The Authority has agreed to issue $368 million of 30-year revenue bonds, of which the Atlanta Braves’ annual commitments will cover $92 million and the county’s commitment will cover $276 million.
The remainder of the $672 million stadium will be paid for with an upfront cash payment by the Braves of $230 million to $280 million, due by opening day of the 2017 season, as well as a $10 million infusion from the Cumberland CID and $14 million in Cobb Department of Transportation improvements.
All seven members on the authority voted in favor, including county Chairman Tim Lee, Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin, Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon, former county chairman Earl Smith, Authority Chairman Jerry Nix, developers Bob Voyles and Johnny Gresham.
Bacon thanked Lee for his leadership before the vote.
“I know you probably caught a little heat from it, but if it’s too hot in the kitchen, baby, you need to get out,” Bacon said. “I think it’s great for Cobb County, and it’s great for this part of the region, and the last thing I wanted to do is go to a Birmingham Braves game or a Charlotte Braves. I’m excited about it. It’s right in between Smyrna and Marietta, and it’s just God’s country, it couldn’t be any better.”
Tumlin said while his preference has been to finance such deals through general obligation bonds which require a public referendum, financing with revenue bonds was probably the only way the Braves deal would work.
“I don’t think this deal would have worked with a referendum,” Tumlin said. “The private enterprise just couldn’t stand to be in the political arena until the last minute.”
The Braves organization intends to buy a 60-acre wooded parcel off Interstates 75 and 285, where it would move from Turner Field. The proposed stadium would sit on 15 of those 60 acres. The Braves have an option to buy the site from Bethesda, Md.-based B.F. Saul Co.
After purchasing the tract, the Braves would deed the 15-acre footprint for the stadium to the Exhibit Hall Authority. The Exhibit Hall Authority would then enter into an agreement with the Braves, allowing it to build on the site and manage the stadium’s business. The Braves intend to build a $400 million mixed-use development on the remaining 45 acres, set to open with the stadium in 2017. Smith, who chaired the Cobb Board of Commissioners from 1984 to 1988, also applauded the deal.
“In my lifetime, it’s the greatest thing to ever happen to Cobb County,” he said.
Smith urged the Board of Commissioners to ignore detractors and vote in favor of the deal on Tuesday.
Critics, Smith said, “want to kill it outright, so I don’t think just having a referendum is going to do anything other than delay it and cause us the loss of time for this to go forward, and it’s ready to go.”
Authority Chairman Jerry Nix of east Cobb, a retired CFO vice chairman of Genuine Parts Co., said the deal is good for the area’s economy.
“It’s an economic boon for this area, for the region and for the state, frankly, because the Braves would have gone someplace else, but also it helps what we’ve been trying to accomplish here,” Nix said. “You know, we’ve got a lot of empty things out there in that Cobb Galleria area, and it’s going to bring additional people and conventions.”
The seven-member appointed authority was created by the General Assembly in 1980. It governs the Cobb Galleria Centre, Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and Galleria Specialty Shops.