Infrastructure & Environment

Georgia County Releases Details of Braves Stadium Plan

The new facility, which is being built less than 20 years after the current one, will cost Cobb County, Ga., $300 million.
November 14, 2013
Undeveloped land stands in the area where a new stadium will be built for the Atlanta Braves baseball team. ASSOCIATED PRESS

After initially remaining tight-lipped about the details of a plan to build the Atlanta Braves a new stadium, Cobb County, Ga. officials have released the public cost of the project: $300 million.

Earlier this week, the team announced its plans to leave downtown Atlanta and move to the suburbs after less than 20 years in Turner Field. While the Braves released the price tag, $672 million, neither the team nor the county would say how many public dollars would support the project.

A newly released document outlines the terms of the deal, indicating the team will contribute 55 percent of the project's cost,  $372 million, with the county putting up 45 percent, about $300 million.

The local contribution includes a slew of annual payments. Among those are nearly $1 million each year in county hotel and motel taxes; $8.67 million in annual property tax revenue; $5.15 million annually from a new tax within an improvement district and a $2.74 million from a new hotel fee in that district.

The 30-year deal would begin in 2017.

Interestingly, despite paying for nearly half the cost of the facility, the county will only have the right to conduct "a limited number of special events" at the facility. The team will have the exclusive right to use the stadium and decide which third-parties can use it.

The county will get $6.1 million annually from the team for rent, naming rights, parking fees and marquee advertising, but all the other revenues associated with the stadium will go to the team.

According to the Marietta Daily Journal, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners will vote on the terms of the deal at its Nov. 26 meeting.

One commissioner who supports the project said she only learned that the Braves were considering a move to Cobb County a week ago, according to the paper.

Neil deMause, author of the book Field of Schemes -- which offers a skeptical look at stadium subsidies -- writes that the document laid out by the county still leaves plenty of questions unanswered. Among those: Who will pay for massive highway improvements? What happens if projected tax receipts fall short? Do the Braves get property tax breaks on the stadium and the nearby planned developments?

While county leaders have praised the deal as a boon for economic development, independent economists almost universally pan stadium subsidies.

"(P)rofessional sports teams are not engines of economic progress," Philip Porter, an economics professor at University of South Florida, told Governing in an e-mail. He said the presence or lack of a stadium in an area has "no economic impact" on a community.

Dennis Coates, an economics professor at University of Maryland Baltimore County, called the deal "outlandish, extravagant, stupid" upon learning of it earlier this week.

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