Braves move to Cobb County

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

The Atlanta Braves made shocking news Monday when it announced the team planned to move Atlanta’s major league baseball franchise to Cobb County in time for the 2017 season. With its lease expiring at Turner Field, the team apparently has negotiated an investment of $450 million in public money from Cobb County to help pay for the new stadium. We hear from the team and supporters and critics of the deal.

Commenting is open.

Great move for jobs and growth

John Schuerholz, president of the Atlanta Braves

Today, I would like to announce that the Atlanta Braves will build a new ballpark, which will open for the 2017 major league baseball season.

The new location is a short distance from downtown Atlanta at the intersection of I-75 and I-285.

Our lease at Turner Field expires in three short years, but in addition to that, we wanted to find a location that is great for our fans, makes getting to and from the stadium much easier and provides a first-rate game day experience in and around the stadium. Turner Field, which we do not own, is in need of hundreds of millions of dollars of upgrades. Unfortunately, that massive investment would not do anything to improve access or the fan experience. These are issues we simply cannot overcome.

Our vision for the future is grand. The new stadium site will be one of the most magnificent in all of baseball. It will thrive with action 365 days a year. We plan to transform the surrounding area of the new ballpark into a mixed-use destination. It will serve our fans from Atlanta, the Southeast and beyond in the finest of fashions.

David Connell, president and CEO, Cobb Chamber

The estimated cost of the stadium, parking and related infrastructure is $672 million. The Braves will be a significant investor along with Cobb County in the project, and the team will be responsible for all stadium construction cost overruns.

During construction of the stadium, more than 5,227 jobs will be supported, with a total payroll of more than $235 million. It’s estimated that more than 1,590 of those jobs will go to Cobb County residents, with a total estimated payroll of more than $53.8 million. Projected annual operational economic benefits to Cobb County include:

• $13.5 million in annual payroll benefits for Cobb County

• More than 3,400 jobs created in Cobb County

• Additional development in mixed-use developments around the stadium could yield additional construction jobs, payroll and salaries.

The Braves’ investment in the mixed-use portion of the development could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, and construction on the stadium is expected to start in the second half of 2014 and be completed and operational by April 2017.

Tim Lee, Cobb County Commission chairman

The Atlanta Braves are a great organization and will be a welcome addition to Cobb County. Our focus is on finalizing an agreement that will bring jobs and economic growth to the area while enhancing the experience of sports fans from across metro Atlanta. Atlanta has evolved over the years into a broader community that offers so much for so many. Cobb County is proud to be a part of the region’s continued success.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.

I am delighted that the Braves are continuing their long-term commitment to the greater metropolitan Atlanta area. Their investment is a testimony to the state of Georgia, the city of Atlanta and Cobb County.

Judson Hill, Georgia State Senator, chairman of the Cobb County legislative delegation

As Chairman of the Cobb County Legislative Delegation, I am proud to welcome the Atlanta Braves to Cobb County. This move will create many jobs in Cobb County and establish Cobb as a major southeast tourist attraction. We will work with the Braves and Cobb County leaders to help make the move good for Cobb residents and for the Braves.

Bad news for city, Cobb taxpayers

John Eaves, chairman of the Fulton County Commission

“I’m shocked. I’m shocked and I’m disappointed. Fulton County and the city of Atlanta have been extremely loyal to the Braves and have a major investment of resources in the stadium and the maintenance and oversight of the stadium. We have made accommodations in terms of MARTA providing attendees with access to the facility. … And I feel that the citizens of the city of Atlanta and the county now have a big potential eyesore just south of downtown. It is just shocking. There certainly is no MARTA access to where they are potentially going to go. And you have these communities … that were impacted by this stadium, and now, for the Braves 17 years later to walk away, it’s just disappointing. Peoples’ lives in terms of their community have been changed and impacted as a result of this stadium. And modifications and adjustments were made for the Braves, and now (for the Braves) to just walk away from it, that is just incredibly disappointing.”

Lance Lamberton, Cobb Taxpayers Association

I can’t say that I’m necessarily against it, but I’ve got some concerns, such as how much Cobb County will be paying towards this, and will it result in tax relief for Cobb? Also, I’m concerned if this is going to be an opening to allow MARTA to expand into Cobb County. If it’s a $450 million price tag to Cobb County taxpayers, how is that cost going to be recouped? If it could result in a net tax cut to the county, then we would could support that, but with a price tag that high, the likelihood is just the opposite: More taxes.

Basically, the position of the Cobb Taxpayers Association is that public money should not go to pay for a private entertainment venue, which this obviously is. And I’m concerned about MARTA. I think MARTA in and of itself is a white elephant. It’s been a very costly boondoggle. It has not performed at all the way it was promised. It costs way too much to transport people. It’s an underutilized facility. I think bringing it into Cobb County, there’s the issue of, would crime follow? It would also necessitate a permanent 1 percent dedicated sales tax.

Moreover, the location of the stadium is going to put real stress on commuters in Cobb County at certain times when there are certain games. It’s going to make my commute more difficult and, I’m sure, (for) a lot of other people in Cobb County. If anything, this is may be part of a plan to make traffic so unbearable, Cobb voters will be clamoring for a MARTA extension. As such, it would be a Trojan horse. And yet MARTA only accommodates 7 percent of the people that go to Braves games. And don’t believe the Cobb Chamber hype that this is going to bring economic growth and prosperity to Cobb. Historically, these projects over promise and under deliver. Just think of what its done, or not done, for the neighborhoods around Turner Field. The more I think of it, the more I think this is a gambit to get a better deal out of Fulton County and the city of Atlanta.

6 comments Add your comment

George Ford

November 12th, 2013
8:51 pm

I am so angry about the Braves abandoning the City and their roots that I am beside myself. I WILL NOT BE GOING TO THE SMYRNA TRAFFIC NIGHTMARE TO SEE THE COBB COUNTY BRAVES, EVER! I already take public transportation from my Midtown ATLANTA home to see support the Braves. Obviously the Braves don’t appreciate all their fans, only the lily white elite of the northern suburbs. The fan map shows many fans who live in other areas. Will they drive in awful traffic to Chattanooga to see the Losers!! Not me. I don’t know the Braves anymore. To hell with them. I AM TELLING EVERYONE TO PUSH FOR AN AMERICAN LEAGUE TEAM AT A RENOVATED TED, WITH RETAIL/RESTAURANTS AND MARTA. The Braves have stabbed me and my hometown in the back. Good riddance to those motivated by power, control and greed. In the meantime I am now an Orioles fan. To hell with the National League.

Starik

November 12th, 2013
5:09 pm

Gerald needs a regular column it the AJC. He could replace Krauthammer.

Puddleglum

November 12th, 2013
3:55 pm

When Braves president, John Schuerholz, speaks of improving the “fan experience”, I think he is being straight up about the biggest business issue on his plate. Getting fans into stadium seats is the key to this whole move; not politics or race or the ever-regrettable use of public funds. The Braves share of TV revenue is mostly outside of their ability to influence. At the franchise level, MLB is a local business: growing paid attendance and maximizing ancillary revenue opportunities around the games.

The root problem is that it is easier and more entertaining for the average fan to follow baseball via the television where they can actually see the balls and strikes and get helpful pointers from the announcers. Of course, watching on TV is cheaper too, but lower ticket prices is one growth strategy that was never going to be on the table anyway – in either location. So to succeed in the local revenue side of the sport, the Braves have to try almost anything to get loyal fans off the couch and into the arena. A new facility set in better surroundings could mean that the Braves will not be stepping up to the plate with an 0-2 count already against them.

Will it work better in Cobb? Well, no matter how good your product is, location always counts for a lot in any retail business. The “heat map” that illustrated where the Braves’ customers live was a very compelling argument. On top of that, the persistently “edgy” feel of the areas surrounding the Ted doesn’t help matters. [Sorry, don't wish to give offense, but that is just a fact.] Baseball is a family event and any fan who worries about their family’s safety is not going to come to the stadium as often. Cobb residents are not all angels and saints either, but there really aren’t many neighbors at all in the new location. The entire development appears to be going to be cut out of virgin woods. Since there is nothing there, the Braves have the latitude to create and control their entire environment.

It is hard to see how the traffic argument helps either argument – it is terrible everywhere and low expectations are the status quo.

The argument will played out one ticket at a time when the new stadium and team open to the paying public. So, putting myself in the petri dish, will I go to the new stadium more frequently than I have gone to the Ted? Yes, initially, out of curiosity and because of the improved convenience of the new location. But a new facility itself is no panacea (Ga. Dome anyone?). I am rooting for the Braves, but Mr. Schuerholz is still going to have to earn my ticket money every night.

Gerald

November 12th, 2013
8:31 am

I have no problem with this. The Braves have made the playoffs two seasons in a row and still can’t sell out in their current location. They could in the 1990s when a winning baseball team was a novelty and the team had big time talent and was actually competing for a World Series, but now everyone is used to the Braves winning and knows that they don’t have the players to get past the first round. It isn’t so much that suburbanites won’t come downtown … they did during the 1990s when there was even more crime there than there is now. It is that the “urban” crowd doesn’t support baseball the way that they used to. The minority (and in Atlanta that means black, let’s face it) residents support the NFL and the NBA, and if the white liberal hipsters follow any sport at all (most of them don’t … they are into jogging, biking etc.) it is soccer (which is why Blank is smart to try to draw an MLS team down here) and certainly not MLB.

I am not among those who things that it will hurt the city that badly. Losing the Falcons would have because their stadium will be used for other events: Final Fours, Super Bowls, conventions etc. It will hurt, but it will be one that downtown can recover from, where downtown could not have recovered from losing the Falcons. So if you had to pick one or the other to lose, it would have been the Braves. While the city is talking about building an entertainment district there, truthfully the best bet would be to tear it down and build more condos, shopping areas, parks, biking areas etc. for the hipsters, and perhaps even a skateboard area. Create a space where families who have no interest for Atlanta’s notorious bar/nightclub/strip club scene to go do something with their kids. Families with kids currently high-tail it to the suburbs for activities for their kids right now, whether the city leaders – who currently make a point of NOT catering to the family values crowd – want to admit it or not.

And incidentally, can someone please tell me why 30339 has an Atlanta address even though they don’t pay taxes in Atlanta or vote in Atlanta municipal elections? We need to get that changed.

The real issue here, though, is the disappearance of the “fiscal conservative” types. Chuck Oliver was talking about that on the radio yesterday. The same people who were livid at Arthur Blank’s deal to keep the Falcons downtown as a waste of taxpayer money are just fine with this deal. It looks like they were using “fiscal conservatism” as a cover for their racism, for their not wanting the new development and economic activity to benefit an area that blacks mostly live in and elect mostly black politicians. Well that explains why there are practically no minority “fiscal conservatives” because the whole movement is a sham. “Fiscal conservatives” only oppose big government that helps minorities. Big government that helps whites is totally fine. That’s why we never get rid of agriculture subsidies (including that ethanol sham) and why nothing is ever done to rein in the New Deal programs (that disproportionately benefit elderly whites), only the Great Society programs that disproportionately benefit blacks.

Until this blatantly transparent double standard ends, you can count on the Tea Party and other fiscal conservative groups not having any support beyond aging whites. It is amazing to see Ron Erhart and the Marietta Daily Journal – the same ones who bashed the T-SPLOST and the new Falcons stadium – do their best to dance around this deal, which will cost the taxpayers of Cobb County a half a billion dollars when all is said and done (because the Braves’ owner isn’t contributing nearly as much to this stadium as is Blank for the Falcons’ stadium). Instead of talking about that, they just bash and bait the city of Atlanta for failing to keep the Braves. The same folks who claimed “stadiums never pay for themselves!!!” when it was the Falcons’ stadium quickly claim that the Braves stadium will pay for itself in no time.

Sorry, the only difference is racial, and that is precisely why “conservatives” can’t win national elections anymore, and in a couple of decades will have trouble even in the south (as conservatives have already lost Virginia and Florida).

Dave

November 11th, 2013
7:52 pm

$450 million? That’s $857 from every man, woman and child in Cobb County. Stadiums NEVER pay for themselves anymore. The Braves AND the Falcons left their stadiums after only 20 years so you’re just renting the Braves anyway. Even if they add EVERY job they claim they will, that’s an $86,000 subsidy per job! Obama would be proud of this deal. Socialism has come to Cobb County. Ask Gwinnett how Braves stadium deals go. Surprisingly the city of Atlanta was actually smart this time, refusing to ante up half a billion dollars. What are these politicians saying? Oh, and forget about getting home on nights the Braves play. Best get a hotel room near work.

SAWB

November 11th, 2013
5:18 pm

I was disappointed to hear that the braves were moving from their long time home and quickly thought of all the memories from both stadiums. However, if we put aside the emotion and simply look at the facts it really makes sense.

The City of Atlanta has taken the Braves for granted and not addressed their needs as it relates to access, parking and development in the surrounding area. Also, when the city did try something, remember Fanplex, it was simply a mess.

While existing traffic and lack of MARTA at the new stadium will be an issue let’s be honest things aren’t exactly great at the current stadium. When you consider that most ticket holders seem to live north of the city access will probably be simpler.

Yes, it’s difficult to imagine them no longer playing in the traditional location, but the Atlanta City government had plenty of chances to address these issues. There were numerous ideas discussed under multiple mayors and city councils, but no leadership to make things happen. All I hope is that they open an outlet of The Varsity nearby so I can get my game day box.