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The details are in: Cobb County residents will be paying a lot of money for the new Braves park

Nov 14, 2013, 12:33 PM EDT

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

Via Deadspin, we have the Memorandum of Understanding outlining the method in which the Braves new ballpark in Cobb County will be paid for. Here it is if you’d like to check it out.

As mentioned this morning, it’s 55% Braves money, 45% Cobb County. The breakdown is like so, though:

  • The Braves will pay $280 million up front, adding $92 million more in the future;
  • Cobb County will pay $14 million up front in transportation improvements and $10 million more in general funds from a special business district.
  • The county will finance the remaining $276 million by issuing revenue bonds.

Of course, payments need to be made on bonds. They’ll be paid like so:

  • $400,000 a year from a new rental car tax;
  • $940,000 a year from an existing hotel/motel tax;
  • $2,740,000 a year from a new hotel/motel fee in that special business district;
  • $5,150,000 a year from a property tax increase in the special business district;
  • $8,670,000 a year from reallocating Cobb County property taxes.

The upshot? Politicians can and will say that they’ve only raised taxes in two small places — on out of towners in hotels and people in a special business district who probably knew this sort of thing could happen — and thus it’s a nice, impact-light, conservative-happy financing plan.

Except when you reallocate existing taxes to pay for a ballpark, you are taking them away from uses to which they are already being put. How much of the over $10 million a year moved toward the ballpark is being taken away from already-strapped schools, mental health services, parks, police, fire and other public uses?

And except that, if those rental car and bed taxes don’t provide the funds these estimates think they will, it will almost certainly be taxpayers footing the bill for the shortfall.

Also: if they have the will to raise new taxes in special improvement districts and on out-of-towners for this, why would doing it for any other purpose have led to accusations of creeping socialism and business and job-killing and the like? “Because we like sports,” is the answer, I suppose, “and we’ll now get nice seats at Braves games.”

All of which would be fine if the ballpark would bring economic benefits — benefits which go to the public who is paying for 45% of it — in equal or greater measure. But as we know from history, it is rarely if ever the case that sports facilities¬†or events¬†bring such benefits.

But hey, if that’s what Cobb County wants, at least it’s being done through the democratic process, right? It may be a bad decision to use public funds to pay for the Braves new park, but there’s nothing that says that taxpayers can’t decide to do dumb things. Right?

Because there are no new taxes here outside of the self-taxing CID, the County Commission can approve the proposal without a countywide referendum. Cobb County residents will cover nearly half of the Braves’ ballpark without getting to vote on it.

Oh. Well then.

  1. knowlegeforyou - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    Move on!!! Every other article is you ranting about your political stance.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:49 PM

      What political stance is that? That using public funds for private enterprise is bad? How is this a bad thing?

      • chc4 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:50 PM

        So then I take it you didn’t vote for Obama?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:26 PM

        What does that have to do with anything? And I voted for him twice.

    • zzalapski - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:57 PM

      You don’t seem to know how a blog works.

    • cur68 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:19 PM

      Actually, DON’T move on, Craig. Keep pointing out this stuff and creating a space for the taxpayers to be made aware of the problem and to be allowed to get good and mad about it.

    • asimonetti88 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:21 PM

      erm… Craig and I could not be any more different politically based on his twitter, and I couldn’t agree more with him on this. It’s not a political thing, it’s a common sense thing.

  2. Francisco (FC) - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    There’s irony in a blogger tagged as a liberal complaining about taxes being enacted by conservatives.

    • bsbiz - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:46 PM

      Except when said liberal has a long history of opposing public financing for baseball stadia.

      • Francisco (FC) - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:47 PM

        I’m not saying he’s wrong. He’s absolutely right, but isn’t it hilarious when other commentators come along and accuse Craig of pushing the “Liberal Agenda”?

      • Francisco (FC) - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:49 PM

        And please don’t interpret my comment as some kind of criticism of Craig. I’m merely pointing out that usually it’s conservative people who rant about liberals wanting to enact taxes that impoverish the people for no good reason.

      • stex52 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:01 PM

        C’mon FC, you’re not fooling us. The fabricated little Batman tales. The sly sidebars. The pretending to defend him while pointing out his failings. You’re trying to destroy Craig. Don’t deny it. You envy him his cushy Internet job and his comfy little digs.

        You want his job and you will stop at nothing to get it!!!

        Let me know how it works out. :-)

      • chc4 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:52 PM

        He’s pursuing his liberal agenda by making the Braves the evil rich guy. Attacking those that achieve is leftist strategy #1a. 1b is claiming everyone that disagrees w/ them is racist.

      • stex52 - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:33 PM

        So I take it, CHC, that you favor socialism. Pump that public money to private corporations.

        Why choose the Braves? JCPenney is going broke. Why not build them a few dozen stores with tax slush funds? That’ll create some jobs.

      • stex52 - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:34 PM

        Ah, “liberal agenda”. I missed that at first. A FOX NEWS clone.

    • 18thstreet - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:52 PM

      Craig contains multitudes.

      • chacochicken - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:16 PM

        Many fishes’ mansions.

      • jcmeyer10 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:26 PM

        You can hide a lot of opinions in a bathrobe with those front pockets.

      • 4d3fect - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:50 PM

        @jcmeyer10: I don’t think those look like opinions.

    • cur68 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:21 PM

      Delicious, delicious irony, alright. The inherent hypocrisy of the whole thing will go right over the heads of most of truly nutty who get on here and shout at Craig for his “Liberal Agenda”, though. Which is also pretty ironic.

      • stex52 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:48 PM

        Now that you are here among us, Cur, I can let you in on the little secret. All intelligence got sucked out of American politics about, say, 15 years ago. Surely as an observer from the north, you must have suspected this.

        That’s why I prefer following baseball.

      • emdash01 - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:44 PM

        Given that 15 years ago was 1998, and the big political news then was the Lewinsky scandal, your choice of words there was perhaps more risque than you intended, stex52. *g*

      • stex52 - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:49 PM

        As a matter of fact, I was thinking of the whole impeachment affair as when things really started to go off the rails.

        But the naughty little suggestion was purely inadvertent. Wish I could take credit for it.

      • cur68 - Nov 14, 2013 at 6:33 PM

        Sucked out, you say? Is there a DNA test to determine if the resulting stain is REALLY ‘intelligence” or is it just some sort of sauce stain pretending to be intelligence? Wasabi, perhaps? Thats stuffs audacious: if anything’s trying to pretend to be smart, its wasabi.

  3. aindik - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    Are we going to pretend that taxpayers usually get to vote directly on spending increases and new taxes?

    • chacochicken - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:53 PM

      It is pretty common for counties and municipalities to have bond measures for large public construction like schools and infrastructure.

      • aindik - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:03 PM

        It happens. The vast majority of the time it doesn’t happen. So let’s not pretend that it’s SOP to ask taxpayers whether a government should raise taxes or spend money before doing it.

        Btw, on a hotel and rental car tax, voters taxpayers. Which is kind of the point.

      • chacochicken - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:11 PM

        I am suggesting that they should have a bond measure vote as is common when so much tax money is being spent rather than leave it in the hands of a few commissioners that probably have a conflict of interest with such a massive project. I suppose that is how they kept the whole business secret.
        What will happen when the Braves ownership wants to move to a new location or do a massive renovation in 15-20 years and the county still owes 10 years of interest on the original deal?

  4. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    Heading to the airport so I can’t read the deadspin article, but is there any note about who picks up the tab for the cost overruns that are most likely to occur? Seems like every new stadium the owner’s contribution is fixed while the public has to fork over even more dollars.

    • bravojawja - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:30 PM

      The Braves will pay for overruns, like the Falcons will for their new stadium.

      So the deal has that going for it. Which is nice.

      • normcash - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:20 PM

        Bet you dollars to doughnuts that if the overruns look to be really large (which is a
        reasonable likelihood), the Braves will pressure the county to re-write the deal to
        pick up more of the tab and use the threat of staying in Atlanta (Turner Field won’t
        be torn down until AFTER the Braves move) as the lever—and Cobb County will

      • gloccamorra - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:54 PM

        The Padres covered overruns for Petco. The construction was on time and on budget until a lawsuit held up the City’s bond offering and the construction was halted for a year. Though it wasn’t the Padres’ or construction company’s fault, the Padres paid officially $39 million extra, though unofficially it was estimated at $52 million. Pressure or no pressure, a contract is a contract.

  5. dowhatifeellike - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    Both sides should check the going rate for new stadiums, because $650M ain’t it.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:07 PM

      When the cost over-runs by 200M+ I’m sure the taxpayers will be more than happy to impose further tax increases.

    • gloccamorra - Nov 14, 2013 at 3:00 PM

      That’s about what Petco cost, with the actual ballpark construction costing less than half, even with the overruns. The price tag is “in the ballpark” for a ballpark. An NFL stadium in a high-cost urban area like Metlife Stadium in New Jersey runs into the billions.

      • asimonetti88 - Nov 14, 2013 at 3:55 PM

        Petco was also built 10 years ago, so the costs have risen since then.

      • gloccamorra - Nov 14, 2013 at 6:53 PM

        Petco was built downtown, near the convention center, and the comparable cost was with overruns of $39 million “officially”. The original cost was $267 million for the ballpark alone. The Braves’ $280 million would be about the right price for a similar sized ballpark that doesn’t require demolition of four square blocks and re-routing street utilities.

  6. innout10 - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    The positive side is if residents of Cobb county aren’t happy they can move to the next county.

    • raysfan1 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:30 PM

      Yeah, I hear there is some sort of urban renewal project that’s going to be started near downtown Atlanta in just a few years. Should be great. /s

    • chacochicken - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:39 PM

      So the poorest people who can’t afford to move get the benefit of underfunded public works further affected by the loss of property taxes from those that left.

  7. wintwins - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    I *think* I read somewhere once that the HHH Metrodome here in Minneapolis is one of the few stadiums built with public funds to turn a profit. This makes sense to me as it was built on the cheap and jointly used for many years by Vikings football, Twins baseball, and Golden Gopher football as well as various rodeos, monster truck rallys, high school state championships…

    I’m not saying publicly funded stadia are wise investments, but maybe the Metrodome is the exception that proves the rule?

    • paperlions - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:13 PM

      Stadiums turn profits. The problem is that usually all of that profit goes to the team, not the public who financed and paid for the stadium. This deal would be fine if it included language such that the public received 45% of stadium generated revenues and the Braves received 55%, in line with the investment of each side….but what usually happens is the team pays for little of the stadium and then they keep all the profits.

    • happytwinsfan - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:51 PM

      and if i remember correctly, it was finished ahead of schedule and under budget – about 55 million if memory serves. no wonder it’s gonna start coming down in a few months.

      oh well, the twins have more money for player payroll, serving my viewing pleasure.

    • kopy - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:04 PM

      It also hosted an MLB All-Star game, the Timberwolves in their first season (when they set an NBA record by attracting over 1 million fans in that season), and the NCAA Final Four twice (as well as a regional site many other times).

      The Metrodome has probably been used more than any other major sports stadium. Hell, they even still open it for in-line skating around the concourses off-season.

    • missingdiz - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:09 PM

      Stadiums can contribute to the local economy under certain circumstances. Like the Metrodome, they need to stay busy, not sit empty most of the time. They shouldn’t hog a lot of potentially productive surface area in the form of parking lots. There should be convenient, attractive mass-transit access, and hopefully the stadium would be in a reviving downtown area where a lot of people can just walk. The main thing is for people to hang out in the neighborhood and spend money–as they do around Fenway and Wrigley field, or Great American in Cincinnati, for that matter.

      But the new Braves park sounds like just the opposite. If everybody drives to a suburban stadium, they’re likely just to drive to the parking lot and then drive home right after the game. There’s probably no “downtown” type area anyway. And all the profits made inside the ballpark end up somewhere else, because even the concessions are corporations based somewhere else.

      • tedwmoore - Nov 14, 2013 at 3:14 PM

        Also, the Metrodome gave substantial event profits over to the municipality, which is among the reasons the Twins and Vikes both want(ed) new stadiums. That model will not be replicated moving forward.

  8. moogro - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    I’m new to this stuff. Why aren’t the Braves paying 100% for their stadium? Is there some cash problem?

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:08 PM

      Because people are suckers

    • chacochicken - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      Socializing cost while privatizing profits. This is what happens when anti-trust exemptions meet the illusion of free market capitalism.

      • paperlions - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:56 PM

        This is also how natural resources are used. For example, all companies that profit off of the sale of fossil fuels are socializing the costs (e.g. huge costs associated with pollution) while privatizing the profits.

    • cur68 - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:27 PM

      You poor kid. Welcome to Publicly Financed Toys For Billionaire-Rich White Guys, 101.
      -Set your outrage to +10.
      -Set your jaw drop to Wide Open.
      -Prepare to take blood pressure medication.
      -Sit down.
      -Above all, watch for the lackeys of The Man to get on here and try to ‘splain how us taxpayers being bent over and given the bid-ness so some rich dude can have a fancy new toy and barely pay for it is “Good For Us”.

    • gloccamorra - Nov 14, 2013 at 3:07 PM

      Actually, it’s the lack of availability of a large parcel of cheap land. Those older urban ballparks, like Fenway, were once out in the sticks, but the city grew around them.

      Today you need government’s eminent domain power to clear enough land for a stadium and parking. the cost of construction of a basic, expandable ballpark was and still is within a ball club’s means, but when government is needed to obtain the land, public officials’ edifice complex kicks in and costs go up for amenities that “justify” using public money.

  9. bravojawja - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    Here’s a local take on it.

    The real question is, as Craig says, where is that $8.67 million being “reallocated” from? The county is in enough financial trouble as it is, despite its conservative, business-friendly reputation, and now it’s going to throw millions of dollars per year into paying for a stadium?

    Also: What CPA/actuary came up with those numbers for the new tax revenues? That’s assuming the CID will even vote to raise their own taxes.

    The whole thing stinks to high heaven. Have fun with this, Cobbers!

    • danandcasey - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:46 PM

      I am a Cobb County resident. The $8.67 million is being reallocated from the general fund. What Cobb is essentially doing is gambling that the assessed value of properties that serve as the property tax basis will increase by 4.5% (the $8.67 million is about 4.5% of the property taxes allocated to the general fund) while county expenditures remain flat (or a greater increase and a commensurate increase in spending). This is not a terrible gamble, given the drop in property tax assessments over the three and four years ago and the steady recovery in property values (the assessed value in my home dropped 20% during the recession but has recovered more than half that lost value). It is still a gamble. If the $8.67 million is not recovered from higher property values, then Cobb will have to cut its expenditures out of the general fund by as much as 4.5%.

      • bravojawja - Nov 14, 2013 at 4:02 PM

        The housing market here has rebounded (my house has also regained much of what it lost, if the DeKalb tax appraiser is right, which he isn’t which is why I appealed), but it’s not going to rebound all over the county by that much.

        While plenty of folks in Atlanta & DeKalb are moving because of the terrible schools, not all of them will go to East Cobb, where the best are. It’s a huge gamble, and governments aren’t supposed to gamble with the people’s money like this.

      • brewcitybummer - Nov 14, 2013 at 5:23 PM

        Also, few economic projections applied to these deals gives a complete estimate of the added local costs. I believe this was one of the key points in Field of Schemes. So the idea of expenditures remaining flat is unlikely in the presence of a new major stadium.

  10. vanmorrissey - Nov 14, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    Would be nice if residents of that county get discounts on ticket prices due to having help fund the stadium. I know season tickets holders, various other groups, etc., always get discounts but this would be specific to those residing in Cobb. But heaven forbid just because you live there it allows a deep discount because we’d never allow $$$$ taken out of our ‘team revenues’ (ie, owners) now would we? Bastards.

  11. JB (the original) - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    Ahhh it’s easy to raise funds; just follow Minnesota’s (Vikes) lead and sell E-pulltabs. (snark-o-meter set to fricassee)

  12. yousuxxors - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    rich men getting one over on us has been happening since the “best” president ever Reagan. go look how salary used to rise up until the 80s till now.

  13. tedwmoore - Nov 14, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    Future maintenance costs are shared jointly by the county and the Braves, which or course does not mean equally, and is often where you see a massive mushrooming (and unreported) cost to the municipality. And it is unclear from that memorandum, but the braves future contributions toward maintenance might be capped at that $92 million figure listed for future cost contributions (or that might be reserved for overages in construction, again, it is unclear).

    Also, except for a few limited events, the Braves retain the right to allow third party events at the new stadium, meaning that revenue from those events will likely accrue to the Braves.

  14. gloccamorra - Nov 14, 2013 at 3:27 PM

    Cobb County regularly places in the top 100 wealthiest counties list, so they can afford it. Besides, Cobb County was carved out of land stolen from the Cherokee Indians, so it’s a perfect place for the Braves.

  15. irishjackmp - Nov 14, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    I am a little confused here. Craig is ranting that the taxpayers are ont he hook for a large $$ here. From reading the article though, it indicates most fo the dollars from the county’s end is coming from Revenue Bonds. My understanding of revenue bonds is they are funded thorugh revenue generated from the entity itself (i.e. the ballpark)… rather that the taxpayers of the county picking up the hit which would be the case if they issued general obligation bonds). If that is the case, this doesn’t look like a bad deal at all.

    If someone with a better understanding of how revenue bonds work I would appreciate the clarification here to see how much the taxpayers really are on the hook for vs how much will come directly through the revenue bonds (i.e. the revenue streams fromt he stadium)

  16. cackalackyank - Nov 14, 2013 at 8:27 PM

    I am shocked and stunned by this. It is just so out of character with the way things normally work in todays society.

  17. ramblingalb - Nov 14, 2013 at 10:23 PM

    Cobb County wants the team and the huge influx of money it brings in 81 times a year. The Braves will pay the overages, and tourists will pay the new taxes that will build the stadium.

    I have yet to find a negative.

    • gloccamorra - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:16 PM

      The land was owned by the Cherokee until 1832 when the state of Georgia forced them off it, and later carved Cobb County and others to the northwest out of the former Cherokee land. There might be a Cherokee curse on the land, or artifacts, since the land is undeveloped and near the Chatahoochee River. One of Georgia’s senators should ask Senator Elizabeth Warren, who claims Cherokee ancestry, what she knows about it.

  18. briangetsit - Nov 14, 2013 at 11:17 PM

    I think the question is what is that “influx of money” coming from? Yes there will be visitors who come into the county and spend some money at the games but wasn’t one of the main reasons for the move to be closer to the fan base?

    Umm another question that popped into my head… when are teacher contract up for renegotiation? If Cobb County has the money to help build a new stadium, “might” the teachers think that if they are considered some of the best in the state they might be due a sizable pay raise? Saying we don’t have the money could fall on deaf ears….

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