Sunday, December 1, 2013

Atlanta Braves moving to Cobb County

Atlanta is abuzz over the beloved Atlanta Braves baseball team, which is physically moving from Atlanta to suburban Cobb County.

Turner Field, built in 1996 for the Olympics, will be razed. (Already?!) The people of Cobb County are in shock. Some are ecstatic, while others are already feverishly-planning alternate driving-routes for use during Atlanta's wildly-popular baseball season.

PRICEY REAL ESTATE is at STAKE, people, and its a crisis. The money-men have spoken; the movers and shakers have pushed this through in a hurry and with a vengeance. The property that is now occupied by Turner Field will become a "large-scale development"--and the profits will be astronomical.

What is interesting to me is how the local Tea Party unexpectedly made common cause with some of the liberal Democrats in the area. From a Daily Beast post, aptly titled Tea Party Strikes Out Against the Atlanta Braves:
[Instead of] protests from fans in their current home downtown, the team has gotten an earful from furious Tea Party activists in Cobb County, the Republican-dominated portion of the metro area that was once the heart of Newt Gingrich’s congressional district and will now be home to the 60-acre site the team has chosen for its new stadium.

The Tea Party anger is focused on the county’s usually small-government, anti-tax Republican board of commissioners, which enticed the baseball team with a commitment of $300 million in public funds to go toward a new $672 million stadium for the ball club. But while the county commission called the stadium deal a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” the local Tea Party activists called foul, accusing the commission of rushing to a vote without enough public review and opening up the latest front in the war between Tea Party groups and the Republican establishment that pushed for the deal.

“I’ve had several members of the Chamber of Commerce tell me that the Tea Party needs to stick to federal issues and leave local issues like this alone,” said Debbie Dooley, the head of the Atlanta Tea Party. “Well, that’s not going to happen.” Dooley had mounted a significant opposition to the plan, which she called “a done deal from the beginning,” and formed an unusual coalition among Tea Party activists, the Sierra Club, Common Cause, and other groups from across the political spectrum that opposed the deal for their own reasons.

At the public meeting before the commission voted four-to-one to approve the deal Tuesday night, commissioners heard discussion on “public private partnerships,” new local sales taxes, new taxes on hotels and apartments near the proposed site, and plenty of feedback from Dooley’s coalition and voters opposed to the deal, which was announced just two weeks earlier and did not include an environmental impact statement nor an economic impact statement.

“We’re spending millions of Cobb County taxpayer dollars on this deal and we’re going to take two weeks and ram it though?” said Patricia Hay, a local resident.
The only dissenting vote on the Cobb County Board of Commissioners was Democrat Lisa Cupid (quoted in italics):
"And I certainly can understand why the public has issue with their own tax dollars being committed for 30 years, binding this generation and the generation to follow. And how dare they have questions and want to be a part of this process. I believe this could have been a win-win for so many more people today, if we only took more time to get that win. So many people have asked us to wait.

"It frightens me, the number of threats I've received. If you wanted a 5-0 vote, you could have gotten it. It could have been easy. But I will not be bullied into sacrificing my commitment to the people who put me in this position."

Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid explains her decision to vote against the Braves' agreement. She was the lone dissenting vote at last night's Board of Commissioners meeting.
The Tea Partiers seemed to understand what was going on, while the rank-and-file Republicans (dubbed "Chamber of Commerce Republicans" in most of the Atlanta press) do exactly as they are told by real-estate developers.

As Sports Illustrated writes:
Such a move will make it the first of the 24 major league ballparks to open since 1989 to be replaced, and buck the trend of teams returning to urban centers. The proposed park is in the suburbs and closer to the geographic center of the team’s ticket-buying fan base, a much higher percentage of which happens to be white. US Census figures from 2010 put Fulton County at 44.5 percent white and 44.1 percent black, while Cobb County is 62.2 percent white and 25.0 percent black.
Hmmm. Is this about making it (supposedly) "safer" for the white fan-base to attend Braves games? The psychological factor of NOT having to drive into deepest, darkest Atlanta? Eric Brown of International Business Times says yes:
When the Atlanta Braves announced their intention to move from their urban Atlanta home to the suburbs of neighboring Cobb County, the team cited a “lack of consistent mass transit options.” Bafflingly, though, the team’s new location has no mass transit options at all. The real reason for the move? Separating the team's largely white fanbase from Atlanta's black residents.
And where is the money coming from? Guess.

On this one, I have to give it to the Tea Party. From the above link:
The lion’s share of the $672 million facility – a whopping $450 million – will be financed by the county, which will presumably pass that cost on to taxpayers, while the team will kick in just $200 million. By comparison, the current venue, which was originally built as Centennial Olympic Stadium with a capacity of 85,000, was financed by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games — completely with private money — and then retrofitted for the Braves after the Summer Olympics ended.
The increased traffic alone is a thoroughly nightmarish prospect; I have written here before about how much Atlanta traffic freaks me out. I can't imagine it getting worse. (But of course, I realize it can always get worse.)
The new venue is at the intersection of Interstates 75 and 285, said to be a major traffic snarl, “the place so congested we Cobb Countians know to avoid if at all possible,” as the Journal-Constitution‘s Mark Bradley described it. The county has resisted the expansion of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) into its domain since its inception in 1971, so it’s not served by light rail, and while the team claims “significantly increased access to the site” via Home of the Braves, it offers no specifics on the matter.
And is this the beginning of a disturbing new urban trend?
In all, while the announcement of the new ballpark is good news for many suburban Braves fans, it’s unsettling for the industry as a whole. The Oakland A’s have spent the past decade battling for a new park to replace the dilapidated Coliseum, which they’ve called home since 1966, while the Tampa Bay Rays are hamstrung by the location of Tropicana Field. Both franchises would take Turner Field as their home in a heartbeat if it could be shipped to them.

Meanwhile, 13 current major league venues have been in service longer than Turner Field, seven of which opened from 1989-95. If some of those teams start getting restless and looking to build again, local taxpayers could be asked to replace the perfectly functional single-use ballparks that in turn had replaced less aesthetically pleasing multi-use facilities whose lifespans were much longer. Particularly as teams reap a new windfall with increased television revenues, that’s not going to go over well with fans.
More about the move:

Atlanta Braves move to suburbs approved (CNN)

Cobb County commissioners approve plan for Braves stadium (USA Today)

Braves: Moving to Cobb County in '17 (ESPN)

Cobb GOP chairman concerned about (those) people coming to Braves' games (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Cobb Commission Approves Braves Stadium Agreement (WABE radio - NPR)


JoJo said...

I feel bad for the people of Cobb County. :( I love sports as much as the next guy but the money involved is just gross. I can't help but think all that cash could go into something more useful.

Sevesteen said...

It's likely that I'm biased because I'm NOT a sports fan, but it disturbs me that so much tax money goes to professional sports in general. It gives me a bit of hope that a Tea Party is objecting--maybe they will mature into something beyond a branch of the Republicans.

bryce said...

after they build it ima be checking game days 2 time my visits. 75 & 285? holy shit - r u joking?????

Rob said...

The blog (and book) Field of Schemes has extensive coverage of how professional screw the public via subsidies.

Daisy Deadhead said...

Rob, very interesting, thank you.