Funny thing, this: A new Braves stadium in Cobb County was announced as basically a done deal, without mentioning how much public money would go toward it, or asking taxpayers for their approval. The answer to the former is apparently "a lot." As for the latter: those taxpayers won't get a say.
No formal numbers have been released, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that of the $672 million projected for the stadium, $450 million will be public money. Where's that coming from, in a cash-strapped county that's cutting teaching jobs and requiring unpaid furloughs for all school employees?
Taxes, of course. But since the deal is going straight to the Cobb County Commission for a vote on Nov. 26, we know it'll be a hike in existing taxes. Any new tax would require a voter referendum, so by bypassing that, local officials make sure that Cobb County residents won't get a say on funding their shiny new ballpark.
The Braves have eagerly trumpeted how this new ballpark will bring them closer to their fanbase, and there's likely some truth to that. But the purely economic calculus makes relocation an obvious choice. Long-discussed renovations to Turner Field would cost the Braves at least $200 million, with no public money available to defray costs. For roughly that same $200 million, they can get an entirely new stadium instead.
Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed recently released a statement on the Braves leaving. It reads, in part:
We have been working very hard with the Braves for a long time, and at the end of the day, there was simply no way the team was going to stay in downtown Atlanta without city taxpayers spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make that happen.
It is my understanding that our neighbor, Cobb County, made a strong offer of of $450M in public support to the Braves and we are simply unwilling to match that with taxpayer dollars.
Given the needs facing our city and the impact of Turner Field stadium on surrounding neighborhoods, that was something I, and many others were unwilling to do.
It's a blow for Braves fans in the city, especially those who rely on public transportation to get to the ballpark. (MARTA doesn't come close to serving Cobb County.) But Reed's context is an uplifting way to view this: Atlanta just saved hundreds of millions of dollars by passing on a project that by all studies wouldn't have provided any economic benefit to the city.
It sucks to lose a team. But it's a victory for taxpayers any time a city doesn't give in to billionaire owners' blackmail demands.