SBD/November 15, 2013/Facilities

Cobb County Chair Confident In Vote To Approve Braves' Ballpark Deal

Braves execs intend to buy a 60-acre wooded parcel off Interstates 75 and 285
Cobb County (Ga.) Commission Chair Tim Lee on Thursday said that he believes all commissioners on Nov. 26 "will vote in favor" of a 30-year agreement for the Braves to play in a new $672M ballpark there, according to Jon Gillooly of the MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL. Lee said, "I am confident it will pass with a unanimous vote." The Braves intend to "buy a 60-acre wooded parcel off Interstates 75 and 285," and the new ballpark and its parking spaces would "sit on 15 of those acres." Upon purchasing the land, the Braves would "immediately deed the 15-acre footprint for the stadium to the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority." The Braves are paying 55% of the ballpark cost and a draft of the proposal shows the team's "upfront commitment" as $280M, or a minimum of $230M. The $372M paid over the 30-year life of the deal consists of $280M paid by opening day '17 and $92M "financed over the 30 years and paid by the Braves' guaranteed revenues" of $6.1M in non-ticket revenue per year. That figure is broken down by rent payments to the county ($3M), venue naming rights ($1.5M) and parking revenue ($1.5M). The plan is to issue $368M in "30-year revenue bonds through the Exhibit Hall Authority," and the Braves' annual commitment will cover $92M of the bond issuance. Annual payments on the remaining $276M debt "will be paid from a variety of sources including hotel/motel tax, a new 3-mill property tax on commercial property owners and apartment building owners in the Cumberland CID area and an extension of the current parks bond tax that expires" in '17. The draft contract shows that the county and the Braves would "share, on a 50-50 basis, in the costs of maintenance." Costs associated with "upgrades to the stadium, however, would be borne by the Braves" (MARIETTA DAILY JOURNAL, 11/15).

PAY DAY: In Atlanta, Klepal & Tucker note property owners will "pay almost half" of Cobb County’s $17.9M annual contribution to financing for the new ballpark. Property tax rates "won’t rise, but the county plans to shift" $8.6M now being used to "pay off parkland bonds toward stadium debt." The parkland bonds, issued years ago, will "be paid off in three years -- just as the new stadium nears completion." The "rest of the cash to pay the county’s share will come from new taxes and fees on certain businesses or consumers" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/15). Lee said that the Braves' "willingness to pay for more than half of the project will be an important selling point" to the county commissioners. He added another "plus is that the county would raise its share without increasing property taxes" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/14).

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN: In Atlanta, Leslie & Trubey cite documents as showing that the Braves "wanted to earn" at least $200M through "redeveloping the area around Turner Field -- with new apartments, restaurants and hotels -- in exchange for staying in their current home another 20 years." The documents show a "wish list of pricey upgrades, including transit improvements and unspecified changes to vehicular access to Turner Field." They also give "insight into what the team might want to build in Cobb County." The Braves in the documents "proposed the development of 500 apartments, 375 hotel rooms, and 50 condos and townhomes, along with space for retail, restaurants and offices in parking lots around the ballpark." But city and team officials "were at odds over how big of a role the Braves should play in the redevelopment of the area." The Braves "would be guaranteed the greater" of $10M annually or 25% of all revenue from the district for 20 years. That would "provide at least" a guaranteed $200M revenue stream to the team "over the life of the proposed 20-year lease." City of Atlanta Deputy COO Hans Utz said that the city "agreed with the majority of the items in the proposal, but was still vetting it" when the Braves announced their decision to relocate to Cobb County. Mayor Kasim Reed's administration "believed it had until early November to figure out a way" to meet the team's requirements (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/15). Also in Atlanta, Katie Leslie writes the documents revealed "more about the team’s development goals, its desire to break free from the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority ... and infrastructure improvement needs." They also "serve as a strong hint for what the Braves might look to do in Cobb County" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 11/15). Meanwhile, the AJC's Tim Tucker compares the Braves' and Falcons' new venue deals.
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