With Turner Field’s future uncertain, Reed asks Braves for exit date

With a swath of potential suitors in line to buy Turner Field, Mayor Kasim Reed has sent a letter to the Atlanta Braves requesting a firm departure date from downtown.

Speaking to a city council committee Wednesday, the mayor said he has asked Braves’ officials whether they plan to renew the team’s lease before it expires in 2016.

In the June 20 letter, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an open records request, Reed and Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority Chair James Hughes say a firm exit date is “essential to clearing the path for the authority, the city and Fulton County to collaboratively move forward with a new vision for Turner Field and the continued revitalization of the stadium neighborhoods.”

Braves spokeswoman Beth Marshall confirmed the letter, to which team president John Schuerholz responded just days later that Braves officials are “open to meeting.” According to Marshall, the team has not yet heard back from Reed’s office.

The letter marks the first correspondence between the city and Braves since the team’s stunning announcement in November that it plans to leave for Cobb County in2017, according to Marshall.

Thus far, Braves officials have remained steadfast that the team will play in its new $622 million stadium by that time. Still, the baseball club has until Jan. 1, 2016 to officially give notice to the recreation authorityof whether it will exercise its right to a five-year extension.

Reed is eager to know the team’s plans as he ponders the future of Turner Field. He was among those shocked by the Braves’ decision to leave downtown Atlanta last fall, and responded by quickly devising a new future for the 77-acre property.

In the months since, the city has made a series of announcements about potential buyers. Most prominently, Georgia State University and a team of developers unveiled a proposal in May to convert the area into a $300 million mixed-use complex.

Other interested parties include California-based developer Majestic Realty, an Abu Dhabi-based investment fund and a developer from Nevada, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.

But the Braves’ uncertain exit makes moving forward with those deals precarious, as noted in the letter sent by Reed and Hughes.

The Braves’ lease expires at the end of 2016. Beyond that, the contract gives the team options to extend for four successive five-year periods.

In an editorial board meeting with The AJC in May, a month before Reed sent the letter, Braves’ officials said they hadn’t given notice of intent to vacate Turner Field because the city hadn’t asked.

“One, we have a lease. We’ve got three more seasons to play in there,” said Mike Plant, the Braves’ executive vice president of business operations. “But more importantly, no one has contacted us. So, no one has picked up the phone to say hey we’d like to have a discussion with you about x, y and z opportunity. We haven’t had a conversation.”

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