Comparing two stadium deals

By Mary Rose Taylor

While negotiations  for the new Falcons stadium played out in headlines throughout the summer and early fall, an equally important dialogue regarding the Atlanta Braves was conducted behind the scenes at City Hall and without public knowledge or input. As a result, the Falcons’  agreement emerged as a win-win for all sides — team, city, county, state and neighborhoods — and the Braves agreement  went up in flames.
That there were almost insurmountable challenges to renegotiating the Braves’ contract should come as no surprise to anyone involved in the stadium negotiations leading up to the 1996 Olympic Games. The trouble spots in that contract that find the city holding the short end of the stick include:

  • The traditional sinking fund for the eventual overhaul of the stadium
  • The definition of capital repairs and maintenance
  • Recently publicized issues of public transportation to ease access
  • Parking
  • Ongoing issues of neighborhood versus commercial development

The  Braves were the first major sports franchise to come to Atlanta in the 1960s through  a public-private partnership under the leadership of Mayor Ivan Allen.
After Ted Turner acquired the Braves in the 1970s, every succeeding contract negotiation carried threats that the Braves might leave Atlanta. But no one believed Turner would ever allow it. When Liberty Media acquired the Braves , the playing field changed. Instead of the Braves’ contract being  negotiated out of public view, the full power of the city fathers should have been brought into play, with the public apprised of the score each step of the way.
An Atlanta without the  Braves, without Turner  Field, named for the man who has done much  to put this city on the map , is an Atlanta that has lost part of its soul.

Mary Rose Taylor served on the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium Authority from 1990 to 1997.

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