The Atlanta Braves, now in their third year at SunTrust Park here in Cobb, have provided the economic home run that we expected from the outset — and the team is looking good in the early going this season.
SunTrust Park and The Battery Atlanta are producing substantial new revenues for the county and its schools, generating thousands of jobs and sending property values skyward in developments around the stadium — adding to the tax base. In 2018, tax revenues totaled nearly $10 million, including $6.5 million for schools and $3.4 million for the county, according to the latest report. Total additional revenues, including state collections, exceeded $20 million for the year. That’s a home run in our book.
Property values in the area around the stadium have increased by approximately $4.5 billion since the deal was announced in 2013, including $1 billion in planned development not related to the Braves in the Cumberland Community Improvement District, six hotels and the construction of six Class A offices. That’s without doubt a home run.
Putting it in perspective, Mike Plant, president and CEO of the Braves Development Company, said: “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,” referring to the better-than-expected impact.
In the view of Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Boyce, the economic benefits are coming faster than he foresaw. “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,” he said. Boyce even recently had compliments for former Cobb Chairman Tim Lee, who led the effort to bring the Braves to Cobb and lost his seat to Boyce in 2016 due in large part to the Braves deal. In the election campaign, Boyce hammered Lee for secret negotiations with the Braves before the prospective deal was announced and approved by the BOC. But after the two men met at the team’s home opener in late March, Boyce sang Lee’s praises for his “vision,” telling Around Town that Lee brought one of “the major economic drivers” to Cobb “and sacrificed himself for it.” Indeed, Lee did go all-out to land the coveted Braves deal and paid the price for what was an economic coup.
On the field, the Braves are off to a good start with our hometown hero, shortstop Dansby Swanson, contributing mightily to the team’s winning streak in the early going. The former Marietta High standout had four home runs – real ones, not metaphorical – with a sizzling .324 batting average, .419 on base percentage, and a .765 slugging average in the first 11 games of this season. For Braves fans in Cobb, getting to see Dansby and his teammates in action at SunTrust Park with all the perks afforded by it and The Battery are tangible benefits, thanks indeed to the vision of Tim Lee and the other movers and shakers that helped bring the Braves here. A home run, without a doubt.
And all this is just the beginning phase. For example, another major economic driver is scheduled to be added next month when industrial conglomerate Thyssenkrupp breaks ground for its North American headquarters inside The Battery. This will include a $240 million facility and 420-foot tower, which will be the county’s tallest structure. And there undoubtedly will be many more job-generating, tax-producing developments in the stadium area.
Now, if the Braves can just come up with a winning season and even another championship — what more could we ask?