Braves bring minor league team to Gwinnett

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Atlanta’s professional sports scene in 2007 proved disappointing to fans on many levels. The Braves continued their slide. The Hawks never saw daylight. And the Falcons? Enough said.

But this year is already looking up. The new WNBA franchise opens its season in May and at some point this month is expected to unveil its name and team colors. The Hawks are winning with a regularity I haven’t seen in my nearly 13 years in this town.

And now comes word that the Braves will move their Class AAA affiliate to Gwinnett County, joining the Gwinnett Gladiators, a minor-league affiliate of the Thrashers, and the Georgia Force, the indoor football team that is shifting from Philips Arena back to the suburbs. The semi-pro Atlanta Vision also plays its basketball games at Gwinnett Center.

That’s five pro sports teams, two minor league operations (by 2009), a semi-pro franchise and SEC and ACC sports galore in metro Atlanta. Could sports junkies have it any better?

Adding a Class AAA team to the mix brings a cheap and exciting alternative to the Braves. The best tickets at many minor-league parks go for around $12, parking is less expensive and the crowd is smaller, yet the game is nearly as good. Triple-A teams feature players just one step from the Bigs – jocks that are just as fun to watch but don’t (yet) carry a marquee name.

The Atlanta-Journal Constitution played the story prominently Tuesday after the press conference announcing the move, and again today on its web site and in its print edition. But the Atlanta Business Chronicle first hinted that a minor league team was on its way to Gwinnett on Jan. 11.

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