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Cobb County (Ga.) taxpayers are "still in the dark about how much" the Braves' planned ballpark and surrounding development will cost them, according to Dan Klepal of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. Not even Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibition Hall Authority BOD members, who will "ultimately have to approve the financing deal, know the price, or where the revenue will come from to repay the bonds." Marietta Mayor Steven Tumlin Jr. said, "We're all on pins and needles." Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on Monday said that Cobb has agreed to contribute $450M to the new ballpark, but Cobb County Commission Chair Tim Lee and the Braves have said that that figure "is inaccurate, while still refusing to comment on the amount." Lee "didn't budge from that position" yesterday. He said, "Those discussions are being put on paper and fine-tuned. It's important that when I make the announcement that I have it nailed down tight. ... I need to know I can stand behind it when we put something out" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/13). Lee said that Cobb County will release "detailed financial information before the end of this week." Lee: "Some of the information that was put out [Monday] from other news sources was inaccurate. ... When we bring forward this final document, it is my hope and my belief that the majority of folks will find that this is a win-win for Cobb County, a win-win for the Atlanta Braves and a win-win for the city of Atlanta and Fulton County" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/12). In Atlanta, Dave Williams wrote the Braves' plan yesterday "got some pushback" from Cobb County taxpayers. Cobb County Taxpayers Association Founder & Chair Lance Lamberton said, "We see this as an entertainment venture by a private-sector company. They shouldn't be going to the taxpayer" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/12).
PAYING THE PIPER: A MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL editorial states Lee has "played it close to the vest and has declined to say whether property or sales taxes would be increased." Once the "euphoria of the Braves announcement wears off, he might find those such increases a tough sell to county residents, if they aren't already." However, if "most or all of Cobb's share of the deal is to be paid for via the hotel/motel tax or via revenue bond issue by the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, Lee likely will find the going easier." It is likely that the stadium "will more than pay for itself and that its presence will unleash a flood of additional sales and hotel/motel tax revenues." But pro sports teams are "notorious for playing one community against another in order to benefit themselves." There is "no guarantee that even if the Braves move here is finalized, that the Braves won't start playing hardball against Cobb for a better deal later on" (MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL, 11/13).
BRIDGING THE GAP: In Georgia, Jon Gillooly notes one feature Lee "believes will add to the accessibility" of the proposed ballpark is a "bridge that will span I-285, connecting the Galleria office park with the 60-acre property where the stadium is expected to be built." Lee said that the bridge "would be for pedestrians and for a shuttle that would pick up fans from around the area and bring them to the game." He added that the bridge, included in the projected $672M cost, "will be functional when the stadium opens" in '17. Meanwhile, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is planning a $951M "reversible lanes" toll-road project "along Interstates 75 and 575 through Cobb and Cherokee counties" which is scheduled to open to traffic in '18. Lee said that the county "will be able to place its Cobb Community Transit buses on those new lanes and take commuters to and from Atlanta." He added that there also is a "study the county expects to finish next spring that will reveal whether a bus rapid-transit system connecting Kennesaw State University with Midtown Atlanta is a viable option." Lee: "It's something we've prepared for, it's something we planned for, and we're moving forward on the projects before this (Braves announcement) even came about in anticipation of what we needed to do for the area" (MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL, 11/13). Reed said, "Because of the transportation issues, if Cobb goes forward with this, they’re going to have to have rail. Which would be the first introduction of light rail" (AJC.com, 11/12).
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed yesterday said "one of the largest developments for middle-class people that the city has ever had" will go up at the site of Turner Field after the Braves move to Cobb County, according to Bluestein & Leslie of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. Reed in his first public remarks since the Braves' announcement said he would "not leave a vacant Ted," and that the ballpark would be torn down in '17. He added that he "wouldn't interfere" with Cobb County's negotiations with the team, but added that he "wanted to project an 'unmistakable message' that the city wants the Braves to remain." Reed said that the city has been "planning a replacement for the stadium for months, and he promises a major announcement in the next few months that he vows will validate his decision." Reed: "We're not walking around here moping. I hate losing. But there are times when other people make plays." He added, "We're not losing anything. The Braves are still in the region so I don't feel like this is a loss" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/13). In Atlanta, Bluestein & Trubey in a front-page piece write the city "now has to figure out a use for the area of roughly 55 acres, a lackluster stretch passed by hundreds of thousands of commuters each day that feels cut off from downtown by a sea of parking lots and car-choked interstates." If the Braves move to Cobb County, Turner Field will "add to the list of high-promise, high-cost redevelopment dreams in the metro area" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/13).
CITY COUNCIL UNHAPPY: The ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE's Wenk & Saporta noted the Atlanta City Council yesterday held a press conference "to complain they weren't included in the negotiations" with the Braves. Council President Ceasar Mitchell said, "We collectively feel a great deal of disappointment." Council member Michael Julian Bond: "I just want to make an appeal to the Braves. We want you to stay" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/12). Bond added that the decision regarding taxpayer funding for improvements to Turner Field "should have been vetted by the council." Mitchell said that the group has "requested a meeting with the Braves to discuss what, if anything, can be done to keep the team downtown." He added that the council also has "asked to meet with Reed about the negotiations." The ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION's Bluestein & Leslie note Reed "went to lengths to show the city wasn't asleep at the wheel, and his office released a timeline that showed city officials have been in talks with the team for about 18 months over its lease renewal and plans to redevelop the surrounding communities" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/13). Fulton County Commission Chair John Eaves yesterday said Reed's redevelopment plans were "news to me." He added, "I have not been a part of any sort of conversation about any sort of alternative plans. ... It's surprising, and I hope going forward, whatever the plans are, we all will be better served if it's a collaborative and partnering effort." Eaves: "It's imperative going forward, whatever discussions are made in terms of redevelopment for that area, that the county should be there as a partner with the city of Atlanta" ("The 5:44 with Denis O'Hayer," WABE-FM, 11/12).
FALCONS VS. BRAVES: Bluestein & Galloway wrote the Falcons' ties to downtown Atlanta "made their situation more complex" than the Braves' situation and "maybe even more pressing." The Georgia World Congress Center Authority "owns the Georgia Dome as well the sprawling convention center that surrounds it," meaning that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal's administration "had a vested interest in keeping the Dome or a successor facility on the campus occupied." In addition, many of the city's corporate interests "supported the Falcons pitch to stay in downtown, either out of support" for Falcons Owner Arthur Blank or a "desire for a new trinket to add to a downtown that will soon include a Civil Rights museum and a shrine to college football." But Turner Field is "somewhat of an anomaly, a stadium located in an island of parking lots that always seemed alienated from the rest of the city." That may be why business leaders were "deafeningly silent on the proposed move" by the Braves (AJC.com, 11/12).
LEFT BEHIND: In Atlanta, Kyle Wingfield writes, "I don't think it's a coincidence the Turner Field area remained underdeveloped for so long -- especially in the 17 years since the stadium opened for the 1996 Summer Games, but also going back to the opening of Atlanta Stadium in the mid-1960s." One of Turner Field's "major problems is it doesn't sit in the general direction the city's development has taken, or stands to take" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/13). USA TODAY's Ray Glier notes the Braves and Atlanta taxpayers "did not pay a dime" for Turner Field. That the facility "was free" may be why it "seems so disposable." Georgia State Univ. economist Bruce Seaman said, "It was one of the best examples of an Olympic facility being put to long-term use. Other cities struggled to find a use for facilities after the Olympics. I find it a tragedy that they will tear down this stadium. This was one of the great legacies of the 1996 Olympics" (USA TODAY, 11/13). In Minneapolis, Michael Rand writes under the header, "Atlanta Has A Stadium Fiasco On Its Hands." Rand writes of Turner Field, "We're supposed to believe that after 17 seasons, it's just not tenable? We're supposed to believe that all due diligence for upgrades and use of the existing facility just won't work? Absurd" (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 11/13).
The Jacksonville City Council last night voted to approve a $63M EverBank Field renovation project that will bring "colossal video scoreboards and a new 'fan zone'" to the stadium, according to a front-page piece by David Bauerlein of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Per the deal, the city will pay $43M "by using hotel bed taxes," while Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan will pay the remaining $20M. The team said that construction will "start in January after football season, and it should be finished in July." New 300-foot scoreboards will be erected at "each end zone side of the stadium," and seven other video boards "would be put up around the stadium." The upgrades also will include "a 42,000-square-foot fan zone that would be a gathering place with 'water features' such as fountains and palm trees." The fan zone "would take out existing seating." Approval of the deal came after the City Council rebuffed a motion by member Stephen Joost that "would have required the Jaguars to repay" the city's $43M cost if the team were to move from the stadium. Joost said that he "supports making improvements to the stadium." But, noting this week's announcement by the Braves, he said that some NFL franchises also "have moved to stadiums in the suburbs." Joost's attempt to add a provision for $43M in lease-breaking damages "died on a voice vote" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 11/13). The Jaguars' lease expires in '30, and Joost said that he is "upset that the council didn't ask for an extension of the lease or recalculate how much the team would have to pay if it broke its lease." Joost: "We get absolutely no assurances whatsoever in exchange for the $43 million. ... I think we should get a little back in return" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/12).
A unanimous Minneapolis City Council vote yesterday approving a $97M renovation of Target Center "reignited a lingering debate about whether the deal would have been possible without the polarizing Vikings stadium legislation," according to Eric Roper of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Mayor R.T. Rybak has "repeatedly argued that the Vikings deal improved city finances by allowing restricted sales taxes to be spent on a renovation of the city-owned Target Center, thereby alleviating a burden on property taxpayers." However, several prominent politicians have said that this "is false, because the city already had the power to use the largest of those taxes for Target Center improvements." City Council member Diane Hofstede said that it was "important to relate the Target Center deal, in which the city will pay $50 million in sales taxes for the renovation, to the Vikings agreement." Council member Lisa Goodman, who "opposed the Vikings stadium deal, spoke up to make a 'correction,' pointing to a letter from former council budget chair Paul Ostrow, who said the law already allowed the taxes to be used for Target Center." Roper notes the funding will "improve the building's public spaces, upgrade technology and overhaul the facade." The city, which purchased the building in the mid '90s, also is "on the hook" for $50M in ongoing capital costs. The T'Wolves will pay $43M for the renovation, with another $5M coming from operator AEG (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 11/13).
The Univ. of Arkansas yesterday set a Dec. 7 groundbreaking ceremony for a new $25M basketball practice facility, which will "be the headquarters for all operation components for both the men's and women's basketball teams," according to Dustin Bartholomew of the FAYETTEVILLE FLYER. The new facility will "include two full-court gyms, locker rooms, weight rooms, training rooms, offices, meeting rooms, and more." UA AD Jeff Long said that the facility is "sorely needed, and will serve multiple purposes for the program including possibly freeing up Bud Walton Arena for other purposes." While the facility is not yet fully funded, Long said that it is "time to move forward on the project anyway." Arkansas-based MAHG Architecture and K.C.-based Populous will "lead the design team on the 66,000 square foot facility, and CDI Constructors will serve as the general contractor." The new facility "should be completed" by the summer of '15 (FAYETTEVILLE FLYER, 11/13). In Arkansas, Robbie Neiswanger noted the facility is "part of the three-pronged 'Never Yield' fundraising campaign," which also "includes a baseball/track indoor facility and student-athlete success center." Construction of the baseball/track facility "began earlier this fall." The three projects "carry an estimated price tag" between $45-58M, and the UA Board of Trustees last February "approved plans to issue" $36.5M in bonds to help finance the projects. Long earlier this year said that "drumming up support for the basketball practice facility had been challenging." He said many believed it was a "frivolous spending of dollars" (ARKANSASNEWS.com, 11/12).
UCONN HO! In Hartford, John Altavilla notes UConn is "considering soliciting naming rights for its basketball practice facility, which is expected to cost" between $35-40M and open in the spring of '14. IMG would "solicit corporations to seek interest in those rights." This likely means the venue "won't be named for any of the private donors who contributed to it." If UConn "chooses a corporation, it would be a break in tradition" from some of the other names on campus athletic facilities (HARTFORD COURANT, 11/13).
STAYING CLASSY: In San Diego, Matt Calkins notes San Diego State Univ. yesterday "announced its plans to build a state-of-the-art practice center for the men's and women's basketball teams." The privately funded, $14.5M facility is "projected to be ready-to-use by 2015." The SDSU basketball teams currently share "with the students at the Aztec Recreation Center when Viejas or Peterson Gym is in use." Men's basketball coach Steve Fisher has been "pushing for such a venue since the turn of the millennium" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 11/13).
RAISING CANE: In Miami, Susan Miller Degnan reports the Univ. of Miami is initiating a $7M fundraising effort to "build a lighted artificial turf football practice field, dining hall for athletes and four cold pools for cooling down and recovering after workouts." The project is "being called the Football Victory Fund," and the construction timetable is not yet known (MIAMI HERALD, 11/13).