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.
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.
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.