The Braves’ new stadium out in the suburbs of Cobb County—whose taxpayers are giving the team $400 million to build the traffic-clogging ballpark—is a textbook case in all the lies and exploitation at the heart of the modern public stadium financing scheme. Residents never got to vote on the use of their money on the stadium, nobody opposed to the stadium was allowed to speak against it, and the county had to raise taxes to pay for public parks because they used all the park money for the stadium fund.
The parks incident is a good example of the lie that city funds being given out to a man worth $6 billion won’t raise taxes. The Braves managed to pull off their stadium scheme with exquisite maneuvering and manipulation, and they’re not done trying to get as much as they can out of the deal.
According to a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cobb County quietly passed an ordinance banning any business or private parking lot owner within half a mile of the new stadium from selling parking spaces during events. The Journal-Constitution spoke with business owner Fred Beloin, who was never told of the new law:
“This irks the (heck) out of me,” said Beloin, who has previously tangled with the county over zoning around the stadium, and was unaware of the ordinance until told about it an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter. “They say they’re increasing my property value and then they do everything in their power to make sure I get no benefit out of it.”
The ordinance closes off potential revenue for dozens of businesses that own more than 10,000 private spaces — many of which could compete with the team for parking revenue.
Their logic? Public safety is at risk if people can park in non-Braves-affiliated lots. Here’s what a Braves spokesman told the Journal-Constitution, after the team initially denied that they’d asked for a half-mile ban:
“With that in mind, we requested that the county create an ordinance covering an area around the ballpark to protect fans who are attending the game and ensure that they receive the same safety, security and convenience provided in the lots we control.”
This would make the already-dreadful traffic nightmare about to hit the area even worse, and it’s very clearly about money more than safety. The Journal-Constitution also spoke with a few business owners who hinted that they were considering legal action.
Thankfully, Cobb County residents also have another option to voice their dissent; Tim Lee, the asshat county chairman who helped push the stadium funding through, is facing the very real possibility of getting voted out of office next month. If taxpayers in Cobb County want to make clear their opposition to the Braves strong-arming their tax dollars away from them known, they can speak up and boot Lee.