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After striking out in Wilmington, Braves' big league plans again hinge on public financing

Last year the Atlanta Braves struck out in their attempt to get the City of Wilmington to spend tens of millions of dollars to build them a minor league baseball stadium. Now the Braves say they have a plan in place to move their Major League club to the north side of Atlanta in a few years, where again a stadium deal hinges on public financing.

In Wilmington, taxpayers overwhelmingly voted against a $37 million plan for a ballpark. The club did commit to a 20-year lease, which is somewhat unusual in Minor League Baseball, in an attempt to relocate the Lynchburg (VA) Hillcats into what the team calls "Braves country," but annual rent payments would have been far from enough to cover the cost and interest the city would have for the construction and land purchase. (The Hillcats, by the way, still call Lynchburg home)

Speaking of 20-year leases, the Braves have one ending with Fulton County's Turner Field after the 2016 season. That's why they're announcing plans to move north to new digs in Cobb County for 2017. The teams says Turner Field, originally built as the main stadium for the 1996 Summer Olympics, needs hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades. After having already paid millions of dollars in improvements for the stadium over the years, the Braves clearly see that kind of money better spent on a new facility in a better part of town, where it appears they will have more control on the development of the neighborhood.

The estimated cost of the stadium, parking and related infrastructure will be roughly $672 million, and the Braves will be a significant investor, along with Cobb County, in the project, the club said, according to a story on its website Braves.com

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal involves $450 million in financing by the county and another $200 million up front from the Braves. Of course, that's if the financing does not fall through. It's unclear at this point how the financing would work, or even, as in Wilmington, if the voters will get a say.

Of course, to compare Wilmington to Cobb County is not exactly fair. As I argued last year, claims of civic pride for a minor league team here in the Port City were ridiculous, but civic pride in a big league franchise is a real thing. From a business standpoint, the deal certainly makes sense for the Braves. The move would put the team at the core of its fan base in the city's northern and eastern suburbs. It would keep those fans from having to to drive through some of the most horrific traffic in the country to get to games in a not-so-great part of town. All of that should mean far fewer empty seats, which have been a pretty big embarrassment for a team that has put a consistently good product on the field for the last two decades. For the county, the economic impact is surely far more easily measurable than what a Class A affiliate would have had here in Wilmington.

Still, there are valid comparisons to the two projects. The taxpayers of Cobb County will have a much larger financial burden than the club, as was certainly the case here. And as was the fear here and is now the case in Fulton County, when the lease is up, what happens then? Because the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) paid the $209 million to build Olympic Stadium and retrofit it for the Braves (ACOG also paid the remaining $9 million of debt on Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the team's old home next door that was torn down after the move to Turner Field), the county is at least not stuck with paying off an empty building. It is, though, left trying to figure out what to do with the ballpark now that it's chief tenant is saying goodbye. Of course, if Cobb County voters see what happened in Wilmington, who knows what will happen?

By: Kevin Wuzzardo

Hey Kevin

No follow up?
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/11/27/tea-party-strikes-out-a...

A few snips:
"When the Atlanta Braves became the latest Major League Baseball franchise to demand a new stadium to play in, they ran into a huge tide of opposition to their move from downtown Atlanta to the suburbs north of the city.

But instead of protests from fans in their current home downtown, the team has gotten an earful from furious Tea Party activists in Cobb County, the Republican-dominated portion of the metro area that was once the heart of Newt Gingrich’s congressional district and will now be home to the 60-acre site the team has chosen for its new stadium. "

"“We’re spending millions of Cobb County taxpayer dollars on this deal and we’re going to take two weeks and ram it though?” said Patricia Hay, a local resident. “It reminds me of Obamacare and how they did that."

"But Debbie Dooley and her Tea Party partners say there’s no such thing as a conservative government. And they say their fight in Cobb County isn’t over. Her coalition is preparing a legal challenge to the stadium financing plan; planning a recall petition for county commission chairman, Tim Lee;"

Ah the Atlanta Braves - the entitlement grabbing, corporate welfare demanding "give me what I want or I'll take my ball and go home" idiots of MLB.
What a distasteful display of hubris.

I am so glad Wilmington voters saw through this fraud.......
Vog

Kevin

First Cobb County does NOT have the infrastructure to support the stadium as there are NO mass transit routes to and from the proposed stadium area. Traffic congestion is a mess no mater where the stadium goes - Atlanta is just poorly laid out city.
This is the SECOND stadium the Braves will have someone else pay for them. The original Turner Field was the Olympic stadium, from Wikki:
" Private entities, including NBC and other Olympic sponsors, agreed to pay a large sum of the cost to build Centennial Olympic Stadium (approximately $170 million of the $209 million bill)"

What this means Kevin is the government has outlayed over half a BILLION dollars to one enterprise alone for not one, but TWO stadiums in a 22 year span all the while having attendance dwindle due to poor performance. This by the way PROVES that team performance, not location, is the main driver of attendance and COMPLETELY demolishes the argument of "build it and they will come".

Of course the Braves organization is very familiar with how to play politicians and the PR game - just ask the folks in Gwinnette county who bankrupted themselves in order to get a Braves Triple AAA franchise only to see all the "peripheral development" fall apart.

It is quite apparent that the "welfare queens" of inner city America have been usurped in prominence by the welfare queens in the corporate board rooms.

Vog

Have to disagree

Vog,

Have to disagree with you on two points.

1. Your statement about the government paying for two stadiums to 22 years is wrong. As you pointed out, Turner Field was built by ACOG and Olympics sponsors. It was private money. The half billion public dollars are for the new stadium only.

2. The Braves most definitely prove that team performance is NOT the main driver of attendance. They have had a good product on the field for the last two decades. They went to the playoffs the last two seasons. But watch a game or highlights on TV, and you will see plenty of empty seats. I can tell you having lived in Atlanta and working in media there, there are a few reasons for this. First, Atlanta fans quickly became spoiled by the success of the Braves in the '90s to a degree I've never seen in other markets. Second, the city is so transient, that a lot of people are not loyal to the local teams. Thirdly, Atlanta traffic makes going to the games a nightmare.

I agree with your points about the potential pitfalls of this stadium, namely infrastructure and mass transit. That being said, because this is, as you said, a poorly planned city, Atlantans are used to driving. I don't think this is a good investment for Cobb County, but if they're willing to pony up the money, it's a good move for the Braves (obviously) and should ensure higher attendance based on location alone. Of course, only Atlanta fans will prove that to be true or false.

Thanks for reading!
KEVIN

Kevin

Technically you are right however I stand by the statement:
"This is the SECOND stadium the Braves will have someone else pay for them. The original Turner Field was the Olympic stadium, from Wikki:"
It matters not a wit as to whether it was private or public monies - IT WASN'T BRAVES MONIES."

As for attendance the Braves have been poorly attended for years even while MLB was showing RECORD attendance in 2004 and the number of seats in the new stadium is very low for a professional sports franchise.
But the Braves in particular have a propensity for stretching the truth about how "well" these deals work. Gwinnette County built the AAA stadium and that has failed to attract the development the Braves believed would happen around the stadium. The proposed ILM stadium was full of dream scenarios that even the most ardent fan would have a doubts about and the attendance figures were so overblown they were pathetic. They attract less than .5% of their metro area population an their games yet they expected ILM to attract almost 2% to their games.
I don't trust ted Turner or the Braves organization, and Atlanta has bankrupted itself for the domed stadium for the Falcons already. Personally I don't see Cobb county coming up with the money, nor do I see attendance improving, whether Atlantans like to drive or not.
I hope the Cobb county residents get a say in this

Vog

Stadium

Kevin,

I believe your second point explains why this stadium should never be built with public funds. Do you know why these stadiums are not maintained yearly and have to be replaced every 20 to 25 years? With this kind of investment, the life span is ridiculously short. These stadiums are never ending money pits that guarantee the owners a profit because the public covers the overhead...........a great deal if the public is foolish enough to continue writing the checks.

Stadium

It is unbelievable to me that any public funds are used to build any of these stadiums. We always hear about all the "millions" in renovations that are needed. Why don't they build stadiums that are easier to maintain and then just maintain them? So called "investments" of this magnitude that only last 20 to 25 years are ridiculous. I hope the people in Atlanta tell the Braves to come up with a business plan that does not include public funding or tax breaks. It is time for all of the billionaire beggars to stand on their own 2 feet. Their "potty training" should now be complete.

The Wilmingtonian Puzzle!

"In Wilmington, taxpayers overwhelmingly voted against a $37 million plan for a ballpark." (Unquote...and I mean UNQUOTE)
"Overwhelmingly"????????

Wait a Cotton Pickin' Minute! Enough Wilmingtonian's voted away the ballpark "Deal of the Century"...but not enough voted the goofballs out of office...that once again sit in Council seating?
PINCH ME!!!! Or as Moe always said to Curley..."PICK OUT TWO!"