SBD/January 6, 2014/Facilities

Braves Execs Tour Several Pro Sports Facilities For Insight Into Cobb County Project

Braves execs say they'll take a new approach for their Cobb County facility
Braves officials last month toured Ballpark Village in St. Louis as part of their "search for ideas to incorporate into the stadium and mixed-use development the team plans to build in Cobb County," according to Tim Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. The visit "reflected the duality of the Braves' project," with attention split between Busch Stadium and the adjoining development. The stop was "the third on a four-cities-in-three-December-days trip" that included visits to Target Field, Kauffman Stadium and Lucas Oil Stadium. Braves officials also recently toured AT&T Stadium, and "more visits are planned to stadiums and developments on the West Coast and in the Northeast." Braves Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Derek Schiller said, "In each stadium we go to, there are nuggets we find." He added, "We're not going to build Turner Field in our new location. There have been a lot of advancements, and it's going to be a completely different overall approach." Tucker noted the Braves "plan about 8,000 fewer seats than at Turner Field, hoping for a more intimate and energetic stadium that will be filled more often." They also "envision fewer suites but more private club areas where fans can mingle and dine." Braves Exec VP/Business Operations Mike Plant said, "We're not just building a stadium. It has to be a destination. ... It has to work the rest of the year" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 1/5).

A CAUTIONARY TALE? In Atlanta, Dan Klepal wrote the "time and public treasure invested in the mixed-use development known as The Banks," located next to Great American Ball Park, is "a cautionary tale for taxpayers in Cobb County." The Braves have said that they will "privately develop 45 acres" around their new ballpark into a mixed-use entertainment district, and that it "will be a year-round destination." The Banks "differs from Cobb in that local governments, not the team, control the land being developed." But from the outset, "the intention was the same: to have a private company build an attraction for all seasons." The Banks "still took cash from taxpayers to make that happen -- on what is the most attractive and valuable real estate Cincinnati has to offer." But "not all of the grandiose vision" for The Banks "has been realized." Despite the "public grants, loans and promised future tax abatements, a boutique hotel and office space have not been built." Hamilton County (Ohio) Commissioner Todd Portune said that taxpayers in Cobb County "should brace for more public investment than meets the eye" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 1/4).
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