Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Cocktails at Azar's

I'll be making my first visit of the season to the Ted tonight, where the game-day atmosphere has no rival.

I've been to Wrigley, Fenway -- even old Comiskey Park -- yet nothing tops the environment on Hank Aaron Drive.

Al Kosa and I will start with dinner at the upscale Chinese eatery, Fuhwah, on historic Georgia Ave. Then, a quick trip across the street to the deck at Azar's, where we'll commiserate with scores of other Braves fans. Only baseball spoken there. And then ...

If you know of what and where I'm talking about, I assume you've detected the sarcasm by now. Remember when our city fathers (and mothers) touted a revitalization of the neighborhood around the Ted, post-Olympics? To be fair, they did leave us with that hideous metal contraption next to I-20 where the flame once burned (along with a deserted mini-golf course, a boondoggle if ever there was one).

It would seem there's money to be made from such a venture, but apparently no desire. Perhaps a new owner will recognize that refurbishing the area around the stadium might bring more fans downtown.

Think what it would be like had the city chosen to keep baseball on Ponce de Leon Ave., where the Atlanta Crackers played before major league ball ventured south?

We'd have our own Wrigley, or Fenway. A true neighborhood ballpark. Now the former home of Ponce de Leon Park is a mini-mall, marked by a solitary magnolia tree that once sat in center field. Whole Foods is nice, but nothing beats baseball in a vintage venue.

You can't blame Ivan Allen (then the city's mayor, and one of the leading champions of a "New South") for that. The old cookie-cutter model was the rage back then, and building Fulton County Stadium helped bring the Falcons to town.

Of course, I'm sure PdP Park would've been demolished by now, a common fate in the City Never Too Busy to Tear Down History.

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