Joshua Mabry, Campus Carrier Sports Editor
The Atlanta Braves and Floyd County officials met on Feb. 7 to approve a five-year lease extension for the Rome Braves. This will keep the Single-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves at State Mutual Stadium in Rome through at least the 2025 season, according to Jim Bishop, vice president and general manager of the Rome Braves.
The original 18-year lease that brought the team to Rome from Macon runs through the 2020 season. Bishop said that with the next two seasons on the original contract and the lease extension, minor league baseball will be played in Rome for at least the next seven years.
Past this, there is a possible five-year extension option that will keep the Rome Braves in Rome through the 2030 season if it is picked up by the Atlanta Braves and the county once the 2025 season is over.
Bishop, who has been in the Braves organization since 1992, has been the vice president and general manager of the Rome Braves since October 2017. He said that he is very excited about the lease extension.
“Rome is Braves country and our fan base is phenomenal here,” Bishop said. “The facility is beautiful and a great place for players to develop.”
The fan base in Rome is really special, according to Bishop. The fans in Rome enjoy talking about statistics and care a lot about the players, he said.
“Being in a community that is passionate about the club and the ballpark is awesome,” Bishop said.
Bishop said something he is looking forward to with the new contract extension is renovations to the ballpark.
Currently, there are some minor changes happening in preparation for Opening Day this year, but major renovations are scheduled ahead of the 2020 season that will enhance the fan experience, according to Bishop.
The renovations scheduled ahead of the 2020 season will be funded in part through the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) that Floyd County voters approved in November 2017. The Braves said that they will match funds provided through the SPLOST to provide additional renovations.
Bishop said that he would like to see more development around the ballpark in the years to come as a result of the contract extension He said that development is only beneficial for the ballpark.
“We will be good stewards with those folks and we will feed into each other,” Bishop said. “New development and growth around the ballpark will only help the team and the stadium continue to develop.”
Lumina Coffee Co. and the RiverPoint Luxury Apartments are the two most recent additions to the ballpark area.
Scotty Hancock, post five Floyd County commissioner, said that the contract extension between the Braves and Floyd County is only valuable for the community.
“The Rome Braves help stimulate the economy by bringing out of town visitors to the stadium to watch the games,” Hancock said. “It also helps improve the quality of life, which is important to industrial recruitment.”
Like Bishop, Hancock said that he would like to see development continue around the stadium as well.
Hancock said that he would specifically like to see a hotel around the ballpark because there is a hotel shortage in Rome. A new hotel would be beneficial for more than just the stadium, according to Hancock.
“We need a quality hotel that would benefit visitors to Berry College as well as the rest of our community,” Hancock said.
Hancock said that he would also like to see additional college and high school tournaments take place at the stadium.
“These are huge draws to our community,” Hancock said. “We’ve hosted several high school state playoffs and championships at the stadium and they always draw a good crowd.”
Hancock said that Rome is privileged to have the Braves because they are a class act. He said that the Braves give people something to do for a cheap price.
“While you are there you can watch quality baseball with future major leaguers playing,” Hancock said.
Blake Childers, director of sports information and promotions at Berry, worked for the Rome Braves in the press box when he was a student at Berry.
He said that he is really excited about the contract extension for both the Braves’ sake and personal reasons.
There being two colleges in Rome and a ton of local support make it a no brainer for both the Braves and county to extend their contract.
Childers said that he always had families tell him when he worked for the Rome Braves that they would prefer to bring their family to the Rome Braves over the Atlanta Braves.
“You pay less; you don’t have to deal with traffic and you get great baseball,” Childers said.
Childers is looking forward to seeing what the Rome Braves do off the field as a result of the contract extension.
“Everybody knows that the Braves have a great farm system,” Childers said. “There’s going to be great baseball played there. But I’m really excited to see what they’re going to do in Rome in general to help make the community better.”
The Miracle Field, a field made of latex-free rubber for special needs individuals, was added during Childers’ time with the Braves. He said this was amazing because it allows the community to interact with baseball.
“It gives those guys who are first-round draft picks in Major League Baseball, when they get to their first stop in Rome, people get to interact with them in a different way,” Childers said.
The Rome Braves will begin their seventeenth season on the road on April 4 against the Kannapolis Intimidators, Single-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
The team will start the home season on April 11 against the Greenville Drive, Single-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. First pitch will be at 7 p.m.