The vote cleared the way for the Braves to leave Turner Field in Atlanta and move into a $672 million, 41,500-seat stadium to be built at the I-75/I-285 intersection in Cobb County in time for Opening Day of the 2017 season. The stadium will be part of a sprawling mixed-used development to be built by the Braves that ultimately will generate millions in new sales and property tax revenues each year for the county and its school system.
“The Atlanta Braves intend to invest close to $1 billion over the next four years and employ several thousand people in the process and bring what is certain to be one of the most economic boosts in the arm of Cobb County in recent history,” declared Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee at the meeting.
Indeed, it was hard to tell whether Cobb was more excited to woo the Braves here or whether the Braves were more excited to finally be leaving downtown Atlanta’s problems behind. But either way, it’s a match that should pay big dividends for both parties for decades to come.
“This is a most significant and historic day for our franchise,” Braves president John Schuerholz said after the meeting. “This gold standard franchise has joined with a gold standard county as we plan our future together.”
Galleria-area attorney Ben Mathis of Marietta, the incoming chairman of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, called the Braves’ move “a game-changer” that will have “an unbelievably positive impact on Cobb County.”
Mathis noted that building cranes once were ubiquitous in the Cumberland/Galleria area, but said it’s now been more than a decade since any major construction has taken place in that area. And while that part of the county is home to numerous blue-chip legal and accounting and similar-type offices, they are not the kind of businesses that excite people and businesses to move to Cobb in the way that the Braves will, he said.
As readers know, Cobb’s support for the Braves’ move was not popular in some quarters. Some objected on philosophical grounds to using tax dollars to help underwrite a stadium for a prosperous sports franchise, and some objected to the short timetable involved, saying more time was needed to examine the deal. Yet many making those arguments clearly were hoping to find a “smoking gun” of some sort that would kill the move. And there’s no question that foot-dragging on Cobb’s part would have sent Atlanta, Fulton, Gwinnett and probably other communities scrambling to put counter-offers under the nose of Schuerholz.
If Cobb were run like Fulton or Atlanta or Gwinnett or many of those other communities, there would have been much more reason to hit the brakes or go slow on the deal. Yet despite what many who should know better have been insinuating in recent weeks, Cobb County, for several generations now, has been one of the best-run counties in Georgia — and arguably the best run. Our property taxes have been among the lowest in the metro area and there hasn’t been a major political scandal here in memory.
Past leaders have set a very high bar for the present generation, and together, they have earned Cobb a reputation as a place that “gets the job done and done right.”
Schuerholz was not exaggerating when he called Cobb “a gold standard county.”
There is every reason to expect that the Braves deal will go down in history as a turning point in Cobb’s economic history, every bit as much as the opening of the Bell/Lockheed plant in 1943, the construction of Kennesaw State and Southern Polytechnic State Universities in the 1960s, the laying of sewer trunk lines through rural east Cobb in the early 1970s and the opening of I-75 in the mid-1970s.
We’re confident that the Braves stadium complex will open on time and on budget and will produce the bounty of tax revenues being predicted. We’re also confident it will be well run, much safer and far more convenient for local fans to visit than past Braves stadiums.
And as the county hammers out further contract negotiations with the Braves, we would encourage Lee to continue to ensure that the process is as transparent as possible and thereby continue to build support from the public.
This deal is a winner for the Braves — and much more important, a winner for Cobb County.