Georgia St buys Turner Field, plans to convert to football

ATLANTA (AP) Georgia State received approval Wednesday to purchase Turner Field for $22.8 million, clearing the way to convert the former home of the Atlanta Braves into a downsized college football stadium.

The Panthers, members of the Sun Belt Conference, plan to move into the stadium next season after playing at the much larger Georgia Dome since the program was launched in 2010.

The 68-acre site was sold in August to the Georgia State Foundation. The Board of Regents gave the go-ahead for the university to purchase 38 acres that includes the stadium and an adjacent parking lot where a baseball field will be constructed on roughly the old footprint of Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium, the Braves' home before Turner Field.

The remainder of the site will be sold and leased to Georgia State's development partner, Carter and Associates. The company plans a $300 million development that includes private housing, retail space and corporate facilities around the stadium.

The Atlanta Braves played at 50,000-seat Turner Field for 20 seasons. They are moving to a new suburban facility, SunTrust Park, in 2017.

Turner Field initially opened as Centennial Olympic Stadium, seating some 83,000 and serving as the centerpiece of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games.

Georgia State plans to convert Turner Field into a 23,000-seat football stadium, with the ability to add another 10,000 seats in the future. It will spend some $26 million for the conversion, which also includes new locker rooms and football offices. It will be begin shortly after the university takes control of the property on Jan. 1.

''We are excited to begin the next phase of this transformational project for the university and the city,'' Georgia State President Mark P. Becker said. ''It is rewarding to see our vision begin to take shape.''

The school plans to fund the project with proceeds from its bookstore, parking operations, housing and other sources, as well as private fundraising. Officials said no taxpayer dollars or new student fees would be used.

Georgia State has moved aggressively to expand its main downtown campus, which is located about a mile north of Turner Field. This will be the biggest addition yet, with the repurposed stadium also housing academic programs, administrative space and hospitality facilities.

''Acquiring the former Turner Field site presents a unique opportunity for Georgia State University that will help its athletics program continue to grow and positively impact the surrounding area,'' Chancellor Hank Huckaby said.

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More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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