Play Ball! But first, push for strongest possible deal for taxpayers
November 13, 2013 12:00 AM | 3867 views | 8 8 comments | 52 52 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“America’s Team” is now on the verge of being “Cobb’s Team.” And Cobb will be home not just to The Atlanta Braves, but to the team’s new stadium.

As most readers now know, the Braves announced on Monday that they plan to relocate from Turner Field south of Downtown Atlanta to a $672 million new stadium that will be built on a 60-acre tract just northwest of the I-75/I-285 intersection in the Cumberland/Galleria area of Cobb County.

Braves President John Schuerholz told reporters on Monday he was “100 percent certain” the deal would take place, and indeed Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed threw in the towel on Tuesday.

A key factor behind the move was the Braves’ desire to control the surroundings of the stadium and make it more of a year-round destination. As anyone who’s been to Turner Field knows, that stadium is an island in an ocean of rundown properties. That’s not likely to be the case here, where the stadium will be built in an area that already boasts one of the most dynamic economies in the Southeast.

And while many were quickly critical of the impact the stadium would have on traffic here, we suspect the new facility will nevertheless be easier and quicker to access than Turner Field. Moreover, drivers here are not likely to find themselves snarled in the mega-jams that occur when Braves games coincide with those of the Falcons, Yellow Jackets, Hawks and other downtown teams.

Based on what is known at the moment, it clearly has the potential to be a great deal for Cobb.

That hinges, however, on the release of the financial details behind the move, and specifically what the impact will be on Cobb taxpayers. Chairman Lee has played it close to the vest and has declined to say whether property or sales taxes would be increased. Once the euphoria of the Braves announcement wears off, he might find those such increases a tough sell to county residents, if they aren’t already.

On the other hand, if most or all of Cobb’s share of the deal is to be paid for via the hotel/motel tax or via a revenue bond issue by the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, Lee likely will find the going easier. Revenue bonds could be paid off with funds generated by the stadium complex, although county taxpayers could still be responsible for making up the difference if stadium or other revenues fall short. It’s the same funding mechanism the Authority used to pay for construction of the $47 million Cobb Galleria Centre convention hall nearly two decades ago.

A more likely scenario, though, is that the stadium will more than pay for itself and that its presence will unleash a flood of additional sales and hotel/motel tax revenues.

That said, Lee, the commission and the Exhibit Hall Authority should not let themselves be blinded by the excitement of the moment. Big-league sports teams are notorious for playing one community against another in order to benefit themselves. And there’s no guarantee that even if the Braves move here is finalized, that the Braves won’t start playing hardball against Cobb for a better deal later on.

With that in mind, Lee and the Commission need to negotiate the strongest deal possible up front in order to protect Cobb taxpayers of today and tomorrow.

Only then will a majority of Cobb residents be comfortable saying “Play ball!”

Comments
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Steve in Marietta
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November 14, 2013
To our elected officials, here's why this stinks:

1. Taxes - Why should we pay a dime to fund something so completely unnecessary while school budgets are shrinking year after year. Your priorities are way off.

2. Blight - Look around Turner Field or just about any other major sports arena in the U.S. That's what that area will look like in a few years. That's not an "improvement".

3. Traffic - Adding 30,000 cars to the mix 81 times per year will choke out an already clogged transportation system. The idea that we'll solve this with buses or HOV lanes is laughable. When is the last time you took the bus to a Braves game? Braves fans will come in cars and the roads will fall into gridlock.

4. Crime - Stadiums attract scalpers, the homeless, the poor, criminals and scam artists. This is not the Cobb I want to live in.

5. Income - Do more research. http://tinyurl.com/klm7crn The net effect of a stadium is not positive. We will not make up for the cost in new taxes. Bars and restaurants may move into the area, but more professional businesses will move out. Traffic, crime and safety will be the reason. You're trading good jobs for bad.

6. Quality of Life (or less of it) - All of the items listed above work against quality of life, which is the main reason so many of us live in Cobb County. The stadium will have a negative impact on quality of life.

Bob and Tim, I've met and talked with each of you on several occasions and have been a supporter in the past. I've never been so disappointed in my county officials as I am today. We, and other like-minded residents will fight the stadium and will remember your actions at election time.

I urge you all to come to your senses and back down from the idea of bringing the Braves to Cobb County. It's a terrible idea.
Mike in Kennesaw
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November 14, 2013
Why is it only the Mayor of Atl. the Cobb BOC and the Braves were the only ones involved in this decision to put the Cobb taxpayers on the hook for $460 million? Personally I think this was just another example of backroom dealing trying to hide something from the Cobb taxpayers. Kasim Reed is smiling too all the way to the bank on this one because he wants the real estate Turner Field sits on more than he wants to keep the Braves in Atl. He eluded to this in his press conference with the comment "I wish I could tell you but I can't, but big things are coming in 3 years after the Braves are gone".. What's he hiding from his constituents that he can't talk about it right now? As to what I predict the Cobb BOC is trying to slide by us? Light rail is on the way. They've found a way around the voters "NO" vote by purchasing a stadium they know will require rail to access efficiently.
what the
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November 14, 2013
Cobb County will never have "light rail" as long as we have wagons! Cobb can easily pay the $450 million by reducing the salaries of teachers, police and firemen.
Lib in Cobb
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November 14, 2013
The traffic increases will be monumental, not just on game day, but during the entire construction of the new stadium.

Cobb will share 45% of the cost, the cost is now estimated at $672 million, it will be closer to one billion.

This is another reason I am thrilled about leaving GA and especially Cobb.
BRW
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November 13, 2013
"And while many were quickly critical of the impact the stadium would have on traffic here, we suspect the new facility will nevertheless be easier and quicker to access than Turner Field. Moreover, drivers here are not likely to find themselves snarled in the mega-jams that occur when Braves games coincide with those of the Falcons, Yellow Jackets, Hawks and other downtown teams."

Um, I think you're kinda missing a key point - yes, it may be easier to get to a game at I-75/I-285 in Cobb County than getting to a game at Turner Field. But what about the commuters who aren't going to the game? The ones who are just trying to get home, or hurrying to pick up their children at school or daycare? They'll be stuck with the traffic, which will be even worse than the God-awful mess it already is. Sure, plans were already in the works to improve traffic conditions in the area of the proposed stadium. But those plans are based on the traffic volume and patterns that exist now - not for an additional 20,000 cars for which the Windy Ridge Pkwy/Circle 75 corridor will be a destination rather than just a means to an end (as it is now for much of the traffic in the area).

"On the other hand, if most or all of Cobb’s share of the deal is to be paid for via the hotel/motel tax or via a revenue bond issue by the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, Lee likely will find the going easier. Revenue bonds could be paid off with funds generated by the stadium complex, although county taxpayers could still be responsible for making up the difference if stadium or other revenues fall short. It’s the same funding mechanism the Authority used to pay for construction of the $47 million Cobb Galleria Centre convention hall nearly two decades ago."

The same coliseum authority that ran a $1.5 million deficit last year, and has only $18 million in reserve funds? And whose board members have also (as of yesterday's news) not been briefed on the financial details of the new stadium?

"A more likely scenario, though, is that the stadium will more than pay for itself and that its presence will unleash a flood of additional sales and hotel/motel tax revenues."

Actually, based on extensive, well-publicized research into the actual impact of sports arenas on local economies, that is the LEAST likely scenario. But keep dreaming.

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Play Ball But first push for strongest possible deal for taxpayers

Steve in Marietta
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November 14, 2013
Well said. Moving the Braves to Cobb is like someone offering to sell you their Ferrari. Sounds exciting and fun, but if you think through the logistics and numbers, you hopefully come to your senses. Cobb is more of a minivan kind of town. My hope is that its residents and politicians come to their senses.
Paul Revere
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November 13, 2013
"A more likely scenario, though, is that the stadium will more than pay for itself and that its presence will unleash a flood of additional sales and hotel/motel tax revenues."

You see, don't worry. It will pay for itself, and it will unleash a flood of additional tax revenues. So, don't ask any questions, don't worry about your taxes or about anything really, just focus on the vast economic benefits that will come from this deal. Because stadiums always pay for themselves, and it always works out so well for taxpayers. Because circumstances never change, attendance always remains high, revenue always rises, the Braves will always stay in Cobb, and there will never again be another recession.

Here's a good quote from the 2009 NYT article listed-below about the Hamilton County stadium debacle (which members of my family in Cincinnati are still paying for). From David Pepper, county commissioner who voted against the proposal, “It’s like the movie where the blob keeps growing and eating away at other elements of county government,” Pepper said. “We’re beginning to cross a line in the sand by taking money from the general fund to pay for the stadiums. Once you put that money in jeopardy, you put the whole county at risk.” In reality, these contracts are rarely, if ever, good deals for taxpayers. Take a look at the below-listed articles for more information and please heavily scrutinize this deal. Godspeed Cobb County residents.

"Stadium Boom Deepens Municipal Woes"

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/25/sports/25stadium.html?pagewanted=1

"As Stadiums Vanish, Their Debt Lives On"

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/08/sports/08stadium.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

"A Stadium's Costly Legacy Throws Taxpayers for a Loss"

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704461304576216330349497852
BRW
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November 13, 2013
Amen.
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