AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Q&A with the Braves' Mike Plant

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week on an ordinance quietly passed by the Cobb County Commission in February that bans private lot owners within a half-mile of SunTrust Park from charging fans to park during stadium events.

The AJC asked Mike Plant, the Braves’ president of development, a handful of questions about the ordinance, which the county says is necessary for public safety and critics say is an attempt to protect the team's parking revenue.

Here is a complete transcript:

“Our commitment to Braves fans is to provide a safe and comfortable environment for them to enjoy their experience. For the majority of our fans, that experience starts with parking. We have a long history of working in partnership with private lots around our ballpark. We have stated from the outset of the project that we expect, and welcome, these private lots around SunTrust Park.

“With that understanding, we first want to maximize the parking that is owned or controlled by the ballclub because we know that we can ensure the best fan experience in our lots. Many of our fans pre-purchase parking spaces when they are buying their tickets. The parking vouchers are in the form of digital tickets so fans have easy and efficient access without having to carry paper tickets or parking passes. Having parking available to fans at the time of their ticket purchase – and in many cases built into their ticket package – is the best way to ensure the best fan experience possible.

Q: Did the team request parking restrictions around SunTrust Park?

“We know that when fans come to a Braves game, no matter where they park, they associate their experience with the Braves. Our concerns focused mainly on two areas – safety of the fans and the free flow of vehicles through the areas around the ballpark. With that in mind, we requested that the county create an ordinance covering an area around the ballpark to protect fans who are attending the game and ensure that they receive the same safety, security and convenience provided in the lots we control.”

Q: If so, why?

“We included the need for an ordinance in our discussions with the county because the ultimate expectation is that the Braves will resolve any issues to the satisfaction of our fans. Therefore, ordinances governing conduct and maintaining a consistent experience for our fans, regardless of where they park, has to be put in place.”

Q: How much of a problem have gypsy lots been at Turner Field?

“We have never tried to prevent private lots near Turner Field and we don’t plan to do that at SunTrust Park. That being said, we expect these lots to provide a safe environment for fans. Parking is a public safety issue that we take very seriously. We trust the leadership of Cobb County to set the benchmarks for these safety measures and to ensure they are met on gameday.”

Q: Does the team believe that gypsy lots pose a safety hazard?

“We know that on a gameday thousands of people will expect to park in a secure environment and want to safely navigate to the ballpark. As long as a private lot provides a secure environment and safe access, we have no objection to them being utilized on gameday.”

To read about the concerns of business owners in the area, go to the story at myAJC.com.

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About the Author

Dan Klepal is a reporter on the AJC’s investigative team, focusing mainly on local and state governments. Klepal previously covered Atlanta City Hall and Cobb County, where he wrote extensively about the public investment in SunTrust Park. Prior to coming to Atlanta, Klepal covered city governments in Cincinnati and Louisville, Kentucky.