Braves say statue's future should be left to Aaron

Braves say statue's future should be left to Aaron

ATLANTA -- It seemingly should go without saying that a Hank Aaron statue will sit outside of SunTrust Park when the Braves open the new stadium in 2017.

But it's unclear whether the statue will be the same one that has long rested outside of Turner Field and the site of the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, where Aaron played for the Braves from 1966-74.

Ownership of the statue stands as the primary issue surrounding its fate. The Braves believe the statue was primarily financed via donations made by fans. Thus they believe that Aaron should ultimately decide the statue's location.

But the city of Atlanta believes it possesses ownership and thus has the right to block the statue from being moved to the new stadium in Cobb County.

The Braves said they were surprised when Keisha Lance Bottoms, executive director of the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority, said on Wednesday that the two sides had agreed to keep the statue near its current location.

Bottoms' revelation led the Braves to issue this statement:

"We were surprised by the release from Keisha Lance Bottoms as we do not have an agreement regarding the Hank Aaron statue. We believe the statue should be located wherever Hank Aaron would like it to go and we have stated this position to Ms. Bottoms. The Braves organization is committed to respecting his wishes and we are hopeful that Ms. Bottoms has this same position. We are in discussions with Hank, and once he makes his intentions clear to us, we will make the appropriate arrangements. Regardless, we will honor Hank and his legacy with the Braves in a significant way at SunTrust Park. Hank is and will always be a treasure to us and our community."

The statue depicts Aaron's swing when he broke Babe Ruth's homer record by hitting his 715th on April 8, 1974, at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

If Aaron were to decide that the statue should stay near the site of his historic achievement, the Braves would likely begin plans to design another statue that would sit outside SunTrust Park.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.