I initially missed this one when it happened last week: The Georgia state transportation department approved $18.9 million in funding for road projects to support Cobb County’s new Atlanta Braves stadium, including money for new message boards to help direct traffic and highway and pedestrian improvements near the stadium. I think we’re still at $276 million in direct public subsidies for the stadium (which you can watch being built via webcam right here, if you want to see what taxpayers are getting for their money, or just like cranes), so adding the cost of upgrading highways so tens of thousands of people can actually get to the middle of nowhere at the same time to watch baseball would bring the total cost to $294.9 million.
And we’re not done yet, because the state refused to pay for that delayed pedestrian and shuttle-bus bridge that is set to leave Braves fans walking along the side of a highway to get to games for at least the stadium’s first season. The bridge itself is projected to cost $9 million (though nobody apparently really thinks it can be built for that amount), plus another $3.5 million is needed to upgrade a parking deck that it would connect to. Right now nobody knows where the money will come from, though the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s James Salzer has some ideas:
Lawmakers routinely approve sales tax breaks for construction projects, from amphitheaters in the northern suburbs to zoo improvements in Atlanta.
Those tax breaks – contained in carefully worded bills with a limited lifespan – are typically sponsored by local lawmakers who want to help out a project in their home county.
Lawmakers have at least twice given sales tax breaks to Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus’ downtown aquarium: once for the original construction and another time for an expansion.
Salzer also notes that the state legislature agreed to kick in $40 million for a Falcons parking garage after it turned out nobody had budgeted for that, so there’s always the chance of this happening here as well. There’s a reason why the average public stadium cost is “more than you were told at the start.”