Braves MOU requires county-subsidized fund to keep stadium “competitive” in future

Okay, I’ve done a quick perusal of Cobb County’s proposed MOU with the Atlanta Braves, and here’s what I’ve come away with:

  • The Braves and the county would split 50/50 the cost of a “capital maintenance fund.” Annual amount: to be determined, with details to be spelled out in a later Stadium Operating Agreement. It’s more than a bit worrying, though, that the Braves are committing only to pay for upgrades that “exceed industry standards and that are not reasonably necessary to maintain the Stadium as a competitive MLB facility.” As we’ve seen before, these kinds of “state of the art” clauses have been interpreted by teams — and by arbitrators — to require anything up to and including renovations that cost more than twice what the stadium cost to build in the first place.
  • Nobody knows yet what the infrastructure costs will be. That’s left to a separate Transportation and Infrastructure Agreement that’s yet to be written. The included wish list, though, goes far beyond the new pedestrian bridge over I-285 and new exit ramp that the county has already agreed to pay for, to include a Windy Ridge Parkway Connector and other improvements extending northeast across I-75 to Powers Ferry, plus public transit connecting to Route 10 and possibly downtown Atlanta. (The last of which will not make the Cobb County Republican chair happy at all.)
  • The Braves would agree to a 30-year lease. But there could be out clauses in the Stadium Operating Agreement that’s — stop me if you’ve heard this — yet to be negotiated.
  • The mystery about why the Braves’ contribution to the project is anywhere from $322 million to $372 million is explained: The Braves are committing $372 million toward a $672 million stadium, but if they can cut the price tag they can keep the savings, up to $50 million worth.

The upshot, then, is that there are a ton of details that aren’t going to be worked out by the time of next Tuesday’s county commission vote — details that could amount to tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in costs shifting one way or another. More and more, this is looking less like the county is ready for a final vote on the project as it claims, and more like the county is not ready at all, which is why it’s telling everyone in sight this is a final vote, so that once the details are known they can say “no backsies.” This is less a done deal than a hastily scrawled-upon napkin that everyone is hoping to get signed fast, and we can work out the specifics later.

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26 comments on “Braves MOU requires county-subsidized fund to keep stadium “competitive” in future

  1. Looks like funding for potential shortages in the $10,000,000 contribution from the Cumberland CID will not be known until the Intergovernmental Agreement is created.

    How do these people get elected? I blame the electorate for putting these unethical clowns in office to begin with.

  2. This is another Marlin’s Park in the making except it may never come to fruition, especially when you consider all the ancillary logistics necessary to make the deal happen, from highway construction to other improvements that it is looking increasingly like Cobb County is not in a position to update. My worry of course is they will sell the bonds anyways despite anemic revenue projections leaving Cobb County in a Detroit-esque position of owing more to its bond holders than it’s revenues allow it to pay off.

    The economic argument seems increasingly ridiculous as this stadium will likely be, as others have done, a kind of all in one entertainment/retail/restaurant experience as most huge stadium projects are. Why wouldn’t it be? After all the team has zero interest in local businesses when it can be capturing the fans dollar inside the park. Helping out local business is contradictory to the whole planning of the stadium.

  3. Great work, Neil. Thank you. The “competitive” thing is interesting. I think those clauses are a good idea in order to prevent more Legion Fields. On the other hand it could get abused, but at least the Braves are paying half of it.

    I disagree on the final analysis though. I think this is a done deal and it will be a huge success.

  4. Ben, I read the competitive clause as being more along the lines of the terrible clause written into the Rams lease in St. Louis.

  5. The AJC posted renderings:

  6. “The AJC posted renderings:…”

    Surprising, to say the least. Never expected that so little of the project’s main parcel of land would be used for parking. Certainly answers the question about how the Braves were going to fit all the extra stuff they wanted on less land than Turner Field + parking.

  7. Keith – the artist renderings almost always leave out the parking lots that surround the facility. They make the grass fields or buildings or something similar, because honestly big empty parking lots are ugly. I’d get money that the buildings on the side are never built and used for parking for a long, long time.

  8. Ben – Dan is tight. The competitive clause is basically there to put Cobb County on the hook for any upgrades needed (according to the Braves) in the next 30 what ever the cost will be.

    It has nothing to do with operational maintenance of the facility.

  9. “Cobb County is a very progressive county,” said Plant. “Stay tuned for more good things on transit, traffic and parking.”

    Many folks in Cobb County might consider being called ‘progressive’ a slur. Plant should be careful unless he wants this sweetheart deal to be shut down…

  10. jmauro: That’s very possible, re parking. They could even maybe wait and see if the first “entertainment” buildings are a success, and if so use the proceeds to pay for parking structures so they can develop more of the lots.

    Not that that master plan map seems to leave any room for parking at all, really. Either one hand doesn’t know what the other’s doing, or one of the hands is lying.

  11. The Hawks will ask for a new arena next year. I’m calling it now. Georgia is giving stadiums away . stadiums. I’ll say March at the earliest.

  12. FWIW, re: parking: I believe I read that 2,000 spots will be in a lot built UNDER the stadium. Any other stadiums out there with similar arrangements? This would seem to add a significant amount of time (and cost) to the project.

  13. Cfountain: Where did you read that? It sounds crazy — no other stadiums do that, to my knowledge, both because of cost and because they need that underground space for locker rooms, etc. (Whatever they’re calling Fleet Center in Boston sits on top of a parking lot, but that’s an arena, and is a special case because of the tight space it’s in.) Also, it would be a potential security risk, no?


    “About 2,000 spaces would be built under the stadium, along with roughly 4,000 other spaces on the 60-acre site. A total of 30,000 parking spaces would be located within two miles, and the team envisions a pedestrian bridge across Interstate 285 linking to Cobb Galleria.”

  15. “Where did you read that? It sounds crazy …”

    It’s in the article that “Thisten” provided the link to. Sounds even more expensive than parking garages.

    Between underground parking, parking lots, trams or other people-moving systems, pedestrian bridges and, of course, major road improvements, we’re probably talking $100M+ for the transportation-related pieces of this project.

  16. Bizarre. No, I can’t think of any other baseball stadium that does this, off the top of my head.

  17. Why would anyone build a lot under the stadium? If you’re going to go to that much trouble, wouldn’t just build an elevated parking garage instead?

  18. Also, if you look closely at the first rendering, there is a road that snakes around the outfield, widens, and then seems to just stop in the woods. My guess is that this would be the road leading into the underground garage.

    I have seem this concept in a corporate setting (Epic Software HQ in Verona, Wisconsin), with three separate multi-level underground lots for about 7,000 employees (not sure how many actual spots they have). When you are there, you have no idea you are standing above parking garages. It’s actually a pretty impressive feat if engineering.

    But, as far as I know, they used their own money to build it.

  19. Chuchundra: They’d do it because they’re really short on land at that site, and even parking garages have a footprint.

    It does sound awfully spendy, though.

  20. How do we know that MLB is suddenly trying to create rumors that teams/cities are going to get new stadiums so that it will create a groundswell in cities where teams WANT new stadiums (ala’ Tampa/St. Pete)? This could all be just a strategic move.

  21. Cfountain72 – That is what it looks like to me. If that is the only entrance/exit from the 2,000 spaces it would be a complete mess on game day when people are entering and leaving. The backup for the spots would be amazing.

    And to get that many spaces under a stadium you’re likely looking at 2-3 decks which wouldn’t be cheap to build. Unless you have a real space concern you don’t build above ground or below ground parking garages. It’s cheaper to just buy more land at a higher price around the stadium. Especially in the suburbs.

  22. The people that complain now about walking to the Ted from the GSU MARTA station are really gonna love walking over I-285 in July

  23. Neil, great post and thanks for the link, quick question in the MOU there is a line about the “reallocation of current County ongoing annual revenues” (page 15). I don’t speak legalese, but does that mean Cobb county is shifting current tax revenue to the stadium?

  24. AJ: Yeah, that’s the property tax surcharge money that’s currently going to pay off parks bonds. As discussed here:

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