Here’s the deal: a nationally known business wants to relocate to Cobb, bringing with it thousands of jobs, regular favorable coverage in the national media and generating millions of dollars in new tax revenue for Cobb’s schools (and generated in large part by non-Cobb residents). The cost to Cobb residents? For the owner of a home valued at $200,000, it would cost about $26 in taxes, the rough equivalent of a half tank of gas — but it’s a revenue-neutral tax “tank” that the owner has already been buying for years, not an additional “tank” he has to buy or tax he has to pay.
The “business” in question is, of course, the Atlanta Braves. The Cobb Board of Commissioners is poised to approve on Tuesday a Memorandum of Understanding that would pave the way for construction of a $672 million stadium just off I-75 at I-285. The move would mean thousands of new jobs and also has the clear potential to generate several million dollars in additional sales tax revenue for Cobb’s schools each year from the mixed-use development to be built around it.
It’s a project that would pump $1 billion into the Cobb economy over the next three years, of which Cobb would be on the hook for roughly $300 million. The stadium and its plaza have the potential to grow the county tax base by more than $400 million very quickly, with our schools among the biggest beneficiaries.
The vast majority of Cobb’s contribution toward funding the 30-year bonds issued by the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority for the project would be generated by a 3 percent county-wide car rental tax, an additional $3 per room hotel-motel tax in the Cumberland area and a new 3-mill tax on commercial property owners and apartment owners in the Cumberland Community Improvement District — which has already been agreed to by the CID board there. The hotel and car rental taxes would be paid primarily by non-Cobb residents — including the influx of Braves fans from around Georgia and the Southeast coming to Cobb for the games.
The rest of Cobb’s contribution toward paying for the project would involve the reallocation of $8.7 million in existing property taxes. Those taxes presently are generated by three general obligation parks bonds approved by voters and due to expire in 2017 and 2018. If the commissioners approve the MOU on Tuesday, then $8.7 million in property taxes (.33 mills) now used for debt service on the parks bonds would be earmarked to help pay off the stadium bonds for the next 30 years. There would be no, repeat no, increase in the millage rate, and your tax bill would not go up as a result.
Bear in mind a high percentage of those paying the additional taxes in and around the new stadium would be non-Cobb residents. Moreover, 30 percent of the Braves’ fan base resides in other states — but plenty of them would be coming and spending here for those 80 home games a year in Cobb.
Critics complain the stadium would add to local traffic woes. But they’re ignoring the fact even prior to the Braves’ announcement Cobb had $1 billion in transportation projects already approved and funded for that area for the next five years. In addition, the Braves envision fans “coming early and staying late” at the shops and eateries in the surrounding development. In other words, they won’t all be coming and going at the same time, unlike at Turner Field and at the Georgia Dome. Those stadiums stand like oases in deserts of blight. Cobb’s stadium and surroundings will have the opposite effect, and traffic will benefit as a result.
Unfortunately, the Braves move has run into mounting criticism in Cobb. Those opponents have blinded themselves to the likelihood that the private-public partnership envisioned (in which the Braves pay 55 percent of the stadium cost) will be a generator of economic growth in Cobb equal or surpassing the opening of what is now the Lockheed Plant in World War II, the creation of what’s now Kennesaw State University in the early 1960s, the laying of a sewer trunk line through rural east Cobb in the late 1960s and the construction of I-75 through Cobb in the mid-1970s.
The public is having its say about it at the town hall meetings held by the district commissioners on Thursday and this coming Monday, and will be heard again on the night of the vote.
The pending deal is a good one for the Braves, but an even better one for Cobb County. It deserves the votes of the Cobb Commission, and deserves the public’s enthusiastic support as well.