Cobb County spending $14m on traffic cops because they forgot to ask Braves to pay for them

My sincere apologies for neglecting to inform you last week of this excellent article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in which reporter Dan Klepal revealed that Cobb County is going to be on the hook for $900,000 a year for traffic police around the Atlanta Braves‘ new stadium. And before you say, “But isn’t free policing one of the services that government typically provides to sports teams and others alike?”, nuh-uh:

The Braves paid for traffic control during the team’s last eight seasons at Turner Field. At Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Falcons will reimburse the Georgia World Congress Center an estimated $2.5 million a year for traffic management during football games, soccer matches and other events…

An AJC survey of 11 cities with professional sports stadiums found only two other instances where taxpayers funded all or a portion of traffic control…

“The Falcons outcome is the norm. The Braves outcome is a throwback to the 1990s” when those kinds of subsidies were more common, [Stanford economist Roger Noll] said.

This free-traffic-cops clause apparently wasn’t part of the original Braves deal with Cobb County — traffic control costs weren’t addressed at the time, along with a lot else having to do with transportation — which left the county stuck with the costs by default. (Though it would be kind of fun to think of what would happen if the county said to the Braves, “Go get your players to direct traffic, it’s clear they’re not occupied by actually playing baseball.”) If we figure that the free patrolling is worth around $14 million in present value, adding that to the $355 million in existing public costs gets us to $369 million in subsidies to move the Braves from downtown Atlanta to the suburbs, totally not because any Braves fans think all urban black people are violent criminals. But hey, who can put a price on burgerizzas?

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11 comments on “Cobb County spending $14m on traffic cops because they forgot to ask Braves to pay for them

  1. Ahh, the “everybody else does it this way” argument. At least Noll has expanded beyond providing “analysis” of stadium deals while ignoring job creation.

    1. I was thinking of you when I wrote this, Ben!

      (Also, lulz “job creation.”)

      1. Admittedly “jobs creation” is one of those things that our beloved ex-VP Dick Cheney would call a “fundamental disagreement”. You (and Noll) believe that no job is better than a low paying, part time job. I don’t.

    2. Ben,

      The problem with the job creation argument at this level is that if you are justifying doing it here, than the government should be subsidizing the shit out of every job, and there just is not actually enough money to go around. This is a terrible vehicle for “job creation”.

      Actually though among the subsidies teams get I don’t particularly mind this one.

      Of course the higher need for police resources should be built into the property taxes for properties zoned for this use, and the actual users of the property should be the ones owning it. But I don’t think special assessments for extra police are the right way to fund police services.

      1. In certain circles, jobs created by bigger, more visible companies and industries are considered to be worth more and therefore more worthy of subsidies. Regardless of whether they’re actually, well, worth more.

      2. My mention of “jobs creation” was just a shot at Noll. I wasn’t commenting on whether the new Braves stadium is creating jobs or not.

  2. These kind of costs are always important to include in any cost-benefit analysis. There are other costs (often less obvious or direct) that get ignored but anything possibly beneficial gets included (and often monetized).

  3. More cops = more donut shops. Raise the donut tax to $900,000 and boom, paid for. Perhaps I’ve oversimplified this.

  4. It’s true that the “old model” had cities paying for the policing costs associated with special events. This would be true whether the special event was a planned baseball game (or 81), a Beatles concert, or a riot (sports related or otherwise).

    One can argue that the cost of maintaining order should be borne by the taxpayer no matter what the cause of the (real or imagined) disorder. Disgruntled opera fans are no less dangerous than Raider fans (though there may be more of the former, obviously)

    Put another way, I would prefer it if sports business owners paid for their own stadia but taxpayers paid for policing. We get the short end of the “Ok I’ll cover police overtime” deal regardless.

    If we are going to make sports owners pay for policing, why doesn’t the President who sounds just like Alec Baldwin pay for his own security?

  5. Would love to see the county hold back traffic police for an event or two and see how the Braves like it.

    Similar issue here in Santa Clara. We’ve got a squabble over curfew and who should be paying for extra/after hours trains for a wednesday night U2 concert.

    This marriage is really on the rocks.

  6. Hmmm I looked at the pictures on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, and looks like they might of been taken after a recent game.
    What is he pointing at?
    Now they just standing there watching some of the 17,000 go home/to game
    Protecting the 17,000 and helping them cross the street.

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