Traffic and economics are the biggest hurdles to Braves' success
by Leo Hohmann and Nikki Wiley
November 12, 2013 09:00 AM | 14785 views | 23 23 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Cobb’s elected leaders gushed with praise for Monday’s announcement that the Atlanta Braves plan to move into a new baseball stadium that will be built near the Cumberland Mall and Galleria Centre by 2017.

The decision to abandon Turner Field near downtown Atlanta in favor of a new $672 million site in the northwest quadrant of Interstates 75 and 285 was made in quiet conversations between Braves executives and Cobb Chairman Tim Lee.

Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the area, said he only found out about the negotiations “about a week ago” but feels it’s a good deal for the county and its taxpayers.

“I think it’s going to move the Cumberland area in the direction that they’ve been trying to go for a long time,” Ott said. “Looking at the numbers I think it’s an overall positive for Cobb County and a big economic boost.”

The new ball park falls within the boundaries of the Cumberland Community Improvement District, a self-taxing area that uses its revenue for infrastructure improvements.

Ott said 99 percent of county taxpayers should not expect to see any tax increase tied to the stadium project.

“The businesses around there are going to be footing the bill,” he said.

 Big boost for hotels

Ott said he would sacrifice his principles as a fiscal conservative even for a glitzy relocation like the Atlanta Braves.

“I didn’t go off on some wild goose chase here. I’m comfortable with the numbers and I think myself and the other commissioners have tried real hard to be good fiscal stewards of the money and not going off in some wild direction here,” he said. “And I think people should reserve their judgment until after the numbers are released.”

Ott said the project would generate about 400,000 new hotel stays per year.

“That’s going to be an impact in itself,” he said.

Neither the commissioners nor the Braves executives would say Monday where the financing for the project would come from.

At this point, they are focusing on the economic impact.

What Ott said puts the project over the top for him is that it’s more than just a stadium.

“The Braves want to build something that’s 24/7, 365-days-a-year where there’s stuff to do,” Ott said.

 Ott hearing about traffic concerns

With 60 acres of wooded land being converted into an intensely developed entertainment district, the impact on the county’s tax rolls would be huge, said Ott.

“A lot of people didn’t realize there was that much land out there,” Ott said. “Sixty acres is a massive mixed-use development, and that’s what it’s supposed to be in Cumberland.”

Ott said he was already hearing from his constituents on Monday. He said his email inbox was flooded and his cellphone was lighting up.

“I think the biggest concern people have is traffic,” he said. “But there are $580 million of transportation projects coming on line in that area in the next 10 years, where you have the diamond interchange and you have the reversible lanes. So there’s some good plans out there to address those concerns.

“I just think it’s going to lift everybody up out in that area. I think overall it will be a positive. It’s just sudden, new, and huge.”

Birrell, Goreham on board

The Braves hope to have the stadium completed by opening day in 2017.

It will provide a “massive boost” to Cobb’s travel and tourism industry, said Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents northeast Cobb.

Northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham agrees.

“I believe we’re going to see an uptick in tourism dollars from the standpoint of hotel nights to shopping in our stores to visiting venues such as the Southern Museum of History up in Kennesaw,” Goreham said.

She said other sites across the county, such as Six Flags over Georgia, would also benefit from Cobb having such a large new destination.

Mayors of Cobb’s two largest cities say they are also expecting to feel an impact.

“There’s going to be not only a positive economic impact for Smyrna, but it’s going to be all around,” said Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon.

He called it “all positive” and said any community would be “envious.”

Good news for Franklin Road bond?

It’s particularly exciting news for Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin, who is coming off a win at the ballot box after the city’s voters approved a $68 million redevelopment bond targeting the Franklin Road area – just a few miles away from what could become the future home of the Braves.

He said the plan for the new stadium represents “dynamite” news for the redevelopment project.

The bond allows the city to purchase and raze aging apartment complexes on Franklin Road and market them to developers who will revitalize the area. Plans for a new Braves stadium also put the hotels along Franklin Road in Tumlin’s crosshairs.

He says a new stadium would only drive growth onFranklin Road.

 “This ought to be a golden stretch between (U.S.) 41 and I-75 and this just consummates it,” Tumlin said of Franklin Road.

Tumlin said he was told of the news by Lee, who headed discussions with the team, “four or five days ago” but wasn’t expecting the announcement so soon.

“As a kid who grew up in Marietta and Major League Baseball was something that happened a million miles away … to have a Major League team four or five miles away from your house is just amazing,” Tumlin said.

‘Nothing to do at night’ is about to change

Tad Leithead, chairman of the Cumberland CID, said he, too, was surprised by the announcement.

“Heck, I think it’s the most exciting economic development and real estate development that we’ve seen here in Atlanta since Atlantic Station,” Leithead said. “It’s huge.”

He thinks it’s going to play a role in growing the district and bringing in more full-time residents who want to live near the new ball park.

“One of the reasons that we have less residential in the CID than we’d like is because we have nothing for them to do at night,” Leithead said. “This is going to create the kind of environment where they can live and work right here in Cobb County and have access to some kind of upscale restaurant venues … they’ve had to travel to get.”

Solving traffic problems

Like other public officials, Joe Dendy, the chairman of the Cobb Republican Party, sang the praises of local leaders, but said their work is far from done.

“I congratulate our county leaders who were instrumental in bringing the franchise to Cobb and were able to avoid the public ping pong game the Falcons franchise recently experienced with the city of Atlanta,” Dendy said. “I think this was a total surprise to most people.”

Figuring out the transportation issues for the stadium will go a long way toward gaining the public’s confidence, he said.

“The majority who attend Braves games travel by car, so there's going to be much concern about the traffic flow around the newly selected site off Windy Hill Road. I certainly hope the county and state transportation departments, in conjunction with the Cumberland CID, are up to the task of ensuring that problem is solved before opening day,” Dendy said. “The area is already a nightmare for most commuters with possible solutions being batted around for years; so I hope this announcement will give impetus to finding the right solution for the citizens of Cobb. It is absolutely necessary the solution is all about moving cars in and around Cobb and surrounding counties from our north and east where most Braves fans travel from, and not moving people into Cobb by rail from Atlanta.”

Dendy said the other important part of the formula is for the citizens of Cobb not to experience any kind of tax increase.

“The influx of people into the county for the games should provide the revenue needed to make this a successful venture,” he said.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
November 13, 2013
Everyone in Atlanta complains about traffic but nobody wants to anti-up to fix it. That is the crutch of our traffic problems.
MLB studio flextime
November 13, 2013
People are saying if you work in the Cumberland CID area but for some unimaginable reason you just don't want to sit in extra baseball traffic after work 80 days per year, that you should look at working flex time so you can avoid it.

That would be tens of thousands of people having to flex their time to accommodate what, 50 millionaire Braves employees and the billionaire MLB Studios franchise owners?

How about instead, these athletic-entertainers and MLB studio franchise owners be the ones who choose flex time? They could start their games at noon. If you want to go, you take a half day off work. If you don't want anything to do with it, you don't look out the window during work, and by the time work is done, they should all be gone like they are all gone from Turner field and they were all gone from Atlanta Fulton County stadium and the Dome and like they will be gone from the New Dome too.

Oh, but the TV schedule, you say? They can't flex their schedule to noon because the TV schedule is what really matters? After all, that's why the stadium size keeps downsizing: Because an MLB Studios game is just a live TV show with an audience, except that the audience pays to be there instead of being paid as extras for being there!

Well since this is just a big television show, how about the go build MLB studios on the south side, film it there, and blue screen in an audience. Honestly you may as well make the players digital too and the outcome a function of statistics plus some randomization. That would cost a lot less but be more interesting in that the technology might be a curiosity.

If MLB Studios filmed their "games" in their own studio, and the audience members were paid extras rather than paying fools, then MLB studios could film any time of day and broadcast whenever they want, as the paid extras would have to keep their mouths shut about the outcome of today's episode.

MLB Studios could even do like the other game shows (Jeopardy, Price is Right, etc) and film 5 or more shows in one sitting. Think of the profit margin on that!!!
Mike Limes
November 12, 2013
Goreham is always good for a laugh-Folks are going to visit the southern museum because of the ballpark. Doubt it. Stop reading the chambers speaking points. Cobb is not a tourist destination.
C'Mon Man
November 12, 2013
Complain, complain, complain.

Traffic, traffic, traffic.

Ever go to a Braves game at Turner Field?

Miles away from the highway on and off ramps. Maze of hard to navigate one way streets.

It's a nightmare.

At least in Cobb there are major roads like 41 and Windy Hill where you can build diverging diamond intersections to speed up flow and eliminate left turns against traffic.

And dear GOD NO, we don't need rail. Nobody rides Marta now. They won't spend 2 or 3 BILLION dollars building something nobody will ride. Heck, you'd have to drive to a station anyway so it's not taking cars off the road.

Besides, they said it would take over 10 years to build a rail up 75.

2017 is only 4 years away. Include schedule slippage and it would still be a decade AFTER the stadium was open before any rail was completed.

How about this.

If you're worried about 7pm traffic on game days, talk to your boss about flex hours or working from home, or car pooling, or riding the bus to reduce cars on the road.

Don't just complain, help.
November 12, 2013
Frankly, I really don't care about the traffic problems in and around Turner Field. I don't live there. Your argument is flawed in that you are expecting the citizens of Cobb not to complain about adopting a problem that is not theirs to fix. It's not about adding rail - it's about whether it is feasible, given the existing traffic problems, to add a stadium to the proposed area. Adding the planned diverging diamonds will help the traffic problems already plaguing the area. Whether it will be enough to also handle game traffic remains to be seen - not that the Cobb County commissioners will bother with any careful studies before approving this deal. The DOT heard nothing about it prior to yesterday's announcement. Main issue for me - no public input on this huge commitment for the community. And whether public financing of sports facilities really pans out favorably for the taxpayers in the long run - the research indicates that it does not.
miles away?
November 13, 2013
Turner field is miles away from the freeway ramps? Actually no the old stadium parking lot is adjacent to the freeway ramps. One freeway is a city block from the stadium. The other freeway is about 4 blocks. Turner field is at the intersection of I-75 and I-85 and I-20, so it's got three freeways accessing it. It's also only about 6 blocks from the GSU marta train station.

The MLB Studio's Braves Franchise is selling this move as improved traffic/access because they KNOW the people around Cobb think the only freeways are I-575, I-75 and I-285, and have no clue that Turner field is on I-85 and I-20 in addition to being on I-75 and Marta rail (assuming you are not too lazy to walk 6 blocks as people will do in cities but not suburbs).

People don't ride Marta now? You don't even know about I-20 or I-85, and we should take you as an authority of Marta ridership? Please!
November 15, 2013
Certainly, this move will benefit the Braves fans living in Cobb County... And that is what our government is all about... making life easier for a handful of baseball fans 81 days a year.

But it is going to make life a lot harder for Braves fans living in Dunwoody, North Fulton, Buckhead, Gwinnett, Decatur, and South Atlanta.

But MOST IMPORTANTLY, it is going to make life FAR MORE DIFFICULT for ALL commuters who are forced to use I75 and I285 during rush hour on a game day.

And after a season of Grid Lock, people will say... "Oh, east Cobb, nice area, but I wouldn't want to live with all that Braves Traffic..."
November 12, 2013
I am speechless that our elected officials expect the citizens of Cobb County to jump right on board with an enormous project such as this, the financial details of which have not yet been released. Not that it matters whether we jump on board, since it's already a done deal in their minds with no public input whatsoever. This is leadership? And among conservatives, since when is taxing businesses good for the economy? I guess only when the rich sports teams come a-courting. The unfulfilled economic promises of publicly-funded sports facilities are well documented. Oh, but this time will be different, right? Just how gullible are the citizens and elected officials of Cobb County?
Steve Wiz
November 12, 2013
A viable and realistic plan to handle the incremental traffic during rush hour is absolutely essential. The north side of the perimeter is an absolute nightmare already. I live near Marietta Square and my first thought when hearing the news this morning was, "well, that gives me two years to move".

I'm all for economic growth but adequate care needs to be paid to solving the traffic problem, both on the highways and in the surrounding local roads.

By the way, a couple of "diverging diamond" interchanges isn't going to be a sufficient solution. Ask anyone who lives or works near the Ashford-Dunwoody Road/285 interchange, as I do.

And how wonderful will the drive north be once they add the 75 HOV lanes AND the stadium?

I sure hope all of these questions are answered before the inevitable bond vote... and even if that should not be necessary, I expect the elected Cobb officials to give the legitimate concerns of their constituents an appropriate hearing.
November 15, 2013
This is so true... The currently planned road projects were designed to improve the already bad traffic congestion, not to accommodate Braves game day traffic. It would have been nice to enjoy a few years of reduced traffic during rush hour before "growth" overtakes the improvements.

This is a knee jerk reaction by the Braves and Cobb county, when talks with the city broke down. There has been no planning. There has been no impact analysis on traffic, businesses, neighboring communities. Nothing, just a hey we got 60 vacant acres and $300 million, come on down to Cobb County.

If they Braves are serious about relocating, they should sign a short term extension with Turner field, and really analyze and study the possibilities. The stadium and mixed use development are just ideas in someone's head, there are no plans, no renderings, no blue prints. This will result in a less then optimum development, and a lot of unintended consequences. $700 million projects should not be undertaken on a whim.

But what I suspect is going on is the soulless corporate owner of the Braves, Liberty Media, is going to pump up the franchise value with a publicly subsidized stadium, and dump it on a new owner who will be left with all of the resulting problems to deal with.

If we cannot stop this move, we at least need to SLOW IT DOWN!!!!
Jon Lester
November 12, 2013
Joe Dendy got a little careless there, I think, revealing his real reason for opposing light rail.
Wally World
November 12, 2013
Needs to work on his code words. Also, yay - more cars! I work in the area and it's already awful at rush hr.
November 12, 2013
"Ott said 99 percent of county taxpayers should not expect to see any tax increase tied to the stadium project.

'The businesses around there are going to be footing the bill,' he said."

How is that possible? How are businesses within the Cumberland Community Improvement District going to foot the bill for close to half a billion dollars?

Keep your eye on the ball. All Ott talks about is how great it's going to be economically. Don't get suckered like Hamilton County, OH taxpayers who are still paying for their stadiums in Cincinnati.
Lib in Cobb
November 12, 2013
This is already sounding like a game of Three Card Monte. Oh no, the tax payers won't feel a thing. I don't appreciate sports all that much, especially when it comes to a business asking the taxpayer to pay for a new home office. I will make a bet that we will feel it. This is much like the Olympics in any city or country, the Olympics have never turned out to be a windfall for the host. The pols who arranged this deal are going to stick us with the tab, a very big tab. Of course the same men and women who arranged this will get jobs out of it when they join the non re-elected.
Lib in Cobb
November 12, 2013
The cost over runs are already piling up.
November 12, 2013
I like the economic boost, but wonder how we pay for 450 million. Our school is undergoing series of budget cuts. I wish the commissioners of financing can come out a way to avoid school budget cut.

Also Windy Hill is a famous traffic bottle neck. I hope they put more planning on traffic, too.

Train..... WHEN?
November 12, 2013
How soon is "NOW" for getting a commuter train that will serve this stadium and Cobb Energy Center from the South AND from the North?

Metro man of decade!
November 11, 2013
I am glad Tim Lee was there when the Braves were looking. I think Mr. Savage and Byrne would have turned the team down had either been elected. Just shows how smart the voters in Cobb County are. Thanks Mr. Lee, you are the man of the year if not the decade here in Metro Atlanta. Keep up the great work and Go Braves!!
Wally World
November 12, 2013
A $450M corporate welfare donation done in secret?
Tim Lee is the "man"
November 13, 2013
I agree, Chairman Lee is the "man." Nobody else in Cobb county could have pulled off this miracle. This is bigger than the Olympics to Cobb since it is a guaranteed deal for at least 30 years not two weeks. And I get it there are many naysayres but given the location and the fan interest this will absolutely be a win win and major business engine in Cobb.
Traffic jam
November 11, 2013
Can you imagine what traffic will be like when games are during the week at 7:00pm? A total grid lock on 75S and 75N right at rush hour. Wow....apparently none of the commissioners drive in traffic on 75! NO WAY
November 12, 2013
Those of us who work in Atlanta will all buy mopeds which we will ride between the perimeter and midtown...zipping between the gridlocked cars. This is a nightmare for Cobb.
November 15, 2013
Yes, and all those Cobb County commuters will quietly rage in their vehicles, and direct their rage directly at the Braves and the Cobb County Commissioners who allowed this to happen.

This move might make the Braves one of the least popular MLB teams in their own home town.

If I wanted to live 10 minutes from the Braves stadium, I would be living downtown.
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