The Atlanta Braves Are One Step Closer to a New Field

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The Atlanta Braves are “thrilled” that the Cobb County Commission voted in favor of a public financing deal that will move the team out of downtown Atlanta for the first time since 1966.

On November 26, 2013, by a 4-1 vote, the commissioners approved spending $300 million in tax revenues to fund part of a new $672 million Braves stadium.  The new field will open in 2017 and will be located in an Atlanta suburb.  The plan calls for the reallocation of current Cobb County property tax revenues as well as new taxes on businesses and tourism.

As we reported, public financing deals are not uncommon.  In fact, almost all professional sports stadiums built in the past decades used some public funding.  Yet, time and again these deals prove to be a poor investment of tax dollars.

In the time between the deal’s proposal and the vote, the Commission held town hall meetings to gather feedback.  Notwithstanding some public outcry, the deal was approved after an extended comment period at the Commission’s November 26th meeting.

Understandably, the Braves deal has been met with some public criticism.  Since the plan was only proposed two weeks before the vote, many say the plan was rushed and covered up.  One Cobb County resident said he was “very disappointed in the veil of secrecy and the rush.”  The Atlanta Tea Party pointed out one of the major “flaws” in these deals; the stadiums only end up benefiting team owners.

At the meeting, the Commission Chair said they had enough information showing the deal would be a positive development.  The commissioners said although the plan was just announced, it was not a rushed.  They have been planning the deal with the team for months.

One commissioner does not agree.  The lone dissenter said she could not support the memorandum of understanding because the process was too quick and she has lingering concerns.  Although she voted against the deal, she “support[s] the Braves being in Cobb County.”

After the vote, the team commented it was “thrilled” with the outcome.  Braves President John Schuerholz said “[t]his is a most significant and historic day for our franchise.”

However, if the team wants to begin playing on the new field in 2017, it has to get the building process underway.  “We got to one finish line tonight. We have a new starting line tomorrow,” said an executive vice president of the team.

With the plan’s approval, it seems all but certain that the taxpayers will be forced to foot the bill for another sports stadium.  The taxpayers’ payout of $300 million is huge, but luckily, the Cobb County residents won’t be stuck paying for cost overruns.

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