Sports money race leaves logic’s track

  • Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013 6:00 a.m.

Been to the Atlanta Braves’ new ballpark yet?

OK, so Turner Field, which opened as the home of the Braves for the 1997 season, isn’t “new.”

But “old” is even more of a stretch for that splendid baseball venue.

And this week’s news about the Braves leaving Turner Field after 2016 hit lots of their longtime fans, including this one, like a Craig Kimbrel fastball to the kneecap.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the city couldn’t meet the team’s demands for Turner Field improvements. He added that Cobb County has agreed to pay $450 million of the projected $672 million cost for a new stadium about 10 miles north of downtown Atlanta.

Enlightened colleague Gene Sapakoff, a former youth league baseball coach, delivers the inside pitch on that story in today’s sports section.

He also reports the reassuring scoop that the RiverDogs “just signed a new 10-year lease with the city of Charleston” to stay at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park, which like Turner Field opened in 1997.

Riley Park’s $19.5 million cost initially seemed like a waste of public money to this admirer of funky old — as in really old — College Park on Rutledge Avenue.

Sapakoff and the mayor knew better. Riley Park is a grand setting, along the Ashley River, for our grand old game.

A short stroll from Riley Park stands The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium.

Its West Stands, renovated in time for the 2006 season, and Altman Athletic Center, which opened in the south end zone in 2001, still look great. But its East Stands still need some major work.

Ambition’s high price

Meanwhile, South Carolina and Clemson are still locked in big-time college sports’ high-stakes facilities race.

USC’s “Athletic Master Plan,” launched in 2006, raised $200 million.

Last month, Clemson’s Board of Trustees approved a $60 million to $80 million renovation of Littlejohn Coliseum. Death Valley’s WestZone complex already has cost $50 million.

At least both schools are spending significant sums on non-athletic causes too. USC announced this week that it’s planning a $125 million makeover of the old Carolina Coliseum, with classrooms, labs, an adjunct student union — and yes, a basketball practice facility. That coliseum was home of the Gamecocks from 1968-2001. It was replaced in 2002 by the $65 million Carolina Center, now known as Colonial Life Arena.

And Clemson announced Monday that James Clements will become the school’s president in January with a salary of $775,000. That’s much more than the $471,213 of outgoing president James Barker.

Yet it’s much less than what Clemson pays offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who draws $1.3 million despite producing only three touchdowns in his two games against USC.

Of course, sports’ woes aren’t confined to the Tigers’ four-game football losing streak against the Gamecocks and the reckless pursuit of filthy lucre on both the pro and “amateur” levels.

The Miami Dolphins’ “bullying” drama transcends athletics, sparking debate about workplace harassment.

Squared-circle lessons

Before assuming that only football has that particular problem, ponder the blatant bullying that persists in professional wrestling.

Last summer at the North Charleston Coliseum, during World Wrestling Entertainment’s “Monday Night Raw,” we South Carolinians were subjected to cruel ridicule about the way we sound.

Ricardo Rodriguez, who was then the ring announcer for Alberto del Rio, mocked our accents. Later that night, Rodriguez interfered from ringside by conking Chris Jericho, aka “Y2J,” on the head with a metal bucket.

A month or so later, though, Rodriguez became a good guy.

But The Shield and the Wyatt Family were up to no good this week on the “Raw” telecast from Manchester, England, as they ganged up for a six-on-two beatdown of C.M. Punk and Daniel Bryan.

The Rhodes Brothers (Cody and Goldust) and the Usos (Samoans Jimmy and Jey) came to the timely rescue.

And good-guy Punk stooped to unfair play earlier when he pushed his ex-manager Paul Heyman out of a wheelchair and pounded him with a kendo stick — as the crowd roared its approval.

Hey, in rasslin’ as in politics as in life, self-interest drives erratic conduct, shifting alliances and unpredictable outcomes.

For instance, who knew in 1997 that the Braves and Cobb County would gang up against Turner Field in 2013?



Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.

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