Watching the Falcons stadium debate, the Braves pursue something different

The Atlanta Braves would like to see this sprawl of parking lots north of Turner Field become a mixed-use neighborhood on par with Atlantic Station. Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

The Atlanta Braves would like to see this sprawl of parking lots north of Turner Field become a mixed-use neighborhood on par with Atlantic Station. Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

For the much-needed attention she paid to the city’s infrastructure, Shirley Franklin became known as Atlanta’s sewer mayor.

Kasim Reed may have something flashier in mind as a legacy. If things go his way, by the time he’s finished, Reed may be known as the stadium mayor.

You already know that Reed is a major force behind Arthur Blank’s effort to build a new, $1 billion-plus home for his Atlanta Falcons. The Georgia World Congress Center Authority would hold the title. A state-approved hotel-motel tax would pay for at least $300 million of the structure – perhaps more, if the Legislature and governor can be persuaded.

This winter, the Falcons project could require the mayor of Atlanta, a former state senator, to return as a full-time resident of the Capitol. While he’s there, Reed may also give some attention to yet another stadium deal in the works.

This one is so fresh that it’s not out of diapers and thus has no dollar figure attached. Conceivably, it could have more of an economic impact on downtown Atlanta than replacing the 20-year-old Georgia Dome, without the taxpayer heartburn.

Through the city’s development authority, Invest Atlanta, Reed is attempting to put together a private-public partnership to develop the vast, vacant stretch between the state Capitol and Turner Field into a live-work-play area on par with Atlantic Station.

Substantive talks are underway, with the 2016 expiration of the Atlanta Braves’ lease on Turner Field in mind. The Braves have never been entirely happy there.

“As we sit here in 2012, this isn’t where we would have this stadium today,” began Mike Plant, the Braves’ executive vice president of business operations. “I’m not saying it’s a bad place, but it doesn’t match up with where the majority of our fans come from.”

Historians will remember that, ‘way back in ’88, the Braves gave some thought to a new stadium in Gwinnett County – for the major league team, not its AAA club.

A converted 1996 Olympic stadium kept the team downtown – where they are likely to remain, given the current climate. “The appetite for taxpayer-funded stadiums is not – in 2012 – probably too high,” Plant said.

In other words, as with tens of thousands of homeowners in metro Atlanta, circumstances have locked the Braves into place. Which leaves the baseball team and its owners no choice but to build a better neighborhood.

“Now we have to create an environment like San Diego, Denver, Cincinnati, Colorado,” Plant said. “They’ve taken challenged areas and used sports arenas for really improving, stimulating some real solid development.”

Plant said the team first approached the mayor of Atlanta two years ago. In August, the city’s development authority sought to take the temperature of real estate investors. A half-dozen have responded.

The Braves envision a partnership that includes themselves, the city, a number of private investors, and the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority, which owns Turner Field and the 55 vacant acres now devoted to parking – and nothing else.

External features would include residential and retail properties and perhaps even a people-mover to help fans to the MARTA rail line that’s eight-tenths of a mile away. The Braves intend to use cash earned from their investment in the neighborhood to pay for improvements within Turner Field.

“See all those blue seats out there?” said Plant, pointing out of his stadium office window to 55,000 posterior-placement platforms. “That’s a potential $15 million project. We break about 500 of them a year now. They’re rated for 15 years, and we’re going to make it to 20.”

The seats are made in Australia, the remnant of an Olympic trade deal. “We’ve got to replace every seat in this place,” he said.

Brian McGowan, president and CEO of Invest Atlanta, is the shepherd of the Turner Field project. He, too, is highly cognizant of the political climate. The area is a TAD – a tax allocation district. But McGowan said any expenditure of public money would be incidental.

That’s why real estate firms have been sounded out on the project. “We wanted to ‘ping’ the private sector to see how they felt about this. The government can have the grandest of plans for things like this, but if it doesn’t stand the private sector, private capital test, then it’s not going to work,” McGowan said.

(James Hughes Jr., an Emory law professor and chairman of the recreation authority, also said it was unlikely that his board’s bonding capacity would be tapped.)

Unlike the Falcons deal, a public-private partnership to develop the Turner Field project shouldn’t require a great deal of involvement from the occupants of the state Capitol, McGowan said.

But there may be one fly in that ointment. When the Legislature convenes in January, Republican lawmakers will begin their efforts to reduce Fulton County government to a mere shell. Turner Field, owned by the city-county recreation authority, could find itself involved in a tug-of-war. That’s not a welcome thought for the Braves.

“I’m going to rely on the fact that people on both sides of the aisle recognize the importance of this team not just because of what we do on the field, but because of our economic numbers as well,” said the Braves’ Plant. “We’re a viable business that drives a lot of activity and a lot of revenue.”

That number, he underlined, is $104 million a year. And could be much more.

Postscript:There are those of you out there who will note that the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority doesn’t seem to be at the center of these talks. One word explains that: Fanplex.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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171 comments Add your comment

Braves Fan

November 14th, 2012
7:11 pm

Move the Braves Stadium to Cobb or at least north of the connector.

Mike Bell 790

November 14th, 2012
7:12 pm

Blazerdawg

November 14th, 2012
7:13 pm

Area has much potential. A well planned, safe neighborhood that is well integrated with Grant Park and improves Pryor Ave and Lakewood through momentum could transform the entire city. Enjoyed partying at B-Champs in the past b/a Braves games – some other options would be welcome and would increase the number of Braves games I attend.

Daniel

November 14th, 2012
7:16 pm

Yea get the Braves stadium out of the projects of Atlanta.

C from Marietta

November 14th, 2012
7:22 pm

Good Grief. No wonder the city is going BROKE! Folks there are more important things in life than football and baseball. However, it seems we are too stupid to realize that.

John

November 14th, 2012
7:23 pm

Move it up north to Alpharetta/Roswell.

Safer area near all the biggest Braves fans. Traffic kills the Braves attendance.

Jerry Jowers

November 14th, 2012
7:26 pm

They’ve already taken the first step with Fanplex, all they need is some mixed-use housing (because we don’t have enough of that in Atlanta) and the area will be smoking.

Stuart

November 14th, 2012
7:31 pm

On behalf of the citizens of Coweta County, we are inviting the Braves to move here.

bob

November 14th, 2012
7:33 pm

Seems to me that there was some talk into making the existing Turner Field area into quite a complex to include bars, pubs, restuarants but a former muckity muck tampered it down so fans would spend more in the stadium. Didn’t want the fans to eat and drink before they came in! A mini Atlantic station would be cool. Need to spend a little money and buy more of the houses, business, etc on the south side of the stadium. No offense but that includes the home run by the nuns…give them enough for their property that they can build a new place. No new baseball stadium…spend some bucks to bring it up to date!

Meli

November 14th, 2012
7:43 pm

It sounds great, but the neighborhoods that border the stadium were promised the exact same thing when the Olympics came to Atlanta, and then when the Olympic Stadium was converted to Turner Field. They can talk this game all they want, but until the city lives up to its promises and actually does it, that’s all it is–talk. And the city has shown over the past 20 years that it has no intention of living up to its talk.

Marlboro Man

November 14th, 2012
7:43 pm

Those who benefit from a stadium should pay for a stadium in cash.

dabo

November 14th, 2012
7:46 pm

Bob, you hit the nail on the head. When the Braves stadium was built, the parking lots and Georgia Ave should have been developed into bars, restaurants, etc. Everyone knew there would be 2 to 3 million people coming to this stadium every year and a significant amount would be from out of town. The Braves and the city were short sighted and didn’t want mass transit so they could charge for parking and herd everyone into the stadium for more Braves revenue. I live near the stadium and love it here but any tourist that comes to the stadium and looks around all they see is parking lots, vacant land and interstates and says, ‘this city is ugly!’

spider

November 14th, 2012
7:48 pm

move the braves to richmond since we stole their minor league team

td

November 14th, 2012
7:51 pm

Move about 100,000 moochers out of the state and we could afford the best stadiums in the country.

Chris

November 14th, 2012
8:00 pm

Geeee I wonder why the area around Turner Field is terrible? Same reason all of downtown is terrible! Put the stadium in north Atlanta and they will have many more fans in the seats!

Angus

November 14th, 2012
8:02 pm

Without good transit, I don’t see it happening.

A transit line for both Turner Field and Zoo Atlanta would be the #1 tourist route in the city.

Too bad we spent $100mil on a streetcar that parallels MARTA.

Chris

November 14th, 2012
8:06 pm

Zoo Atlanta is awful also. Yet another place surrounded by the ‘hood. They sure ruin everything!

Angus

November 14th, 2012
8:10 pm

Good lord, Chris – hop on Zillow or Redfin and learn yourself something. Zoo Atlanta is surrounded by $3-600k homes.

billyBobjacket

November 14th, 2012
8:16 pm

Good God, Galloway…now you are trying to tie Republicans to blocking development around the Braves stadium!? Didn’t you see the last election results…Democrats lost BIG TIME in Georgia, and Republicans are more likely to support private development anyway. Maybe if your sleazy party can get all the illegals on the voting rolls, and get 140% voter turnout in your Democratic neighborhoods like they did in Philly (I bet you can find a few hundred more votes in Oakland cemetery if you try hard enough.) It would make more sense to develop the old GM plant site for this purpose…it is already next to MARTA and closer to many more paying customers. I know it will cost a lot of Democratic voters their “independent parking vendor” income, not to mention the loss of income from breaking in to cars…

Karl Marx

November 14th, 2012
8:17 pm

More corporate welfare for millionaires, sickening isn’t it.

White Flight Attendant

November 14th, 2012
8:19 pm

Yes, let’s move the Braves — and the Falcons — out of the city, and bring them up here to the northern suburbs, so we won’t have to drive to where there are people of color. And let’s implement The Fair Tax, too, so we can transfer the tax burden onto them. And let the state of Georgia also secede from the Union, so we won’t have to have a man of color as our president.

The world revolves around us.

billyBobjacket

November 14th, 2012
8:20 pm

Streetcar no nowhere or another Atlantic Station…gee, which one did Atlanta and their Obamanation cronies choose to go with. You can’t spell LaHood without “hood”.

td

November 14th, 2012
8:24 pm

Karl Marx

November 14th, 2012
8:17 pm

More corporate welfare for millionaires, sickening isn’t it.

No. Welfare is giving something to someone and getting no return on your investment like giving food stamps and Medicaid to people to just produce more babies that the state has to pay for. This would be an investment because the increase tax base and taxes coming into the city would pay for the investment and give greater returns in the future.

billyBobjacket

November 14th, 2012
8:24 pm

White Flight: You don’t see many African-American hair extension or hair styling salons in the northern suburbs…is that because the owners are racist and don’t want to be where there are white people, or is because they want to be near their customer base?

South Fulton Guy

November 14th, 2012
8:37 pm

With all of the problems that the State of Georgia faces why are Miltonite Legislators obsessed with dismantling Fulton when they need to get their own fiscal house in order? Will they compromise the cooperative environment that Republicans have with Atlanta (Fulton County) Mayor Reed with 4 more years of an Obama Presidency. This is an instance of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Dave

November 14th, 2012
8:38 pm

I’m tired of public risk, private profit projects. The owners of the Miami Marlins got hundreds of millions of dollars in tax money to build a stadium, signed a couple of hundred millions in players and just traded them off, leaving Miami with a Triple A Team and a bunch of bond debt. I don’t know that Arthur Blank would do that with the Falcons or the folks out in Denver that own the Braves would do that but why risk it? If a business makes economic sense, private money will be spent. It’s only when a project doesn’t make economic sense that we hear about Super Bowls and “economic engines” that justify spending tax money. Examples? Sembler I believe wanted a fancy mixed use project at North Druid Hills and Briarcliff that just had to have public money in it. DeKalb said no and there was no project. Sembler i believe also wanted a mixed use project on Peachtree in the soon to be city of Brookhaven. DeKalb said no public money; but, guess what, the project made sense and got built.

kevinofconyers

November 14th, 2012
8:43 pm

Good God, the bickering like 2 year olds is ANNOYING! Can we have intelligent dialogue??!

kevinofconyers

November 14th, 2012
8:49 pm

I hate the idea of moving north, though– why alienate the fans east. west of the perimeter when current location is central for everyone?? Improving the area around the stadium would be great.

Nicholas J.

November 14th, 2012
8:53 pm

Get out of here you suburbanites who moved so far from the city then complain about how long it takes you to travel to enjoy the perks of it. You can’t have your cake and eat it to, sorry. The Braves should stay in Atlanta, and should keep contributing to the atmosphere and economy of the city. If you guys want such a thing maybe you should, I don’t know, move to the city, otherwise sit in traffic and wait to get to the destination that you decided to move away from. You guys would rather tear down all the progress made to get a city to the point Atlanta is now because of your various bias rather than helping to strengthen and promote the very city that your little smudge of a town owes its existence to. smh

Eric

November 14th, 2012
9:07 pm

Can’t believe we’re still discussing the so-called “merits” of a new Falcons stadium. It’s been shown many times that the public is against funding for private profiting. Mr. Blank needs to watch the game from t.v. in a current box seat and be happy with that!

Dan

November 14th, 2012
9:12 pm

Thats right transplant all the projects to Clayton County! Wait we already did that for the Olympics! Thanks Atlanta for making one of the most prosperous, safe, well educated Counties in all of Georgia into a total cesspool all in the name of progress!

Mr. Snarky

November 14th, 2012
9:17 pm

Sounds good…it is a wasteland around the stadium. Isn’t there still a surplus of condos and town homes on the market already though? If the population will support it and the taxpayers aren’t getting soaked then great.

Mr. Snarky

November 14th, 2012
9:18 pm

As far as the Falcons go, I don’t care if they’re 8-1, if Blank wants a new stadium he can pay for it. I’m tired of public risk and private reward for the already super-rich.

Truth.

November 14th, 2012
9:18 pm

This is basically push the blacks out of the SS of Atlanta to “somewhere” so the whites will come back and spend money. I get it. It’s sad really. The more thing change the more they stay the same.

Bob

November 14th, 2012
9:23 pm

Also sounds a lot like the Dodgers’ plan for making money on the new owners’ investment. The city should sell the team the property at a reasonable price, put in some of the needed infrastructure, and the team can do the rest.

Truth.

November 14th, 2012
9:23 pm

I should clarify though. We’re talking about baseball so it makes good business sense.

jebbery

November 14th, 2012
9:30 pm

I would bet a Braves stadium north of town, let’s say in Cobb or Gwinnett, would eventually end up with lower attendance than current numbers at the Ted. There would be some initial excitement, but that would taper off and attendance would drop 10% or so. You could make up for that by jacking up the prices on everything…I guess. But that will probably happen regardless.

JD

November 14th, 2012
9:30 pm

I think an excellent spot for both a new Falcons Stadium and a new Braves Stadium would be around Atlanta Motor Speedway. There would be great access with the improvements to the roads going into that area. It would be great for expansion of that area. There should also be more private investors to help the funding and more would be interested if it were located in that area.

Braves fan

November 14th, 2012
9:36 pm

The worse place in the world for a park…Get it in Cobb County are around there. I don’t want my kids and family going down there without me…..plus traffic is the pits.

Kevin

November 14th, 2012
9:36 pm

Of course, Democrats are in charge. Of course, we are going broke. Just like Detroit.

There's a reason

November 14th, 2012
9:37 pm

Flight Attendant,
please go check on that coke 1A ordered ten minutes ago, and leave the serious discussion to those that have a clue about business. Fair Tax? Transfer the tax burden to ‘them’? Good lord, read up on it’s provisions for low income earners before making a statement like that….and bring me some peanuts.

Braves fan

November 14th, 2012
9:38 pm

Braves fan

November 14th, 2012
9:38 pm

not bad..ops

Mr. Snarky

November 14th, 2012
9:39 pm

JD…really? Moving the team half-way to Macon? Don’t thinks so…

Grow up

November 14th, 2012
9:46 pm

If its too far to go into town to pay $20 to park, $50 per ticket, $10 for a beer, $9 for a burger or $14 for a barbecue to sit in an uncomfortable chair to listen to some jack leg drop F bombs in front of his 10 year old daughter because an 8 Million a year athlete can’t hit an orange sized object hurtling at him at
90 mph do what I do: Put on your Braves hat, fire up the grill, turn on the HD LCD, pop open a $2 dollar ice cold beer from a fridge full of ‘em with no lines, sit in your recliner and enjoy Chip and Joe!

Mr. Snarky

November 14th, 2012
9:47 pm

Traffic sucks everywhere in Atlanta, so unless you happen to live near the stadium it is going to be inconvenient. The best solution is to have it near transit so fewer cars have to be on the road for people going there. Land not near the ‘hood is going to be prohibitively expensive or in the middle of nowhere. Intown population is now growing faster than the suburbs, so it would be great to harness that growth and develop the parking wasteland that only generates economic activity 81 days a year.

It shouldn’t be a boondoggle though and must be funded privately.

Mr. Snarky

November 14th, 2012
9:50 pm

The best stadiums are in neighborhoods…see Wrigleyville and Fenway. Perhaps with smart planning and investment we could have that someday…wouldn’t bet on it though.

Matt the Brave

November 14th, 2012
9:51 pm

2 things need to happen for the Braves to be viable where they are: 1) build a rail line to the front door of the stadium. 2) force Cobb County to have a light rail at least to Marietta. Neither of those things will ever happen, though.

tmc

November 14th, 2012
9:52 pm

New Headline:

That’s funny cause the fans would like to see the product INSIDE Turner Field improve!

BigGTMike

November 14th, 2012
10:00 pm

Go north and profit!!! The first team between Braves and Falcons to get out of downtown will profit greatly!!