That was the bombshell news item out of left field that rocked the metro-Atlanta area Monday morning.
But first the plan must pass muster with the Cobb Board of Commissioners, which will have final say on the contract and is expected to take the matter up for a vote at its Nov. 26 meeting.
Schuerholz announced Monday that his organization had selected Cobb as the site to build a proposed $672 million, 42,000-seat Major League Baseball stadium. He reiterated later in the day, saying he is “100 percent certain” the move will take place.
The Braves franchise, he said, will not extend its lease at Turner Field when it expires at the end of 2016.
“The new stadium, we believe, will be one of the most magnificent ever built,” Schuerholz told reporters on Monday.
The open-air stadium is projected to seat between 41,000 to 42,000, compared to Turner Field, which can seat 49,586.
The franchise is eyeing a 60-acre wooded parcel near the Cumberland Mall. The new 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.
Circle 75 Parkway and Windy Ridge Parkway are the two roads that help form the perimeter of the property.
The stadium would be owned by the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, which also owns the Cobb Galleria Centre and Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
The Braves would develop the remainder of the site into a mixed-use entertainment district containing restaurants, retail shops and possibly hotels.
Naming rights for the stadium are expected to head to the market soon after the vote by commissioners.
Construction on the proposed stadium, if approved, would start in the second half of 2014 and would be completed by opening day 2017.
Lee said the financial details would be spelled out in a “memorandum of understanding” between the county and the Braves organization to be voted on at the Nov. 26 commissioners meeting.
“It’s a public-private partnership that reflects the conservative nature of Cobb County in its execution and it’s anticipated it will be considered a win-win for everyone involved,” Lee said. “I think it will be a high-profile, nationally recognized, quality organization coming to Cobb County, not unlike Home Depot or Lockheed Martin or any of the other world-class organizations that already call Cobb home.”
Lee said he didn’t know where Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed came up with information Cobb had offered $450 million in public support to the Braves.
“I don’t know where he got that number from, but I can neither confirm nor deny,” Lee said. “I don’t know where that number is coming from. I just know what the total cost is and our memorandum of understanding will be coming out hopefully real soon in which we’ll deal with all the finances.”
Reasons for the move
The Braves began looking at where their future home should be in 2005. Turner Field presented a number of challenges. For one, they don’t own the stadium. Since 1997, the Braves spent $125 million on infrastructure improvements, given that the stadium was built for the 1996 Olympic Games. Turner Field now needs about $150 million more in infrastructure improvements.
Worst of all is the traffic, said Mike Plant, the Braves executive vice president of business operations.
“What’s insurmountable is we can’t control traffic which is the No. 1 reason why our fans don’t come to more games,” Plant said. “That over the last decade has grown immensely in the city of Atlanta. We still don’t have mass transit to the stadium. We are underserved by about 5,000 parking spaces. And all of those things contribute to some real challenges to us that we just looking forward didn’t believe they could be overcome.”
Plant pointed to the easy access of I-75, 285 and Cobb Parkway and Gov. Deal’s new reversible lanes that will come online in 2018 as factors that make the new property more desirable.
The Braves also want to expand the “game day experience” around the stadium, giving fans a place to enjoy before and after the game. Yet at Turner Field they are landlocked, which is another reason for the move.
“This energy we’re going to create there, a place that people are going to want to come to before and after the games, including 365 around the year was something really important to us and with our current location we couldn’t control that process,” Plant said.
Schuerholz said the owner of the Braves organization, Liberty Media, is fully on board with the move.
“Their response is that ‘We like this, we give you the green light to go forward’ and we have,” Schuerholz said.
Brooks Mathis, executive vice president of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, said the move will transform Cobb County.
“It’s going to obviously market the county in a tremendous way that we could never do without it,” Mathis said. “Cobb’s now home to the Atlanta Opera, the Atlanta Ballet and now the Atlanta Braves, so I think it shows that Cobb has an entertainment district, sports and recreation and restaurants, and that’s going to complement the performing arts center and all the things there, so I think with tourism already being our largest industry this is going to be incredible in really creating a sense of place, a destination, which I think gives Cobb County some incredible relevance in the region.”