The Cobb County Commission in suburban Atlanta voted 4-1 Tuesday
night to approve a new $672 million stadium, which officials hope to
open for the 2017 season at a site 10 miles northwest of the Georgia
capital city's downtown.
The vote followed public comment for and against the deal, which
will require millions of dollars in public funds. The project is set
to take the team out of downtown Atlanta for the first time since it
moved to Georgia from Milwaukee in 1966.
Commissioners have been holding town hall meetings to gather
feedback on the proposal and held an extended public comment period
at their meeting Tuesday night. They voted in favor of the deal
despite calls by a diverse coalition of citizen groups for more
Four of the five commissioners, including commission Chair Tim Lee,
said they'd had extensive talks with the Braves and felt they had
enough information to believe this would be a positive development.
Commissioner Lisa Cupid was the lone dissenting vote. Cupid said she
supports the Braves moving to Cobb County, but thinks the process
moved forward too quickly and that she still has some lingering
"I cannot in good conscience vote for the MOU, but I do support the
Braves being in Cobb County," she said just before the vote.
"This is a most significant and historic day for our franchise,"
said Braves President John Schuerholz after the vote, saying he was
"thrilled" how the vote turned out.
Mike Plant, the Braves executive vice president of business
operations, said the deal couldn't wait if the stadium and
entertainment complex are to be completed for the 2017 season.
"We got to one finish line tonight. We have a new starting line
tomorrow," he said.
The Braves stunned local leaders and fans just over two weeks ago
when they announced their planned move. But Braves executives and
Cobb commissioners said planning had been underway for months and
wasn't rushed or hasty.
The 30-year agreement calls for a mix of reallocating existing
property tax revenue and implementing new taxes on business and
tourism to pay for the new stadium at the intersection of
Interstates 75 and 285. The team's current lease at downtown Turner
Field, which is jointly owned by Fulton County and the city of
Atlanta, runs through the 2016 season.
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Those addressing commissioners during a public comment period had
Many supporters of the stadium talked about an
expected positive economic benefit, saying the stadium would
bring in revenue and attract business to the county. Several
held up signs or waved foam tomahawks that have long been a
staple at Braves games and wore T-shirts that said "Cobb Home of
"A foundation has been laid for our future success," said Ben
Mathis, incoming chair of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce. He
called the project a perfect public-private partnership that
would draw new energy to the county.
Yet some speakers spoke out against the propsal under any
circumstance, while others said they wanted a delay because they
thought the process seemed rushed and lacked transparency.
A diverse coalition of citizen groups argued for more time.
Leaders of the Atlanta Tea Party, Common Cause of Georgia and
the Sierra Club, among others, had asked for a 60-day delay,
saying voters in the suburban county haven't had enough time to
consider details of the project.
"I've been very disappointed in the veil of secrecy and the
rush" to vote on the deal, Cobb resident Kevin Daniels said.
The memorandum of understanding between the county, the
Cobb-Marietta Coliseum Exhibit Hall Authority and the Braves
that was voted on by the commission calls for $300 million in
upfront taxpayer support for the stadium. The payment would come
from existing property taxes that now pay off debt for park
projects and from lodging taxes, a rental car tax and levies on
business in a special commercial district around the stadium
The Braves' initial contribution to the project would be $280
million. The remaining $92 million would come from debt the
county assigns to the team, bringing the Braves' share to $372
million, or 55 percent of the total.
The Braves have promised to cover construction cost overruns.
But the team also reserves the right to reduce the total cost of
the project by $50 million, absorbing all the savings without
reducing the public contribution.
The total $672 million construction estimate does not include
stadium maintenance and capital improvements, which the team and
the county would share over the 30-year agreement.
Press; KATE BRUMBACK]
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