Braves’ New World – by Monte Burke at Forbes.com (2008)
But the biggest changes are within the stadium. In 2005 the team spent $10 million on a 70-foot-high high-definition screen that looms over center field. The city owns Turner Field and won’t let the Braves sell naming rights to it for another six years, but in 2005 the team opened $3 million Tooner Field next door as a place for kids to play during games, with the Cartoon Network as sponsor. Last year the Braves launched all-you-can-eat seats, sponsored by ampm convenience stores, where patrons pay $35 to $70 to eat and drink to their heart’s content. They’ve also started the Suntrust Club, 143 premium seats only 43 feet behind home plate (closer to it than the pitcher’s mound). That cost $6 million, with its underground high-end lounge and bar, but the seats go for $25,000 a season apiece.
In all, the Braves have spent $30 million over the last five years making the fans want to come back, and it seems to be working. Not only is attendance up, but 20% of the 10,000 season ticket holders lost in the early 2000s are back. All of which helped make 2007 the team’s most profitable year in at least a decade. The Braves did a superb job replacing TBS, divvying up the games to three stations. This season the baseball players will bring in $57 million from broadcasts on FSN South, SportSouth and Peachtree TV, a local Atlanta station.
Still, Malone knows that maximizing his return ultimately depends on how the Braves do on the diamond. Shortly after he bought the team it acquired a big-hitting first baseman, Mark Teixeira, who makes $12 million a year, and this off-season it won back Glavine, who earns $8 million. “Off-season moves like that mean a lot to people who have been here,” says third baseman Chipper Jones, who has been with the Braves since 1990. Malone says he has set no limit on the payroll: “We won’t be cheap. We’d like to win. If Terry calls up and says they need something, they’ll get it.”