By Collin Kelley
The Cobb County Commission is expected to vote tomorrow, Nov. 26, on building the $672 million stadium and entertainment complex, while community and political groups – including the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots – marshal forces to either derail the plan or at least get the vote pushed back for 60 days.
Meanwhile, City of Atlanta and Fulton County officials appear to be hoping for a last minute reprieve. On Nov. 18, the Atlanta City Council passed a resolution urging Mayor Kasim Reed back to the negotiating table by promising $200 million in renovations to the Braves’ current home at Turner Field. Where the money would come from wasn’t specified. The Fulton County Commission also unanimously passed a resolution last week urging the parties back to the bargaining table, warning of the significant economic impact to Fulton County, particularly with regard to sales tax revenue.
A study completed this past summer by Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy studies indicated that the Atlanta Braves brings in $60.8 million per year in direct fiscal impact and tax revenues to the city. That revenue stream will disappear in 2017 when the Braves move 12 miles north to the new stadium near the intersection of I-285 and I-75.
The Veteran’s Day surprise announcement stunned the city and made national headlines, but Reed is already thinking ahead on what to do with Turner Field. Reed said he would not meddle in the Braves’ negotiations with Cobb. “Let it play out and see what happens,” he said.
A day after the announcement, Reed said The Ted would be demolished to make way for a development centered on “middle class families.” He later elaborated that he hoped the 60-acre site would become a mixed-used development similar to Glenwood Park with its eclectic neighborhood of townhomes, lofts, apartments, shops and restaurants.
“We aren’t going to leave The Ted vacant,” Reed said. “The neighborhood is going to be the biggest beneficiary of the move. This is an ideal tract of land for middle class families. We need to look at New York and London, which are having an affordability problems, and having this 60 acres in the bank will go along way to addressing the issues of affordability in Atlanta.”
Atlanta City Councilwoman Carla Smith, who represents the Summerhill neighborhood that surrounds Turner Field, said she was “shocked and saddened” by the announcement, but is already looking ahead to jumpstarting the community with a development to replace The Ted. The stadium was originally built as the Olympic Stadium for the 1996 Summer Games and retrofitted for the Braves the next year. The original Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, home of the Braves since their move from Milwaukee in 1966, was demolished in 1997 to make way for more parking for The Ted.
Reed said the City of Atlanta had been in negotiations with the Braves for 18 months. On Nov. 7, Reed met with Braves representatives who told him they had decided it was in their best interest to accept a deal from Cobb County.
Reed said he refused to put anywhere from $150 to $250 million in debt on the taxpayers and dismissed complaints that the city could have negotiated with the Braves the same way it did with the Falcons for its new stadium.
“The Falcons stadium is 80 percent privately funded,” Reed said. “The city’s commitment is $200 million, which will come from the hotel/motel tax revenue. That means we are not on the hook for the debt and Atlanta’s good faith and credit rating won’t be jeopardized by the stadium.”
Reed characterized the Braves demands as “aggressive” and said they wanted transference of the The Ted property and $150 to $250 million in money for renovations to the stadium. Reed said that the city would have to float a bond to get the money, but he and the council believed that fixing roads and infrastructure was more important to the future of Atlanta.
“The bottom line is that the city was presented with a choice and that choice was encumbering debt and not having money to do anything else,” Reed said. “The Braves got a terrific deal from Cobb County and it’s ultimately a business decision.”
The Braves indicated that the new stadium would place them closer to their fan base. A study by the team showed that most of their season ticket holders live on the northern suburbs. Still unknown is what the new stadium’s affect will be on traffic at the top end of the Perimeter.
Reed said part of the negotiations with the Braves to keep them Downtown had been about better connectivity to The Ted, including a Maglev train connected to MARTA’s Georgia State University station. Reed said Cobb would have to consider a MARTA extension or some type of light rail, but Cobb’s GOP Chairman Joe Dendy nixed the idea immediately.
Dendy said the solution would be to figure out how to moves cars in and around Cobb and from surrounding counties, “not moving people into Cobb by rail from Atlanta.