Braves argue in court that stadiums are “public purpose” because they just are, duh!

Lawyers the Atlanta Braves have filed a brief responding to the lawsuit charging that Cobb County’s issuance of stadium bonds is illegal because it’s not a “public purpose,” and oh, it is an awesome brief. The reason why stadiums are a public purpose, it turns out, is that everybody knows they are, duh!

The government’s “ability to issue bonds for recreational purposes is broad and well-settled,” the Braves’ brief says. “In the 20th and 21st centuries, financing and constructing sports stadiums and related facilities has repeatedly been held to be a public purpose.

“Opponents of stadium bond financing often point to private benefits in an attempt to undermine the public purpose — and ultimately the constitutionality — of the bonds that have been used. Courts have routinely rejected those arguments because the existence of private benefits is not dispositive — in fact, it is expected.”…

“Each municipality may have its own reasons — economy, tourism, public desire, or city profile — but the end result is almost universally a finding that a public purpose is served …. as long as a recreational benefit of a reasonably general character is conferred on a significant part of the public.

“Any other arguments are simply beside the point.”


So there!

I could line up a long list of economists, urban planners, and even sports fans to testify that building new sports stadiums — especially when you’re just replacing an 18-year-old one a few miles away, as the Braves are — is solely for private profit, not public benefit. But that’s beside the point, as the Braves ownership is clearly staking its defense on the fact that courts have ruled in favor of stadium bonds being a public purpose before, so clearly they must have been right, right? Not any Georgia courts, apparently — the Braves lawyers didn’t cite any Georgia case law despite this being a state supreme court case, as the attorneys for the plaintiffs quickly pointed out — but lots of other courts. Are you saying that you think you know better than other states’ supreme courts, Georgia, hmm? Now just kick these nuts in the butt and let us get on with our stadium-building, okay?

Braves stadium development to feature lens flare, violations of space-time continuum

Renderings! The Atlanta Braves have ‘em, showing what the new pretend urban neighborhood around their new Cobb County stadium will look like when complete! Look, here’s one now:


  • There will be a mix of modern buildings and retroish buildings, because that’s what people want in their fake urban neighborhoods.
  • The surrounding development will include some small parking lots, with nobody much parking in them, despite a game going on at the time.
  • Some cars are clearly visible on the roads while others are just a blur of head- and taillights, presumably because the architects are those aliens who slipped something in Kirk’s coffee to accelerate him to multiple times normal human speed.
  • The near future will include a really awful Jack & Jones ad campaign.
  • Enough lens flare to kill J.J. Abrams.

Really, though, none of this matters, because these are just sketches meant as a sales pitch for businesses to locate in the project (or as the Atlanta Journal Constitution paraphrased Braves VP Derek Schiller’s explanation, “the concept of project’s look, not the final design”). The eventual development could look like this, or it could look like something else, or it could never get built. It’s important to remember that you’re looking at an ad here, even if it’s a slightly more attractive one than that fake Jack & Jones thing.

Cobb County chair won’t face ethics charges over secret Braves deal, because that’s not the ethics board’s table

I am so, so, so sorry: I failed to keep you guys updated on the outcome of the ethics investigation into Cobb County Commission chair Tim Lee, who secretly hired a lawyer to negotiate an Atlanta Braves stadium deal without even telling his fellow commission members and then lied about having done so, then got brought up before the county ethics board on ethics charges, then claimed he couldn’t be charged because county ethics rules aren’t really rules so much as suggestions. Last Thursday, the ethics board handed down its ruling:

The ethics case against Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee has been dismissed.

Sorry, what?

Thursday evening, the Cobb Ethics Board was all set to conduct a long hearing on the charges that Cobb resident Tom Cheeks [sic – it’s actually “Cheek”] brought against Lee. But then, on the advice of the Ethics Board’s attorney — and to Cheeks’ surprise — the board suddenly dismissed two of the charges against Lee.

Then Cheeks himself got up and withdrew the third and final charge. Cheeks said that because Lee had apologized earlier, that was good enough for Cheeks.

Apparently what the board’s attorney, Bob Grayson, advised was that violations of the Open Records Act should be addressed in court, not by the ethics board. Why this advice came at the last minute, and why Cheek then decided to throw in the towel, isn’t exactly clear, nor is who if anyone will now pursue this in court, but apparently now it’s okay in Cobb County to violate the law if you apologize for it later.

Finally, Cheek told the Marietta Daily Journal yesterday that he’s not sorry about filing the ethics complaint, even though it cost the county $10,000 in legal fees (mostly to hire the lawyers who eventually told the board to dismiss the complaint, after 70 hours of work?!), because “Transparent government — you can’t put a price tag on that.” Charges are now expected to be filed against Cheek in the Cobb County Board of Irony.

Cobb County still has no idea how much Braves bridge will cost or how to pay for it

There’s now a rendering of the bridge that will take Atlanta Braves fans from their cars to the game! And one whole paragraph of details before you hit the Atlanta Journal Constitution paywall!

Cobb County officials say they intend to build a bridge to link the Braves stadium and mixed-use development to thousands of parking spaces on the other side of I-285, even though one year after the announcement they still don’t know how much the bridge will cost or how the county will pay for its half.

On second thought, that’s probably about all you need to know about this: Cobb County still needs a bridge to get people from the off-site parking, on the other side of a major highway, to the new stadium. And it still has no idea how to pay for it, thanks to approving everything else about stadium construction before actually finishing the required transportation agreement.

This is, to put it mildly, likely to be an issue. Everybody going to Braves games is going to drive, both because there will be no meaningful public transit to the new stadium, and because everybody in Atlanta drives everywhere anyway. The Braves owners, for the moment at least, have no plans to build parking on the actual stadium parcel, because they want to save that for building celebrity chef–driven restaurants. So we’re looking at the prospect of Cobb County having to shell out as much as $80 million extra for a new bridge so that fans can trudge long distances from the parking lots to their seats, or maybe sit in traffic on shuttle buses waiting to be driven the last stretch of the trip. [UPDATE: The Marietta Daily Journal reports that the bridge will now be pedestrian-only, and so significantly cheaper. But also presumably much slower to cross, unless the Braves will be holding an annual Rollerblade Giveaway Night.]

Long commute times are something that football fans, say, will often put up with, since going to an NFL game kills your entire Sunday anyway. But the Braves should be seriously worried that long delays in getting to and from their games will kill attendance on weeknights in particular, when people have a limited time to get from work to the game. And having fans spend all their pregame time fighting their way to the stadium isn’t going to help get them into those celebrity chef–driven restaurants for dinner beforehand.

It’s why I told the AJC that “this could easily end up one of those rare lose-lose-lose situations,” where the county ends up losing money (not only because of unknown transportation infrastructure costs, but because the county is counting on tax receipts from the stadium-side development to help recoup their $300 million in subsidies), the Braves end up losing money (because attendance tanks when people realize how hard it is to get to games and back), and fans end up with a worse gameday experience. Except for nicer cupholders, I guess. And who can put a price on those?

Cobb commissioner says he shouldn’t face hearing on secret Braves talks because ethics code is just a suggestion

Cobb County Commission chair Tim Lee, who has already established his credentials in the field of creative excusery by hiring a lawyer to negotiate an Atlanta Braves stadium deal without telling his fellow commission members, claiming he did no such thing, then being exposed as having send emails from a separate email account to hire the stadium negotiator to avoid getting caught, now says he shouldn’t have to face ethics charges for these shenanigans because — I swear I am not making this up — the county ethics code doesn’t actually require elected officials to avoid improper behavior:

The portion of the ethics code in question states government officials “by their conduct should avoid the appearance of impropriety.”

Cole argues the use of the word “should,” as opposed to “shall” or “must,” means the portion of the code is not a mandatory standard of conduct, but rather an “advisory statement.”

Cobb Board of Education chair Kathleen Angelucci responded to this in the only way possible: “It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.” Craig Calcaterra, the former Ohio lawyer who now writes for NBC Sports, chimed in that “if I had made such an argument in front of [the Ohio Ethics Commission] they would’ve laughed my butt out of the building.”
The poor Cobb Board of Ethics now needs to decide whether to move ahead with planned hearings to investigate Lee’s actions, or agree not to even talk about them, because, you know, the ethics code doesn’t say that officials have to avoid the appearance of impropriety if they really, really don’t want to. One can only hope that someone will now file an ethics board complaint against Lee for this latest action, though something tells me the crafters of the ethics code didn’t have enough foresight to make abuse of the English language a punishable offense.

Georgia Supreme Court to hear appeals of Falcons, Braves bond sales

The Georgia Supreme Court has set oral argument dates for the lawsuits against the stadium deals for the Atlanta Falcons (Monday) and Braves (next February). And … that’s about all I can tell you, because the Atlanta Journal Constitution story is behind a paywall, but if you’re an AJC subscriber, you can no doubt read more.

Okay, I can give you a little background: The two suits are actually appeals of the bond issuance for the stadiums, which means the bonds can’t be sold until they’ve been cleared.

None of this appears to have stopped construction from moving ahead — check out the Falcons’ construction photos, with all those, um, whatever they are already having been built — presumably because the teams have enough cash on hand to start things off with the bond money. But if either appeal is successful, then we’re entering uncharted waters, to say the least.

Cobb chair really did hire secret lawyer on Braves deal, says email from Cobb chair

Hey, remember when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Cobb County Commission Chair Tim Lee had secretly hired a lawyer to negotiate with the Atlanta Braves to move to his county, without even telling his fellow commissioners? Last week, Lee denied having hired attorney Dan McRae, a defense that would have worked out much better if not for the AJC then uncovering an email from Lee to McRae appointing him the county’s project and bond counsel on the stadium project. From a Cobb Chamber of Commerce email account, so it would be harder to trace. Oops.

“I am passing on to you the following provided by Chairman Tim Lee on behalf of Cobb County and its entities, ” the email says. “The county confirms the attorney-client relationship between it and Seyfarth Shaw as its project counsel/bond counsel for Project Intrepid.”…

The email from Mathis to McRae does not specify a limited role or how long the arrangement would continue. And in making the deal, Lee unilaterally waived a stated conflict of interest — Seyfarth was representing the Braves’ parent company on an unrelated legal issue in California.

(Project Intrepid, seriously? Because he could hear the screams of hundreds of minds dying, perhaps?)

Lee has now responded by saying he’s going to refuse all interview requests from the AJC, because a newspaper looking at the emails of an elected official just isn’t fair. Especially when he went out of his way, you know, to hide them.

Too soon to say whether this opens up the Braves stadium plan to any additional legal challenges, but it sure isn’t good news for Lee, who — you will be shocked to learn — is currently the subject of an ethics investigation.

Georgia lawyer says arson at her house was retaliation for her opposing Braves stadium


Susan McCoy said an arsonist struck her East Cobb property early Thursday morning. The flames didn’t reach her 3,900-square-foot home but did destroy part of her fence, evergreens and other parts of her yard.

McCoy, a newly minted lawyer, said she had filed a complaint with the SEC asking it to examine the county’s plan to issue $397 million in bonds for construction of the new stadium; and she has been critical of the rushed deal’s lack of transparency and cost to taxpayers.

“Its retribution for speaking out,” she said. “I obviously struck a nerve.”

Disclosure: I’ve spoken with McCoy a couple of times about the Braves stadium deal (she’s filed an SEC complaint about the way it was negotiated, among other things) and she’s never struck me as anyone whose house I would want to burn down. Glad everyone is okay at least, except the poor trees, which really didn’t do anything to deserve this.

NY Times version of Braves stadium story: County considered public vote, it didn’t happen, the end

How to soft-pedal affronts to democracy, New York Times edition:

Tim Lee, the Cobb County chairman who steered negotiations with the [Atlanta] Braves, said Tuesday a vote had been considered for the 700,000 residents of a county historically cautious about government spending. Ultimately, there was no referendum, just an agreement that the county chip in about 45 percent of the actual construction cost, with the Braves picking up the rest.

Not mentioned in this story of a county considering a referendum but “ultimately” having one quashed by the passive voice: The Cobb commissioner who said that a referendum on a $300 million stadium subsidy would be too expensive because it would “cost taxpayers 300, 400 thousand dollars.” Not to mention the part where any public agitation for a referendum was avoided by having county commissioners hide in hallways so that the deal could be announced just two weeks before the commission’s vote. The Times really should have gone with one of the alternate slogans.

Braves release more renderings of new Cobb stadium that still don’t show promised cantilevering

Hey, it’s a new rendering of the Atlanta Braves‘ new stadium, everybody!

As one Twitter commenter already noted, there is still no sign of the promised cantilevering that was supposed to “push seats closer to the field.” The middle deck might overhang the lower deck by a smidge, and the upper over the middle by a couple of rows, but that’s hardly anything to write home about when compared to the cantilevering of yore.

The rest of the Twitter thread is fun to read as well, including these highlights so far:

The consensus opinion, though, appears to be “meh,” which is a fair take. The Braves are in a tough situation, really, replacing a run-of-the-mill modern stadium with another stadium that doesn’t have any interesting features around it to make it less run-of-the-mill. (Maybe Cobb County could build a suspension bridge across one of its highways?) Actual cantilevering would certainly make a new park stand out, and get fans excited about closer views, but OH NO THE WELL HEELED MIGHT BE CAST INTO SHADOW INSTEAD OF BATHING IN THE GLORY OF THE SUN’S RAYS AS IS THEIR BIRTHRIGHT, so forget that.