The draft stadium agreements between the Atlanta Braves and Cobb County are now online, which means we can get down to the matter of answering those remaining sticky questions about the deal. One at a time:
Who will pay operating costs on the stadium, the Braves or the county? The Braves and Cobb County will go 50/50 on contributing to a “capital maintenance fund” to pay for any repairs and maintenance to the new stadium. The county’s payments will be limited to $1,590,000 per year, but there’s a big “but”: If the Braves tell the county that they need an upgrade that’s “reasonable and necessary for the Stadium to remain a Competitive MLB Facility,” then the county can decide to kick in more. (It doesn’t look like they’re obligated to kick in more, at least.) The Braves promise to fund any upgrades that “exceed industry standards,” a clause that it likely to come into play exactly never, given sports teams’ attitudes toward what “industry standards” mean.
Are the Braves going to be locked in to playing in Cobb for the entire length of the lease, or will there be opt-out clauses? There’s no opt-out per se, though the Braves could break the lease by paying off a pro-rated share of the public’s construction costs — so to get out of the lease in the year 2037, for example, the team would have to pay about $123 million. Cobb County could seek a court injunction first, though, so all things considered, this looks like a fairly tight lease compared to some.
Is there any sign of that transportation document, and how much the county could be on the hook for new roads? Nope — the Transportation Agreement doesn’t even exist in draft form. (The Operating Agreement includes a heading in its table of contents for “3.2. Public Infrastructure,” but that actual section isn’t included in the document that follows.) Which is a pretty big omission, given that estimates of the cost of possible road improvements run as high as $160 million.
So the main takeaway remains that the Braves would get almost half the cost of a $622-672 million stadium paid for by the county, plus an unknown amount in highway improvements, plus at least $47 million in county maintenance and repair funds, and would get 100% of revenues from any and all events held in the new building, plus naming rights and anything else that generates any money. But at least they wouldn’t get to walk out on the deal halfway through without paying off the county’s remaining expenses. It’s better than the poke in the eye with a sharp stick that is some other cities’ stadium leases, but that’s a pretty low bar for comparison.