved to the Georgia Dome in 1992, while the Braves had to wait until the Olympic Stadium from the 1996 Summer Olympics was transformed into Turner Field to move out at the beginning of the 1997 season. The stadium sat 60,606 for football and 52,007 for baseball. The baseball competition for the 1996 Summer Olympics was held at Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium.

Notable events

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings played the first NFL preseason game on August 14, 1965.
  • On August 18, 1965 The Beatles performed at the stadium in their only live performance in Atlanta during their 1965 US Tour.
  • In February 1966 Vietnam War supporters held a prayer rally that featured Dean Rusk as its keynote speaker.1
  • On April 12, 1966, Joe Torre hit the first major league home run in the history of the Atlanta stadium.8
  • On September 11, 1966 the Atlanta Falcons played their first game in the stadium and lost to the Los Angeles Rams 19-14.1
  • On July 25, 1972 the stadium hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Hank Aaron hit a home run during the game, and the National League won it, 4–3, in 10 innings.
  • On April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron became baseball's all-time career home run leader by hitting his 715th home run off the Los Angeles Dodgers' Al Downing.
  • During a series between the Braves and the San Diego Padres, one game spawned several brawls between the two teams. On August 12, 1984, Braves pitcher Pascual Perez hit the Padres' Alan Wiggins with a pitch; Wiggins did not charge the mound, but the Padres vowed revenge on Perez for his actions (several Padres were ejected in their subsequent attempts to hit Perez). When Perez was finally hit, by a pitch thrown by the Padres' Craig Lefferts, the first of many bench-clearing brawls began. By the time the game was over, both teams' lineups had been nearly emptied (due to all the ejections on both sides).9
  • The stadium hosted the World Series for the first time in 1991 when the Braves played the Minnesota Twins in what ESPN judged to be the best World Series ever played.10 The Braves won all three games played in Atlanta, two in their final at-bat, but lost the series in seven games.
  • The 1992 World Series saw the Braves play the Toronto Blue Jays with the Blue Jays defeating the Braves four games to two, including two of three in Atlanta.
  • On July 20, 1993, a fire occurred in the stadium press box during batting practice for that evening's game against the St. Louis Cardinals. This fire occurred on the same day that Fred McGriff joined the Braves.
  • On October 10, 1995, the Braves clinched the 1995 NLDS the 1st team to win a Division Series since the NLDS format in the playoff system began that same year. They defeated the Colorado Rockies 3 games to 1, with the decisive win at home.
  • On October 28, 1995, the Braves clinched the 1995 World Series by defeating the Cleveland Indians, 1–0, on a one-hit, 8-inning performance by pitcher Tom Glavine. The title was the Braves' first World Series championship in Atlanta, making one title in each of the three cities in which they have resided (also Boston and Milwaukee).
  • The stadium's final event was Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, when the Braves played host to the New York Yankees. The final score was 1–0 in favor of the Yankees, with the ballpark's final run scored by Charlie Hayes. The final ceremonial first pitch was thrown to Eddie Perez by former President Jimmy Carter, who had done the honors at Braves home openers while still Governor of Georgia. The winning pitcher was New York's Andy Pettitte, defeating the Braves' John Smoltz. The final hit was recorded by Atlanta's Chipper Jones, who doubled off of Pettitte in the bottom of the ninth inning. Pinch-hitter Luis Polonia was the final out in Fulton County Stadium's history, hitting a deep fly ball to right-center field that was caught by Yankee right fielder Paul O'Neill, which gave the stadium's final save to John Wetteland. (Since no home runs were hit in that game the final home run in the stadium's history belongs to Jim Leyritz, who hit a 3-run home run in Game 4. Leyritz was also Pettitte's batterymate for Game 5.)

Demolition

Following the Olympics, Fulton County commissioner, Marvin S. Arrington, Sr., had a plan to save the stadium and use it as a professional soccer arena and share the parking facilities between it and Turner Field but he was unable to push it through.11 The stadium was imploded on August 2, 1997. A parking lot for Turner Field now stands on the site, with an outline of the old stadium built in. The monument that marked the landing point of Hank Aaron's historic 715th home run stands in the same place it did when the stadium was on the site.

The stadium was demolished in the same week as another Atlanta sports venue, the Omni Coliseum. That arena was the former home of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and the NHL's Atlanta Flames, and was replaced by Philips Arena on the same site.

Layout

The stadium was relatively nondescript, one of the many saucer-shaped multi-purpose stadia built during the 1960s and 1970s, similar to RFK Stadium, Shea Stadium, the Astrodome, Three Rivers Stadium, Busch Memorial Stadium, Qualcomm Stadium, Riverfront Stadium, and Veterans Stadium.

As was the case for every stadium that used this design concept, the fundamentally different sizes and shapes of baseball and football fields made it inadequate for both sports. In the baseball configuration, 70 percent of the seats were in foul territory.5 In the football configuration, seats on the 50-yard-line—normally prime seats for football—were more than 50 yards away from the sidelines.12 One unusual feature of this stadium is the fact that, unlike most multi-purpose stadiums - where the football field was laid either parallel to one of the foul lines or running from home plate to center field - the football field here was laid along a line running between first and third base. Oakland Coliseum has a similar configuration.13 Thus, a seat behind home plate for baseball would also be on the 50-yard line for football. The stadium was refurbished for the 1996 season prior to hosting the Olympic baseball competition.1415

Unlike similarly designed outdoor stadiums--such as Riverfront Stadium and Veterans Stadium--Fulton County Stadium always had a natural grass surface. However, for many years it was notorious for its poor field conditions.16 Until 1989, it didn't have full-time groundskeepers. Instead, it was tended by a municipal street-maintenance crew.17

Due to the relatively high elevation of the Atlanta area (situated at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains), the stadium boasted the highest elevation in baseball when it opened, at 1,050 feet above sea level. It retained this distinction until the Colorado Rockies were born in 1993. The high elevation made it favorable to home run hitters, resulting in the nickname "The Launching Pad."16

Fulton County Stadium was designed by a joint-venture team of FABRAP (Finch Alexander Barnes Rothschild & Paschal) and Heery, Inc.1

Seating capacity

Baseball

  • 51,500 (1965)18
  • 50,893 (1966–1967)19
  • 51,383 (1968–1971)20
  • 52,744 (1972–1975)21
  • 52,870 (1974–1975)22
  • 51,556 (1976–1978)23
  • 52,194 (1979–1981)24
  • 52,785 (1982)25
  • 52,934 (1983)26
  • 53,046 (1985)27
  • 52,006 (1986)28
  • 52,003 (1987–1989)29
  • 52,007 (1989–1991)30
  • 52,013 (1992–1994)31
  • 52,710 (1995)32
  • 52,769 (1996)33

Football

  • 56,990 (1965)34
  • 58,850 (1965–1977)34
  • 60,763 (1978–1984)35
  • 59,709 (1985–1986)36
  • 59,643 (1987–1996)37

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Fenster, Kenneth R (2006-08-04). "Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium". http://www.newgeorgiaencyclopedia.org. Georgia Humanities Council and the University of Georgia Press. Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  2. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "New Atlanta Stadium to Stop Rubbernecking". Modern Steel Construction V (1): 10–11. 1965. 
  4. ^ "Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium". Ballparks.com. Munsey & Suppes. April 2007. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Smith, Curt (2001). Storied Stadiums. New York City: Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-1187-6. 
  6. ^ Atlanta Chiefs
  7. ^ "Ballpark history". Major League Baseball Advanced Media. Retrieved June 19, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Home Run Baptism of New Parks". sabr.org. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  9. ^ http://www.nctimes.com/sports/baseball/professional/mlb/padres/article_e308dd18-6149-5a9f-beb7-1d02fe053267.html
  10. ^ ESPN: The World Series 100th Anniversary
  11. ^ Arrington, Marvin (2008). Making My Mark. Mercer University Press. p. 167. 
  12. ^ Reilly, Rick. Peach State Lemons. Sports Illustrated, 1988-10-03.
  13. ^ http://www.stadiumsofprofootball.com/past/atlfbaer.jpg
  14. ^ 1996 Summer Olympics official report. Volume 1. p. 539.
  15. ^ 1996 Summer Olympics official report. Volume 3. p. 450.
  16. ^ a b Lowry, Phillip (2005). Green Cathedrals. New York City: Walker & Company. ISBN 0-8027-1562-1. 
  17. ^ Stadium profile at Ballparks.com
  18. ^ "Atlanta Stadium Opens April 9". The Gadsden Times. March 14, 1965. p. 23. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  19. ^ Speer, Ron (April 3, 1966). "Dixie Awaits Big League Bow". The Tuscaloosa News. Associated Press. p. 13. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  20. ^ "1969 Atlanta Braves". 1969 Baseball Replay. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Site of 1972 All–Star Game". Star-Banner (Ocala). June 14, 1972. p. 3D. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  22. ^ Associated Press (April 7, 1974). "Atlanta 'Salutes Aaron' in Monday Extravaganza". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. p. B6. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Stadiums of 1977". The Baseball Times. 1977. p. 5. 
  24. ^ Smith, Chris (June 26, 1980). "Bag of Lemons". The News and Courier (Charleston, SC). p. 1D. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  25. ^ Associated Press (October 6, 1982). "Braves Playoff Tickets Almost Gone". The News and Courier (Charleston, SC). p. 4D. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  26. ^ Chick, Bob (June 15, 1983). "Fans Could Love This Kind of Stadium". Evening Independent (St. Petersburg, FL). p. 1C. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  27. ^ "National League". Orlando Sentinel. June 2, 1985. p. C7. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Braves Looking to Draw 50,000 for Big July 4th". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. July 4, 1986. p. E7. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Braves vs. Phillies". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. April 7, 1987. p. E5. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Braves Sellouts Are Rare". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. July 11, 1990. p. E2. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  31. ^ "On Deck: Braves vs. Giants". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. April 9, 1992. p. E8. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  32. ^ "Home of the Braves". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. November 5, 1995. p. E11. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  33. ^ "Ballpark Blase: Fans Cool to Braves". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. April 24, 1996. p. C1. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  34. ^ a b Associated Press (October 11, 1966). "Falcons Believe They Can Win". The Miami News. p. 3C. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  35. ^ Associated Press (October 29, 1978). "Falcons Need a Victory". The Gadsden Times. p. 19. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  36. ^ "Falcons-Redskins Game a Sellout". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. October 31, 1985. p. E3. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  37. ^ "Owners: Attendance Will Improve". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. October 12, 1987. p. D7. Retrieved August 19, 2013. 

External links

Events and tenants
Preceded by
First stadium
Home of the
Atlanta Falcons

1966–1991
Succeeded by
Georgia Dome
Preceded by
Milwaukee County Stadium
Home of the
Atlanta Braves

1966–1996
Succeeded by
Turner Field
Preceded by
Grant Field
Home of the
Peach Bowl

1971–1991
Succeeded by
Georgia Dome
Preceded by
Tiger Stadium
Host of the All-Star Game
1972
Succeeded by
Royals Stadium







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