Though Cobb’s general fund paid $5.8 million to cover annual expenditures related to the Atlanta Braves’ development in the county, the team’s first full year of operation was overall a “net positive” for the county.
That’s according to a review of expenses and revenues related to SunTrust Park and The Battery Atlanta, the mixed-use development owned by the Braves, presented to county commissioners by Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the district that includes the team’s properties in Cumberland.
Additional revenue coming into the county and the Cobb County Board of Education through stadium and Battery revenues in 2018 totaled just under $10 million. Of that, Cobb Schools brought in nearly $6.5 million through nearly $4 million in property tax revenue and almost $2.5 million through the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for schools, or SPLOST.
Cobb County brought in more than $3.4 million in additional revenue, with more than 70 percent of the total, or nearly $2.5 million, coming via the county’s SPLOST. Business license fees, liquor by the drink taxes and contributions to the county’s fire district and debt service funds comprised the remainder.
“There’s been so much emphasis based on the general fund and all that, and really, there has not been a lot of discussion about the sales tax, and it’s some serious dollars,” Ott said.
Also receiving additional revenues is the state of Georgia, which brought in $10.2 million in tax collections because of the stadium and Battery. In all, the additional revenues total more than $20.1 million for the county government, county school district and state.
“I’m sure everyone is delighted to hear that this project is on a positive slope, and as I’ve been saying for a long time, we’re probably going to get to where we want to go sooner than I thought,” county Chairman Mike Boyce said after Monday’s presentation. “So far, (this) has been a positive impact on the county in many different ways, and we’re looking forward to that trend continuing.”
Mike Plant, president and CEO of the Braves Development Company, said that of the county’s $5.8 million general fund contribution to annual expenditures of the stadium, only $3.5 million covered the annual debt service payment — less than half the annual $8.67 million cost projected in 2013 when plans for the development were in their infancy. The rest of the general fund expenses covered police costs around the stadium and infrastructure improvements.
“I think the highlight is it was portrayed that this was going to end up costing the public this enormous amount of money, and that the dividends and the benefits were never going to play out. and now, here we are,” Plant said.
Plant added that the county report did not delve into the number of jobs brought by the stadium, its neighboring development or any other additions to Cobb’s landscape due to the Braves’ arrival.
The presentation follows the release of a September study that claimed the Braves’ arrival and resulting development would bring an $18.9 million annual average fiscal impact to the county over the next two decades.
Of that number, the county is expected to reap $4 million in revenue over expenses, while new revenues to Cobb County Schools would bring in an additional $14.9 million per year. The data comes from a fiscal impact study conducted by the Georgia Tech Center for Economic Development Research.
In addition to the stadium, the study took into account The Battery and the resulting “halo effect” on the county attributed to the arrival of the Braves’ developments.
Monday’s presentation preceded the Braves’ first game in SunTrust Park in 2019 — a spring training game against the Cincinnati Reds. Atlanta’s regular season home opener is Monday, April 1, against the Chicago Cubs.
Next month will also see the scheduled groundbreaking of industrial conglomerate Thyssenkrupp’s North American headquarters inside The Battery, which is expected to include a $240 million facility and a 420-foot tower that will become the tallest structure in the county upon completion.