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.