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?