Extra Bases

Against the Atlanta Braves' New Stadium Plan? Too Bad

A Cobb County police officer prepares to remove Braves stadium opponent Gary Pelphrey from the Cobb County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday May 27, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. Pelphrey started giving comments before the floor was opened to public comment and a vote on the operating agreement that will bind the county to borrow up to $396 million to build the Atlanta Braves new stadium. Pelphrey was one of four opponents removed from the room at the beginning of the meeting. AP Photo

As the Red Sox were busy beating Atlanta Tuesday night, Cobb Commissioners were unanimously approving to devote $392 million to building a new $622 million stadium for the Braves. Turner Field, the current home of the Braves, opened in 1997.

Opponents of the plan were not allowed to speak at the public vote.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

At a packed public meeting, county commissioners approved a series of seven legal agreements with the team, and several community agencies that will be involved in building, operating and paying for a new $622 million ballpark in the Cumberland Mall area. The meeting was over within two hours, and the commissioners approved the deals without questions or debate.

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Several critics of the deal made their way toward the front of the commission meeting room and asked to be given an opportunity to speak. For a minute, the scene turned tense when they would not relent the floor. They were critical of the process of limiting the floor to a dozen public speakers for such an important vote.

The meeting was, of course, dominated by supporters of the stadium plan. They had lined up for the 12 speaking slots by 1:45, more than five hours prior to the 7 p.m. vote. Critics complained that blue-collar workers, who could not leave work in order to dedicate time to the stadium plan, were shut out from the beginning.

“I quit my day at 2:45 today, meaning I didn’t get paid after 2:45,” attorney Justin O’Dell told the Journal-Constitution. “It was important enough that we read the rules. It was important (for us to) say thank you” to the Braves for choosing to invest in Cobb"

Rich Pellegrino, a critic of the plan, arrived about an hour before the meeting, but found that he was too late to voice an opinion.

“We’re working people,” Pellegrino said. “We’re not on corporate welfare. It’s a slap in the face.”

The new stadium is scheduled to open in 2017, one year after the Braves’ lease at downtown Turner Field – all of 17 years old - expires. The Braves announced their surprising plans to build a new stadium in Cobb County last November. Atlanta's attendance averages just over 28,000 this season.

From the Atlanta Braves website:

“Turner Field is a facility that was built for three weeks of use for the Olympics, but has now served us well for nearly 20 years. The issue isn’t the Turner Field we play in today, but instead whether or not the venue can remain viable for another 20 to 30 years.

“Turner Field has served the Braves well since 1997, but it is in need of major infrastructure work, which will cost around $150 million. These upgrades are functional ones, such as replacing worn-out seats or upgrading the stadium’s lighting, and they would do little to significantly enhance the fan experience. If the Braves were to pay for additional projects focused on improving the fan experience, the additional costs could exceed $200 million.

“Those upgrades still wouldn’t address the logistical challenges outside the stadium – lack of consistent mass transit options, inadequate number of parking spaces and limited access to major highways.”

Here’s the breakdown of the deal, according to the Journal-Constitution:

Stadium Project Budget: $622 million
Public Contribution: $392 million
$368 million in bonds*
$14 million in transportation sales tax
$10 million cash from businesses in the Cumberland Community Improvement District
*Does not include up to $29 million in additional county debt to pay the first 15 months of interest and up-front borrowing costs. The interest rate at the time of the issuance will determine the exact amount borrowed. The maximum bond issuance could be $397 million.
Braves Contribution: $230 million, which can be increased up to $280 million at the team’s discretion.
County’s maximum annual payment: $25 million**
**This is the legal maximum annual debt payment. The exact amount will depend on interest rates at the time of the bond issuance. County officials have estimated the annual payment is unlikely to exceed $24 million.
County annual revenue sources for bond payments:
Renewal of countywide property tax levy: $8.6 million
Braves rent: $6.1 million
New property tax from Cumberland-area businesses: $5.1 million
New nightly hotel room fee: $2.7 million
Existing hotel-motel tax: $940,000
New rental car tax in unincorporated Cobb: $400,000

“Today was an historic day,” Braves executive vice president of sales and marketing Derek Schiller said during a press conference after the meeting Tuesday. “We celebrate a great moment in our relationship with Cobb. We’re ready to build this ballpark.”

Whether you like it or not.