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Gwinnett not among sites considered for Braves' new home

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LAWRENCEVILLE —The Braves are moving to the suburbs, and this time it doesn’t involve Gwinnett County. At least directly.

The Atlanta Braves made the surprising announcement Monday that they’ll be moving out of the city and building a new stadium in Cobb County — near the confluence of Interstates 75 and 285 — for the 2017 season. The move conjured thoughts of the organization’s minor league affiliate from Virginia relocating to Lawrenceville in 2009, especially after Braves brass said multiple unnamed sites were considered for the big league squad’s new home.

Gwinnett, however, was not one of those sites, county chairwoman Charlotte Nash said.

“To my knowledge, Gwinnett County was not approached by the Braves, nor did we approach the Braves,” Nash said in an email. “We are happy to have the AAA Braves in Gwinnett but have not been pursuing the major league team.”

Nash said she expects the Gwinnett Braves fan base to “continue to grow” regardless of where the so-called Atlanta team is based, citing “a different sort of experience” for minor league fans.

Though the mileage to the new Cobb County home of the “big Braves” will be roughly the same for many Gwinnettians, it feels like a much longer commute — swapping the perils of the Downtown Connector for the 85-Spaghetti Junction-285 sojourn feels like an even traffic trade at best.

So come 2017, will Gwinnett County residents make the trip to the Atlanta Braves’ new home? Reviews are mixed.

“I will be less likely to go to many games in Cobb,” Lawrenceville resident Matt Harshaw said. “(Interstate) 285 is always a nightmare, God forbid you add a Braves game to traffic heading that direction during rush hour … I’ll probably go to the new stadium at least once, though.”

Fellow Lawrenceville resident Dennis Scales said mid-week Braves games “are out,” citing traffic concerns.

“No way to make it there on time without leaving work at noon,” he said.

Suwanee resident Tray Lockridge and Auburn resident David Johnson, though, said they’re up for the trip.

“As a lifelong Gwinnett resident and Braves fan I will continue to go (to) the Braves game when thy move to their new stadium,” Lockridge said. “I believe it’s a good deal for everyone as long as they make the area (surrounding the new stadium) a more fan-friendly atmosphere.”

Said Johnson: “I’d got to more games, just due to the area the Ted is located (currently). But I’d rather go to the G-Braves game. It’s closer to home.”

The 60-acre site purchased by Braves is in the Cobb Galleria and Cumberland Mall area, and is expected to include a mixed-use development with restaurants, retail and residential — much like the long-proposed but yet-to-be-built project surrounding Gwinnett’s Coolray Field.

The Braves’ lease at Turner Field, owned by the city of Atlanta, expires after the 2016 season. The team has been downtown since its inception in 1966.

Gwinnett Braves General Manager North Johnson declined to speculate on a potential box office boost in Gwinnett following the major league team’s move.

“Their success means success for the entire organization,” he said.

— Senior staff writer Camie Young contributed to this story