Truett’s Chick-fil-A Sports
Truett’s Chick-fli-A, 264 Shorter Ave., 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Drive-through and Door Dash.
Mount Berry Mall, 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. (curbside, carryout, Door Dash). Shipping Container, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. All Monday-Saturday.
By Natalie Simms
This Tuesday, June 23 was to be a big day for the Rome Braves and the Rome-Floyd County community as State Mutual Stadium was to host the South Atlantic League All-Star game. But the coronavirus pandemic changed all that and the loss of the 2020 Minor League Baseball season has dealt a blow to not only players and fans, but the community and hospitality industry alike.
“As with any long-term event/season of a community partner, by not having them (Rome Braves) in the community, as we are all accustomed to is devastating on multiple levels,” says Lisa Smith, director of Georgia’s Rome Office of Tourism.
“For their staff, who looks forward to every season with anticipation and to get back to work and see familiar faces…for the players discovering a new home in Rome and the fans who come year after year.
“Of course, for the Tourism Office, we miss the ability to host a group at the stadium; the contracted hotel rooms that are not here from the visiting teams’ use; and visitors to our city who impact us in the hospitality industry by coming to Rome and Floyd County. There are many reasons their absence saddens us as a staff, for the community, teams and the fans. They are a summer rite of passage. We cannot wait to get back to business!”
While the season has not officially been canceled in its entirety, it is more than halfway over, and it looks doubtful minor league players will be able to get back on the field before September as the pandemic continues.
“During this unprecedented time, we remain patient on news about our season. We look forward to communicating the plan once a decision has been made,” says David Cross, the new general manager for the Rome Braves who took over in January.
Jamie McCord, Floyd County Manager, agrees the potential loss of the entire season has been a big hit to the community.
“From a quality of life standpoint, it is a great loss for the community not to have minor league baseball up to this point,” he says. “Financially the loss of the part time jobs is a big hit to the community. They produce approximately 2500 hotel stays and employ 175 part-time employees during the season.
“Security is provided by local law enforcement as second job opportunities also lost. Multiple charitable groups such as school band boosters and other non-profits work concessions and those fundraising opportunities have been lost to this point.”
Neither McCord nor Braves officials have any estimate on the financial loss of tickets and sales tax from the season. McCord says 75% of online tickets are from outside Floyd County and 12% outside of Georgia and sales tax on concessions and merchandise sold has also been lost.
Local fans have certainly missed cheering on the ‘boys of summer’ at State Mutual Stadium. Rome Commissioner Wendy Davis has been a season ticket holder since the Rome Braves inaugural season in 2003. She considers herself one of the “loudest, loyal and dedicated” of fans.
“Oh, how I miss hollering for our boys! I never knew I could love anything as much as I have loved being a Rome Braves fan,” she says. “There is something very special about gathering with neighbors to watch a game while cheering for these young men who are living out their dreams.
“As much as I miss having baseball to be the fun that balances out the hard work in my life, my heart aches for the players who are losing a critical year in pursuit of their dreams.”
As a commissioner, Davis misses having the games as a showcase of our community.
“Certainly, we will lose the revenues these games produce from an influx of residents and visitors during the season,” she says. “But I think the larger loss is the evenings and afternoons when neighbors won’t be gathering to cheer something together. These is a real sense of community at the stadium, which is exactly what we envisioned when we were asking local voters to approve the stadium SPLOST back in 2001.”
Even without games to play, Braves officials have still been busy at the stadium.
“Like a majority of businesses, ours has been impacted by the pandemic. We have taken this time to work on special projects and non-game events,” says Cross.
“While this hasn’t been the way I imagined it would be when I started in January, we have a great group here and I have enjoyed working with them on planning for this year and beyond. I look forward to working with the city of Rome and Floyd County (and surrounding communities) and the residents for years to come.”
A number of upgrades and renovations have been made at the stadium in the off-season funded through SPLOST, stadium maintenance funds or paid by the Atlanta Braves organization. Those projects funded through the SPLOST include:
- Team store expanded to double the size to allow for more variety of merchandise. The Rome Braves hope to have a grand opening in the near future.
- Safety padding installed on the field including outfield walls and foul territory.
- New LED field lights installed, plus all lighting throughout facility has been replaced with LED fixtures.
Upgrades provided by the Braves organization include:
- New videoboard and press box upgrades
- New sound system
- Clubhouse expansion to add a kitchen and two dining areas to service both Braves and visiting teams. An addition was also added to create an entirely new space for visiting teams.
“We still have plans for renovations to the Terrace that could begin this year,” says McCord. “Other potential improvements include updates to the fan assist area, Gate 6, and Gate 9. We will just have to wait and see if they get back on the field this season or not and adjust accordingly to the schedule and budget going forward.”
As for the SAL All-Star game, it’s unclear if Rome will be able to get a ‘make-up’ game in the future. Cross hopes the game can be rescheduled in Rome in the next few years, however, negotiations are continuing on a Professional Baseball Agreement between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball.
“We are not able to make a call on the All-Star game at this time,” says Eric Krupa with the South Atlantic League. “Negotiations on new scheduling rules between the major and minor leagues are continuing. We may or may not have All-Star games in the future. It’s all up in the air until we get a new agreement in place.”