After a few days to digest the news of the our beloved Atlanta Braves moving away from my neighborhood, 12 miles north to Cobb County, many things have become apparent to me. The biggest one being things are not always what they seem. I live in Summerhill, the small forgotten neighborhood where the Atlanta Braves reside, and I'm proud to have called this my home since 2002. I also love my Major League baseball neighbors, the Atlanta Braves. As neighbors go, the Braves have been very good to us over the years supporting our efforts to improve our community.
Having been involved in my neighborhood over the years, we had been promised growth and development by the city for many years. When the Olympic Committee chose Atlanta as the site for the 1996 Olympic Games, they donated the stadium at the conclusion of the games and the Braves had a new home. The promises of revitalization, post-1996, were a series of empty promises. Not only for our neighborhood, but for the Braves organization as well.
Before Atlanta Braves fans settle into their seats at the proposed Cobb County stadium, they'll first stroll down a pedestrian boulevard featuring retail shops, restaurants, hotels, residential units, and office space.
Should county commissioners sign off on the team's new $672-million facility, Braves executives would partner with a developer on a privately-funded, $400-million mixed-use project. If team has its way, the adjacent development would open alongside the new stadium in 2017.
Team reps think the development would create a year-round experience complete with greenspace and an entertainment district that could extend beyond the club's 81 home games each season. Here's a few ways how the club's execs think it'll transform the area. So say the Braves in a document released to the public:
* The development will be a destination for community life, including significant amounts of street-oriented and neighborhood-serving retail, parks and green space.
* By incorporating green space into the design plans, the Braves are seeking to preserve existing terrain and habitat for the benefit of public use.
* The planned Cumberland District Circulator will alleviate the need for all parking to be located on site, fostering a walkable community that extends from beyond the site's footprint.
* Proper planning will allow for improved connectivity to the surrounding community to positively affect property values, quality of life and public safety.
In yet another document, which you can find below the jump, the franchise provides more details about the proposed mixed-use project. It also includes a few aerial renderings as well as a sketch of what the majestic walk to the new stadium might look like.
Councilmembers yesterday afternoon voted 11-2 to pass a resolution urging the mayor to keep negotiating with the team and, in the process, trump the suburban county's plans of poaching the Braves.
"We need to act, we need to present in a public fashion that we are serious about [having] the Braves remain in Atlanta," said Councilman Michael Julian Bond, who introduced the proposal.
The measure would allow the mayor to bargain with Braves executives and the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority, which owns Turner Field, and convince the club to extend its stay at the former Olympic stadium. Bond's proposal ordinance initially authorized Reed to negotiate with up to $200 million from an unidentified source. But an exact dollar figure was removed at the insistence of other councilmembers prior to casting their votes.
"This resolution is about making a statement from the Atlanta City Council that we want these negotiations to continue," said Bond, who added that his move wasn't a half-hearted appeal. "We want them to remain in the city."
The mayor's office last night did respond to CL's request for comment. Same goes for Cobb Chairman Tim Lee, who secretly brokered the suburban county's incentives packages, which includes at least $300 million in public funding. A Braves spokeswoman declined to comment.
Councilwoman Felicia Moore, who chided Reed over his lack of transparency during negotiations, expressed concerns that the legislation was "a day late and hundreds of millions of dollars short."
"We weren't even knowledgeable of what was going on," Moore said. "That rests solely with the mayor and his negotiating team."
Added Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, who joined Councilman Kwanza Hall in voting against Bond's resolution: "In a bidding war, there's only one person who's going to win. And that's the team."
Bond told CL in an interview last night that he's talked with the Reed administration, the Downtown business community, Fulton County officials, and fellow councilmembers about his proposal. In addition, he spoke with the Braves front office.
"I let them know we are willing to go the extra mile to get them to stay," Bond said. "[Braves executive Mike Plant] was clear that they're on a path to go to Cobb County. Since they don't have a deal inked I think it's the responsible thing to try and lure them back any way we can. Or at least express that in an official capacity."
He says the city has an advantage over Cobb in that Atlanta already has a key piece of what the Braves are seeking: the "bricks and mortar." And he says he's identified a source of funding - the pot of cash that built Philips Arena - that could be tapped to keep the team at Turner Field.
Using cash to help keep the team in Atlanta would quickly re-open the public-funding debate that erupted earlier this year during talks over the proposed Atlanta Falcons stadium - and which Cobb residents are discussing over bringing the baseball team to the wooded area near I-285 and I-75. Bond thinks the potential backlash over subsidizing the team is worth it.
"The Braves bring, the estimates go as high as $100 million to the economy," he said. "Not having them inside the city proper - or inside Fulton County - will be a tremendous economic blow to our city."
He added: "There's also a spiritual blow. It's a blow to the spirit of the city because the Braves have been so closely identified with Atlanta for so long - almost as long as I've been alive. I don't know Atlanta without the Braves and frankly don't want to. I'll do everything I can to encourage [the team to stay]."
One week ago today, metro Atlanta residents were digesting the Atlanta Braves' stunning announcement that the team would likely move from Turner Field to a new stadium in Cobb County. Bits of information last week provided insight to Cobb's enticing offer and Atlanta's failed negotiations. Now we're finding out more regarding the team's internal decision-making regarding the move and surrounding development deals.
The AJC spoke with six Braves executives - including CEO Terry McGuirk, President John Schuerholz, and Executive Vice President of Business Operations Mike Plant, among others - about how the $672-million stadium deal took shape. In Tim Tucker's article, which is worth a full read behind MyAJC.com's paywall, he outlines how team executives worked quietly and quickly - even staving internal rumors about a potential sale - to finalize the move.
Months ago, the executives agreed to a code of silence about what they were up to. They required the same from anyone they had to bring into the process as a deal moved closer to completion with Cobb.
"I couldn't be more proud of a group of senior executives than our group for getting this done in the manner we got it done and keeping it contained and completely confidential," Schuerholz said. "They worked tirelessly to get a process that ordinarily takes three or more years done in months without it becoming public."
Schuerholz acknowledged "some people are dismayed" by the secrecy that surrounded a matter so important to Braves fans and Cobb County taxpayers. "But it was the only way we could go about this," he argued, "because of the timing and the impact on our relationship and partnership with the city and our about-to-be-new partnership with Cobb County."
While the Braves were busy in secret negotiations, the area they were planning to call home was becoming quite popular. Prospective real estate investors over the past few months acquired land near the stadium's proposed site. Last Friday, the Atlanta Business Chronicle highlighted one noteworthy $45 million deal near the new stadium's proposed site:
So what did the Atlanta Braves want from the city to stay at Turner Field? According to documents obtained from Mayor Kasim Reed's office, the team's executives wanted to split the cost of stadium renovation costs between the city, county and Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority, get out from under AFCRA's oversight and deal with City Hall directly, and manage parking.
The team also wanted a list of requirements on whatever development was selected to transform the mammoth parking lot across the street from The Ted. Among them: a parking deck that could accommodate 8,600 cars, a ban on certain types of businesses "that may be offensive or vulgar to the community or Braves' fans," and limits on the number and location of fine-dining restaurants and sports bars. It'd also prohibit certain advertisements promoting competitors of the Braves' exclusive sponsors.
Oh, and "ANLBC" stands for "Atlanta National League Baseball Club."
Let's pick it apart, CL money gurus! According to the just released details, Cobb County would pay a total of $300 million to build the proposed Atlanta Braves stadium near I-285 and I-75. The Braves would pick up the remainder of the costs for the $672 million ballpark that, pending approval by the Cobb County Commission later this month, would become the team's new home after decades playing near Downtown.
The local contribution adds up to approximately $17.9 million per year. It includes $14 million from the county's transportation department, money to operate a circulator, hotel and motel taxes, car rental taxes, and cash from the nearby Cumberland Community Improvement District, a business group that imposes a tax on itself to pay for area improvements and projects. It also includes an $8.67 million "reallocation of revenues." The county notes that it would not include a property tax hike on Cobb homeowners.
The Braves would handle cost overruns but would retain exclusive rights to the stadium and all revenue, minus the small share the county would receive for naming rights.
More than 2,000 people have signed a petition asking the Braves' organization to reconsider its plans to move to Cobb County, where the team hopes to construct a new $672-million stadium and accompanying mixed-use development. The plea says that Turner Field's abandonment would be an "eyesore for the city as well as insult and injury" to all fans throughout the metro area.
"Abandoning Turner Field (which is owned by the City of Atlanta) represents the worst kind of greed and disregard for Atlanta's already sizable investment in the franchise," the petition says. "It also shows disrespect for Braves fans in Cobb County who are now asked to foot a substantial bill for a wholly unnecessary new ball park. "
Petition organizers will send the following letter to team leaders for each signature it receives:
Derek Schiller, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing
Terry McGuirk, Chairman and CEO
Recently, you announced that you intend to move the Braves from downtown Atlanta to Cobb County. As a Braves fan, I oppose your decision. The building of a new ball park for the Braves is wasteful, irresponsible, and unnecessary.
Keep the Braves in Atlanta. Don't abandon the Ted.
You can also lend your John Hancock to a similar petiion to stop Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee from possibly spending $450 million in taxpayer funds.
Mayor Kasim Reed says keeping the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field would have cost "hundreds of millions of dollars" in taxpayers' cash. The city knew about the "possibility of the this announcement" and officials have "already spoken to multiple organizations who are interested in redeveloping the entire Turner Field corridor." The full statement:
The Atlanta Braves are one of the best baseball teams in America, and I wish them well. 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. We have been planning for the possibility of this announcement and have already spoken to multiple organizations who are interested in redeveloping the entire Turner Field corridor. Over the next three years, we will be working with our prospective partners to bring residential and business development that is worthy of our city and strengthens our downtown. Those conversations will continue and I am excited about how we use the land that is now Turner Field, to be a tremendous asset for our residents, our city, and our region for years to come.
Many Atlantans today are left with a simple question: Why?
According to the team, the Braves' Cobb stadium will happen because of southeast Atlanta's apparent transit and development issues. The newly launched website for the baseball club sums its rationale up in a single paragraph:
The reason for moving is simple. The current location has certain issues that are insurmountable and will only become more problematic over the years. These fundamental issues involve how you, our fans, access Turner Field. There is a lack of consistent mass transportation, a lack of sufficient parking and a lack of direct access to interstates. Furthermore, the Braves do not have control over the development of our immediate surroundings.
Braves President John Schuerholz said today that the new stadium will open "a short distance from Downtown Atlanta" near the intersection of I-75 and I-285. Expanded MARTA bus services, Hank Aaron Drive congestion, and magical MagLev proposals weren't cutting it for the team, which says it sells the bulk of its tickets north of I-20 and outside the Perimeter.
The Braves, which don't own or manage Turner Field, claim that an estimated $150 million in infrastructure repairs would be needed to improve the facilities. Those improvements didn't account for additional parking needs or building the right kinds of mixed-use development. It appears that development proposals for the massive parking lot across the street from Turner Field weren't enticing enough to keep the sports club in its current location. With the proposed $672 million facility, the nearby entertainment district will have accompanying retail, restaurants, and hotels.
Schuerholz claims the new Braves stadium will be "the most magnificent in all of baseball." Let's just hope that the southeast Atlanta neighborhoods, who heavily relied on the former Olympics facility, don't suffer in its departure.
A meeting between Braves officials, Gov. Nathan Deal, and Mayor Kasim Reed is expected to take place on Wednesday at the Gold Dome. More answers will probably emerge at that pivotal meeting, if not beforehand.
Well, this is interesting. The Marietta Daily Journal this morning reported that the Atlanta Braves will relocate from Turner Field to a proposed stadium in Cobb County. Writes the MDJ:
They will be leaving Turner Field after their 20 year agreement expires at the end of the 2016 season..
The new stadium will be built near the intersection of I-75 and 285. The current site is under contract and set to close in early 2014.
The AJC confirms the news. Writes Tim Tucker:
Braves executives John Schuerholz, Mike Plant and Derek Schiller said the new ballpark will be built near the intersection of I-75 and I-285 in the Galleria/Cumberland Mall area. They said the team has "secured" 60 acres of land for the project.
The Braves said the project will be built in partnership with Cobb County. They indicated that Cobb County would provide public funds toward building the stadium but declined to provide details on that.
Some questions that come up: Where did lease negotiations between the Braves and the Atlanta-Fulton Recreation Authority, which owns and operates Turner Field, fall apart? Or is this a very gutsy tactic to get a better deal? What happens to plans to redevelop the sea of parking lots that surround Turner Field?
We've contacted the Braves and Mayor Kasim Reed's office and will update when we hear back.
UPDATE, 1:13 p.m.
NOTE: This post has been updated to include new information.
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