Cobb County on Braves stadium: Vote first, ask questions later

So the Cobb County Commission is going to be voting on the Atlanta Braves stadium deal today, notwithstanding that the deal still hasn’t finished being written:

Cobb County Commissioners are expected to vote Tuesday on development, construction and operating agreements between the county, the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority and the Braves to build the planned $672 million, 41,676-seat stadium and adjacent $400 million mixed-use development near the intersection of interstates 75 and 285.

Development, construction, and operating agreements — that leaves out the transportation and infrastructure agreement, which just happens to be the one that could end up costing the county as much as an additional $160 million. So Cobb County will be voting on approving the bulk of the deal, including selling stadium bonds, before actually knowing how much it will cost taxpayers. I suppose it’s too much to hope that this will all turn out to be a curious dream?

9 comments on “Cobb County on Braves stadium: Vote first, ask questions later

  1. I read in the AJC this morning that there is no written agreement on the part of the Braves to build the $400 million adjacent mixed-use development – which has always been a part of the commissioners’ economic justification for county investment in the stadium. “…Braves officials balked when the county tried to get them to commit to a minimum investment and a date certain for the private development’s completion, according to documents reviewed by the AJC.” (Atlanta Journal Constitution, “No firm contract for Braves”, May 27th.) The commissioners announced tonight’s scheduled vote last Friday at 6 PM. When asked how an after-business-hours, pre-holiday- weekend announcement of a crucial vote – to take place the following week, the day after said holiday – was indicative of the much-promised government transparency taxpayers have demanded, Chairman Tim Lee replied, “How is it not?” In other words, let them eat cake. The vote will approve borrowing beyond the limits previously stated by the county commission. Which supposedly is standard for this type of deal, but certainly doesn’t sit well with taxpayers and merits more time for discussion.

  2. Yeah – they approved the stadium last November, during Thanksgiving week. Less than two weeks after it was announced publicly.

  3. Is there no requirement for them to give more than one business day’s notice for votes? That’s pretty incredible, if so.

  4. Best I can tell, the anti-stadium people’s entire strategy for this deal is to create red tape. (That certainly includes Deadspin’s article today.) Does anyone have a good argument against the actual deal? New development (even if it ends up being only a stadium) is happening in an area that gets pretty dead during non-business hours (which is when most baseball games happen). There are a lot of Bucks fans who wish that their suburb/area of Milwaukee would do a deal like this.

  5. If it only ends up being a stadium, that’s a pretty terrible payoff for upwards of $300 million in public money. I bet you could find a developer who would, for example, build a crappy shopping mall for a fraction of that subsidy, and even a crappy shopping mall would bring in more spending than the Braves.

    Or you could just spend the money on actual public services for people in Cobb County, or on cutting taxes if you prefer. Any of these would have some economic benefit, and it wouldn’t be hard for it to be a bigger one than a stadium, at this price.

  6. That’s really the most important thing to remember about all stadium deals, or even all development deals: It’s easy to point at a finished building and say, “Well, at least something got built.” It’s harder to point at what didn’t happen as a result of that money being already spent on a stadium.

  7. I have about 300 million-plus good arguments against the deal. I disagree that “new development” is always a good thing – especially in an area that is already congested with horrendous traffic. $9 million per year in general property tax funds are committed toward stadium debt, beginning in 2017. That money currently is being spent to pay off park bonds. I would much rather see it go toward public safety enhancements (Cobb isn’t exactly crime-free, contrary to many of the comments I’ve seen made by those who seemed scared off by the bogeymen who supposedly lurk around Turner Field) and traffic improvements (much-needed already, the stadium just being an added headache). The bottom line is that these deals never work out in the taxpayers’ favor, and if the Braves want a new stadium THEY should bear the cost. Let the county throw in the necessary transportation improvements and increased public safety costs. The role of government should be to facilitate growth, not underwrite it. Especially for a multi-million dollar enterprise that will likely go shopping for a new stadium before this one is even paid off.

  8. I’m sympathetic to the idea of not developing the area and the idea that the Braves should pay for their own stadium. But I (having worked in that little Cumberland area several times) think that a stadium fits better than anything else if the area is going to be developed. And it could stimulate growth and lead to higher property values eventually.

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