‘Matchmaker’ Rep. Ehrhart got Braves’ exec, Cobb chairman together, pitched idea of move
by Jon Gillooly
November 12, 2013 12:24 AM | 8738 views | 9 9 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb Chairman Tim Lee said state Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), above, set the plan in motion on the Braves move.<br>Staff/file
Cobb Chairman Tim Lee said state Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), above, set the plan in motion on the Braves move.
Staff/file
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CUMBERLAND — Call him the matchmaker.

Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee said it was state Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) who put him in touch with Atlanta Braves executives in a lunch that ended up in a proposal to move the Braves to Cobb County in 2017, if all goes as planned.

Ehrhart has befriended a number of Braves executives through his involvement in developing Emerson-based LakePoint Sporting Community in Bartow County, which describes itself as the largest sports vacation destination in the world.

“It just came up in a conversation out here,” Ehrhart said. “They asked me if I could introduce them to those in Cobb County. They laid out some very clear metrics for me that most of the population of Braves’ fans are right here in the Cobb County area. Then they showed me the $800 million or so of economic impact that it could have, I’m thinking, wow, this is a wonderful thing for Cobb County.”

Ehrhart said he arranged for Lee to meet with Mike Plant, Braves executive vice president of business operations, at the Marietta Country Club in July.

“We sat and talked for about three hours and Tim and his team put together an awesome deal, I think,” Ehrhart said.

During a press conference in Atlanta on Monday, Plant said following that lunch, “Tim quickly — as Cobb County conducts its business — got the Chamber’s economic development organization involved, and they’ve been the lead organization that we’ve worked with in the last couple of months.”

Lee related what the executives told him at the lunch.

“They said ‘We have a vision for our team for the decades to come. It’s more than just a baseball stadium. Is there anything in Cobb that might fit the bill?’ And we went back and looked and found only one piece of property and they liked it,” Lee said.

Brooks Mathis, executive vice president of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, said the Braves had conducted a study telling them most of their ticket buyers lived in the surrounding area.

“So by doing that, they reached out to us after they saw the demographics and turned it over to us, so we submitted the site to them that they ended up choosing and that’s where it started and how it all came to be,” Mathis said.

Mathis said the address was an important factor in the deal.

“It was very important for them to still have an Atlanta address, which this site does have, so that was a big part, I believe for them is that the acreage was there, it still has an Atlanta address and it was close to the fan base,” Mathis said.

Ehrhart said his one request was that the Braves didn’t use Cobb as a stalking horse to leverage against the city of Atlanta for a better deal.

“They clearly kept their word on that, and I thought that was very sincere of them and the right way to do business,” Ehrhart said.

It turned out to be a successful meeting.

“I’ve always thought the Braves should be in Cobb County, and now they will be. It’s a great day for Cobb,” he said.

Ehrhart said Turner Stadium will be 20 years old by the time the Braves’ lease is up in 2016.

“My personal opinion, I think Arthur Blank sucked up all the money that the city would have had to do anything to fix the stadium that it needed and there just wasn’t anything for them to do so they left the Braves out to dry,” Ehrhart said.

Given Blank’s Falcons play eight games a year compared to the 70 to 80 games a year the Braves play, Ehrhart said, “I prefer baseball on that kind of economics.”

Ehrhart said he read Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s statement that Cobb County had offered $450 million in public support to the Braves, an amount Reed was unwilling to match.

“I know he’s upset, but perhaps he should have done a little bit more to concern himself with a corporate citizen that is worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year in economic development rather than just leaving them out in the cold,” Ehrhart said.

And as for his statement about Cobb pledging $450 million, Ehrhart said, “The only thing I would say since I don’t have any knowledge of exactly what it is I doubt very seriously that Kasim is talking from a set of facts.”

Lee said he will announce the financial piece of the deal next week as the Cobb Board of Commissioners prepares to vote on a memorandum of understanding with the Braves on Nov. 26.

Ehrhart said he can’t think of a better place to take his family for a ballgame than Cobb County, noting Turner Field is not the safest location to visit now.

“Let’s put it this way, if my 6-year-old or whatever at the time was walking around by themselves down there I’d be kind of concerned, wouldn’t you?” Ehrhart said. “Everyplace has its issues, but (Cumberland), that’s a nice safe area and the transportation infrastructure there is great.”

Comments
(9)
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Mimi Rose
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November 14, 2013
Our teachers are being furloughed, are underpaid and have to use too many of their own funds to supplant their supplies. You closed the senior center for Alzheimer patients - sure you opened fancy new centers elsewhere, but ignore those most in need. There are many ways this money could be spent to better lives of the people of Cobb County. We do not need a major league stadium in Cobb County. I was embarrassed to see that you are given credit for this project. And this site is insulting.
Lib in Cobb
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November 13, 2013
SPORTS SOCIALISM! The schools in Cobb are under a load of debt, they can't give teachers a raise, they can't supply the classrooms adequately but they have $450 million for SPORTS SOCIALISM. Each and every repuke in Cobb has called President Obama a socialist but now it is the GOP leadership who are signing onto this version of socialism while they are all glad handing and back slapping each other. If a Democrat had put this deal together the GOP would have had him/her arrested.

$450 million is the beginning number.
Kick back
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November 12, 2013
SO this is who's getting the kickback! Nice money in his pocket while CCSD is falling and people have lost their jobs due to the economy. We have 450 million to drop on a stadium we don't want!
Lib in Cobb
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November 12, 2013
We can always use a little more traffic in Cobb.
ESE
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November 12, 2013
Don't hold back Ehrhart, tell us how you really feel.
do we rly think
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November 12, 2013
Do we really think the stadium's problems won't all follow the stadium? Please! Every problem around Turner field will move with the Braves to Cobb County. Let's face facts: Billionaire's sport teams filled with millionaire athletic entertainers attract $90 criminals and $15 thugs to hang around outside targeting the $35,000/yr fans. On the plus side for the ATL, some of their homeless problems will soon vanish. MUST Ministries will need to move down by Cumberland.
Kasims blunder
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November 12, 2013
Kasim's billion dollar blunder is definitely good news for Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn. The Republican's don't realize this yet, but it's definitely bad news for Deal. Some sort of commuter rail will absolutely be built for this project, state dollars will be used, and it will become known to the public just prior to Georgia's next goobernatorial elections, making all of Cobb's Republican turn on Deal like they turn on all of their elected officials as soon as they have any slighest disagreement. Bye bye Deal! The Braves knocked you out of the park.
zips ur lips
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November 12, 2013
When they ask if they can have your zip code and you honestly tell them YOUR zip code, they come dig up YOUR back yard and build there "for our customers" like the Braves/MLB Inc are doing to Cobb.

No baseball player is going to drive from John's Creek down 400 and around 285 for 7pm baseball games, so watch for a collapse in John's Creek real estate. Where will they move? Vinings? Probably. Marietta? Could be. Smyrna? Ha ha ha.
R U Serious?
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November 12, 2013
Zips, For a 7:00pm game the players are the park by 2:00pm.

Traffic will be no worse than downtown for them. Now for those of us from Gwinnett trying to get there by 7, that is a different story
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