The commission will be asked to approve a series of agreements between the county, the Braves and the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority on Tuesday that will govern construction and operation of the stadium, funding for the project, how ongoing maintenance costs will be paid and a guarantee the Braves will use the stadium for the next 30 years.
“They have made their commitment,” Schuerholz said. “They have been wonderful partners for us.”
About 100 people listened to Schuerholz’s comments inside the Commerce Club in Atlanta.
The stadium is estimated to cost $672 million, while the mixed-use development is pegged at $400 million.
Lisa Cupid, a south Cobb commissioner who voted against the memorandum of understanding between the county and Braves last November, said in an interview she expects Tuesday’s vote to pass, too.
“Four out of five commissioners are in support of the framework for how this moves forward,” she said. “Right now, my vote will be based on my assessment of the documents that are going to be finalized on Tuesday.”
Cupid indicated she will likely vote for the agreement herself unless a “glaring issue” comes up.
“What would I have to gain at this point?” she said about a “no” vote. “What would the county or constituents have to gain at this point without there being support to do things differently? We’ve already laid the framework. I don’t see the true benefit of me voting in opposition.”
Concerns about traffic, construction
The planned new Braves stadium in Cobb also won’t be a repeat of the organization’s minor league stadium in Gwinnett County, Schuerholz said.
“That was finished right when the economy bellied out,” said Schuerholz. “It was disappointing.”
Schuerholz was asked about the Gwinnett Braves’ Coolray Field in Lawrenceville, which was supposed to open with its own mixed-use development that, for the most part, hasn’t materialized.
The stadium, which opened in 2009, fell victim to the Great Recession, Schuerholz said, leading to the lack of development. He conceded the team can’t know if or when another recession will hit, but said the team is much better prepared this time around.
The architecture firm selected by the Braves, Populous, designed nine of the last 10 stadiums to open in Major League Baseball.
But none of those teams have been able to open a mixed-use development at the same time as their stadium. Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, opened in 2006, but is only now seeing a planned mixed-use development come to fruition.
Schuerholz said he is confident the Braves will be the first to open both at once. He talked about how there will be no phases to the project, with all construction finished and opening on the same day, three years from now.
“This is a very aggressive timeline,” Schuerholz said.
He also hinted at features of the Braves mixed-use development, naming in particular microbreweries and a water feature, though he did not elaborate on either.
“We want this project to represent who we are,” Schuerholz said.
Traffic, a top concern regarding the new stadium, was brought up again.
The new stadium, Schuerholz said, has 14 separate access points, ranging from Spring Road to Windy Hill Road, Interstate 75, Interstate 285 and Cobb Parkway. He said that by contrast, Turner Field only has one access point — Hank Aaron Drive — through which traffic forms a funnel prior to each game.
A second point Schuerholz made about traffic is the planned mixed-use development of bars, restaurants, hotels and residential space will help diversify traffic patterns around the stadium. He said some fans will come early to the games to spend time in the development prior to the first pitch or they will stay after the game ends. This should spread the flow of traffic to help ease congestion.
Schuerholz thanked Cobb Department of Transportation Director Faye DiMassimo during the appearance, calling her an “amazing woman.”
Citing Cobb County’s strong school system and the traffic investments made by area leaders for decades, Schuerholz said he sees the stadium as one more point of strength for the county and the region as a whole.
The new stadium will seat 41,500, thousands less than the 49,586-seat Turner Field, where the team has played since 1997.
He said a construction management team and a developer should be named soon.
Schuerholz also addressed complaints arising over the stadium project. Schuerholz said “those things happen in big projects” and assured the crowd the stadium and development will open on time in April 2017.
A few questioners asked about baseball. Among his responses, Schuerholz predicted the designated hitter will never be removed from professional baseball. Schuerholz also said Major League Baseball could add new teams.
He said the Braves’ current first-place standing in the National League East is a testament to the team’s continued success.
Schuerholz was general manager of the Kansas City Royals for nine years prior to taking the same role with the Braves in 1990. In 2007, he was promoted from general manager to president of the Braves, a role in which he still serves. His son, Jonathan Schuerholz, is manager of the Rome Braves, a farm team for Atlanta.
Among those in the crowd was Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon.
Bacon has met Schuerholz two or three times and said he enjoyed the speech. Regarding traffic through Smyrna on game days, he expressed confidence in the Cobb DOT.
“I think you’ll have more issues down Spring Road, but at the intersection (with Highway 41) where you’ve always had a lot of traffic issues,” Bacon said. “They will have it figured out. Even with the traffic, I’d rather go to the end of Spring Road than go downtown (to Atlanta). When you go to the new stadium you won’t have to just go see the ballgame. You can stay if you want and do other things. I think it’ll be excellent.”