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Atlanta Braves to leave Turner Field for new taxpayer-supported park

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - The Atlanta Braves will leave Turner Field, their downtown home that is not yet two decades old, for a new $672 million county stadium partially funded by taxpayers, the team said in a surprise announcement on Monday.

The new ballpark, which the Major League Baseball team wants to be ready for its spring 2017 opening day, will be located 12 miles north of Turner Field, built for the 1996 Olympic games and renovated for the Braves by the following season.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the city was unwilling to put up the hundreds of millions in tax dollars needed to keep the Braves downtown.

"It is my understanding that our neighbor, Cobb County, made a strong offer of $450 million in public support to the Braves, and we are simply unwilling to match that with taxpayer dollars," he said in a statement.

Turner Field, named for media mogul and former team owner Ted Turner, needs $150 million in renovations, including new seats and upgraded lighting, the Braves said.

It also lacks adequate parking and the team has no control over development around it, according to the Braves.

The new stadium will be near the intersection of two major interstates in Cobb County.

"We believe the new stadium location is easy to access, while also giving our fans a first-rate gameday experience in and around the ballpark and making it a 365-day-a-year destination," said Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz.

The site also will include land for retail, restaurants and hotels, the team said.

The Braves said the county will invest in the stadium but did not say how much taxpayers would shoulder. The exact source of Cobb County's public funding has not yet been finalized, said county spokesman Robert Quigley.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said the league was kept apprised of the Braves' plans and supported the move.

The Braves said they would not renew its lease with the city of Atlanta and Fulton County Recreation Authority when it expires at the end of 2016.

Reed said the city would work during the next three years with prospective partners to redevelop the Turner Field area.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Philip Barbara)

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