Common Cause Georgia board member Terry Taylor made headlines yesterday by telling WABE radio that the new Atlanta Braves stadium in Cobb County won’t cost taxpayers $300 million as commonly stated, but rather close to $600 million:
Add in maintenance and other costs, and they say the cost rises to close to $600 million. “When we look at what the county pays, it’s much more over the life of the bonds and the stadium than people tend to think it is.”
Well, yes and no. Tallying up all the $17 million a year bond payments over 30 years and calling that “what the county pays” isn’t quite fair — as I’ve noted before, it’s like saying that you’re spending more than a million dollars on your $500,000 house because that’s what you get when you add up all your mortgage payments. What the county spends is what it spends; how it finances it is another matter.
(Or, to look at it another way, that last $17 million bond payment in 2043 won’t be worth $17 million in 2014 dollars, not just because of inflation, but because you could generate that much money far in the future by putting a whole lot less in the bank and watching it grow with interest. Same difference.)
Maintenance costs, though, are a concern, especially since the part of the operating agreement that covers that piece hasn’t been worked out yet. Plus there’s that possible $120-160 million in county-funded transportation upgrades, not to mention the $60 million in state tax breaks the Braves owners are hoping for, and, you know, we certainly could be getting to up around $500 million, if not $600 million — in real present value, even. Or not. That’s the great thing about negotiating stadium deals in secret: You can deny anything, because nobody gets to peek at your piece of paper.
Meanwhile, Populous, the crazy-monorail-stadium people, are talking vaguely about all the exciting “challenges” of designing a stadium in Cobb County, because it will be in a natural bowl and have to mesh with the surrounding entertainment zone that Populous won’t be designing, and so on. Though to be honest with you, I suspect that having “the stadium facing south with a view of the Galleria Center in the foreground and the lights of downtown Atlanta possibly in the background” will be more of a challenge, since it will require changing Earth’s orbit to keep the sun from shining in the eyes of batters all game long. But hey, guess we’ve got to do it eventually, might as well start now.