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Beware claims that the Braves new ballpark will be privately funded

Nov 11, 2013, 4:29 PM EST

Image (1) money%20bag.jpg for post 4218

As is the case with any breaking news story, there are conflicting reports about the details of the Braves new ballpark in Cobb County, Georgia. Specifically the financing. Reports have the place being a $672 million project overall. Some reports, however, have it as a ~$450 million public contribution from Cobb County with the Braves paying for the rest. Other reports are characterizing that $450 million component of it as private funding or private funding “arranged” by the county, with the Braves paying the rest.

We’ll know the details eventually. But even after we think we know the details, be sure to use your critical listening and critical thinking skills to figure out what you’re really being told. Because politicians and baseball team owners are notoriously opaque about this stuff.

Specifically, they’re big on characterizing what are, in reality, public funds as private funds. Or at least something other than tax dollars. Because in the political orthodoxy of the past 30 years, nothing has become more politically toxic than using tax money for anything. Or, at the very least, having one’s political opponents claim you used tax money for something. Even for things that taxes are actually supposed to pay for like, say, fighting off anarchy and society-killing social and economic dislocation!

So they spin. Like crazy. A hotel bed tax — which is most certainly a tax and is most certainly the spending of public money — is often spun as something other than public funds. So too are bonds. So too are loans. So too are tax breaks and abatements. All manner of politicians with actual educations have stood before cameras before and claimed, with a straight face, that those things aren’t the expenditure of public dollars. As if money wasn’t fungible. As if the government’s spending of money it has for one thing doesn’t necessarily mean that the money can’t be spent for another. Or, if it was derived for a sole purpose, that it could have gone un-derived in the first place.

Private expenditures would be the Braves paying for it all. Or the Braves and a consortium of private businesses using their own money. And, hey, it’s possible that Home Depot (based in Cobb County) or the local Lockheed Martin plant could cut $450 million checks for the place. If so, yes, I will view this project in a very different light.  I just doubt it’s happening that way because it hardly ever happens that way.

Anyway: wait for the information. And, given the compulsion politicians have to avoid looking like they’re spending taxpayer money on anything besides the military, look skeptically at anyone claiming that this is all a private deal with no costs to the taxpayers.

  1. schlom - Nov 11, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    And, given the compulsion politicians have to avoid looking like they’re spending taxpayer money on anything besides the military, look skeptically at anyone claiming that this is all a private deal with no costs to the taxpayers.

    Great joke Craig!

  2. brewcitybummer - Nov 11, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    Gee ain’t it swell that MLB is a legalized cartel with territorial rights to prevent any actual capitalists from making use of Turner Field to house a new major baseball team.

    • brewcitybummer - Nov 11, 2013 at 4:53 PM

      Don’t just dump your business partners. Make sure they can’t do anything economcially significant with the massively expensive facility you left them holding.

      • sweepthleg - Nov 11, 2013 at 7:44 PM

        What are you talking about? Turner field is owned by the city of the Atlanta and the Braves have been renting it for the past 17 years and will do so for another 3. Turner Field was build for the 96 Olympics and then converted into a baseball stadium afterwards. I would probably guarantee you the City of Atlanta has made a profit on the stadium after all these years. The City has constantly held the franchise hostage refusing to pump money in the surrounding areas, has forced the braves to deal with sleazy parking venders around the stadium, and toyed with the idea of cutting the Braves public transit to the stadium a few years ago to save a few bucks.

      • DJ MC - Nov 11, 2013 at 10:41 PM

        @sweepthleg

        I’m not sure if you know what the word “profit” means.

        Turner Field cost $311 million (inflation-adjusted) to build. That means over the 21 years it will see use, it will have required the equivalent of $14.8 million per year to break even.

        Do you have any reason to believe that the city made $14.8 million a year on Turner Field? I guarantee you that the Braves don’t pay remotely that amount in rent, and I doubt concession and parking contracts–even crooked ones like you suggest–make up the difference.

      • sweepthleg - Nov 11, 2013 at 11:31 PM

        Atlanta has/will receive 21 years of revenue (better?) off a facility it built for a one off event the Olympics. The stadium for the Olympics cost 170-209 million an undisclosed portion of this paid for by “NBC and other Olympic Sponsors”. The stadium was build with the baseball conversion in mind so I would imagine that the City of Atlanta’s actual contribution was much lower than your estimate although I cannot find figures online. But I would still wager the the city didn’t lose money on Turner Field after the sunk cost of the Olympic Stadium (It depends on who does the accounting). And by your scoff at my assertion of sleazy parking contracts/attendants I guess that you’ve never been to Turner Field. Do a search of any article on this site about Fan/stadium experience and you’ll see Atlanta ranks last or near the bottom in most peoples opinion. Because the surrounding area is sketchy and there is nothing to attract people to the area. The new stadium and surrounding area will rectify this and give fans a better experience before and after games as well as year round. In the end it is the city’s fault for not keeping promises to make the area around the stadium better in the 17 years since the Olympics.

  3. rhmurphy - Nov 11, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    Oh right I forgot that society was killed because governments didn’t intervene when the share of agricultural workers fell by seventy-five percentage points.

    At least say something that is plausible historically, e.g. falling public investment in infrastructure.

  4. thebadguyswon - Nov 11, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    All these owners are such scumbags. Especially when most of them COULD finance the stadiums themselves.

    • chc4 - Nov 11, 2013 at 6:23 PM

      Local politicians allow them to do this by willingly entering into the agreement. If you’re mad at anyone it should be local governments. Why blame the owners for asking? I ask my boss for a $20k raise every year. I’d be a fool not to. I never get it… but I still ask.

      • Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Nov 11, 2013 at 8:15 PM

        Yeah. If somebody is putting free money on the table, owners would be fools not to take it. It’s not like they’re putting a gun to anybody’s head here.

  5. cackalackyank - Nov 11, 2013 at 7:46 PM

    Ok getting a little clarity here…$450 million seemed a little low for a decent stadium nowadays. Especially if that is going to include the “infrastructure”. I wonder if there is a big naming deal coming. Something like “Atlanta Braves Baseball..live from Lockheed Field at Home Depot Stadium”.

    • Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Nov 11, 2013 at 8:19 PM

      In the same sentence in which the $450 million figure is cited, it is stated that the total project is reportedly carrying an estimated $672 million price tag. So the Braves would be contributing a little over $200 million to the project as well.

  6. chaseutley - Nov 11, 2013 at 8:13 PM

    Look out, ditch! Atlanta is about to chuck a pile of cash into you for the second time in 20 years!

  7. antihypocritz - Nov 11, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    “A hotel bed tax — which is most certainly a tax and is most certainly the spending of public money ”

    It’s even worse than the basic spending of public money. It’s a new tax created for the sole purpose of helping one corporation (Liberty Media).

  8. thatstinks - Nov 12, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    LOL . And that corporation ( Liberty Media ) bought the Braves in a stock swap to avoid paying taxes . I believe they are now eligible to sell them and avoid the penalty . Anyhow Cobb Co will most definitely be on the hook for the 450 mil . The blue print is pretty set . Good for the city of Atlanta for not spending the 200 mil on bloated upgrades . Would not have been well spent .

  9. sfm073 - Nov 12, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    Normally I’m against tax money being used, but if Cobb county is well off and the people living there are well off and if it’s what they want then why not?

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