Atlanta Braves execs have run through quite the list of reasons why the team should move to a taxpayer-funded home in Cobb County — their season-ticket base is mostly suburban anyway, the old stadium has inadequate parking, downtown Atlanta is too scary — but they hadn’t gotten around to claiming that they needed a new building to be “competitive,” one of the core elements of the sports stadium playbook. At least, until now:
#Braves Wren said revenue increases at Cobb Co. ballpark will allow team to be “more competitive” and keep many of its homegrown players.
SBNation’s Alex Skillin picks up that meme and runs with it, speculating that “With Atlanta signing first baseman Freddie Freeman to an eight-year, $135 million extension on Tuesday, it appears the Braves might already be factoring in this revenue increase into some of their decision-making.”
Yeah, um, no. Let’s take one at a time the reasons why it makes no sense to assume that new stadiums turn their tenants into free-spending machines:
- The Braves aren’t spending that much for Freeman. Sure, $17 million a year sounds like a lot for a good-not-great first baseman, but as SBNation’s Marc Normandin pointed out yesterday, that’s just what good-not-great first basemen go for in 2014.
- The Braves have no shortage of money now. Not only does the team turn a sizable profit (according to Forbes’ estimates, more than $18 million a year on average over the past three seasons), but its owner Liberty Media turns an annual profit of more than $300 million, meaning it could buy a six-pack of Freddie Freemans without significantly denting its bottom line, if it wanted.
- Players are investments, not just expenses. Okay, so you say that the Braves (and Liberty Media) are in business to make money, not just to win ballgames? Fine, but then we have to address the fact that spending on players is a way of doing both, ideally. There’s no particular reason to expect that having Freddie Freeman on the team is going to result in a significantly higher bump in revenue in Cobb County than it would in Atlanta (their cable revenues and other income will remain the same, after all, and it’s not like the marginal revenues from an additional few wins are that great to begin with), so even if a new stadium puts more money in the Braves’ pockets, it’s hard to see where it would make more sense to spend it on player salaries than it does now.
In short, then: If Frank Wren and his corporate bosses would feel better about spending to re-sign homegrown players if they had a shiny new building to play in, then fine. But there’s no rational economic reason to say that a Cobb County stadium will significantly help them “afford” players any more than they could right now.