I was disappointed to read the banner article titled “County: Tax Revenue from Braves a net gain” in the March 26 MDJ. Cobb commissioners are claiming all tax revenue generated around and associated with the ballpark represents additional revenue that would otherwise not exist without the stadium. This conclusion confuses “gross” revenue with “net new” revenue. Perhaps contacting economists who have studied the economics of sports stadiums (I can point you to several), rather than uncritically quoting pro-stadium commissioners and Braves officials, would have revealed this obvious accounting error.
The vast majority of fans spending money at the ballpark are Cobb County residents who previously were spending that money on other entertainment options around town, which generates the same amount of tax revenue. $100 at SunTrust Park and the Battery generates the same amount of tax revenue for the county and its schools as $100 anywhere else in Cobb (restaurants, movie theaters, bowling alleys, shops, etc.). Some spending comes from outside the county, but not all of it. Thus, counting all this tax revenue as new revenue is incorrect.
From looking at the county’s report (which I appreciate the MDJ posting on its website) I also see county officials continue to count revenue from other taxes — such as the CID, hotel and car rental taxes — as revenue generated by the stadium, which is also not correct as this is revenue that could be used to pay for other county services or put back in its citizens’ pockets.
If you don’t believe me that the ballpark is not a net gain to tax revenues, look at the final stadium bill. At the end of the day, the general fund revenue going to the stadium is just under $6 million. If the tax revenue generated was a “net gain,” that amount would be reduced to zero, rather than shrinking by a few hundred thousand dollars.
The Braves stadium certainly has some positive economic attributes, but the net effect is certainly not positive by any reasonable measure. If you want to support the public funding of the stadium, feel free to do so, but let’s not pretend it’s lowering our taxes. It isn’t.