The Cobb County Commission is approved by a 4 to 1 vote plans for a new $672 million Braves stadium in its backyard. The crucial vote — which directs $300 million in taxpayer dollars to the development — comes just two weeks and a day after the Braves made a stunning announcement the team was moving from downtown Atlanta to the suburbs. The baseball club and the five-member Cobb commission have since remained focused on today’s vote, with the Braves ignoring a call to reconsider from the Atlanta City Council and the commission rejecting pleas to delay the decision from critics of the hasty process. Fans and foes of the deal began crowding into the meeting hall hours before the 7 p.m. hearing was to begin, many sporting “Cobb: Home of the Braves” T-shirts. The meeting began promptly and onlookers who weren’t allowed into the packed room watched from beyond glass doors. During the one hour public comment, Cobb Chamber of Commerce head Ben Mathis praised the deal and said it could transform the area. “This is exactly the kind of development that should be a public private partnership because we all benefit from it,” he said. But resident Kevin Daniels criticized the plan and how quickly it has passed from announcement to a vote. “I’ve been really disappointed in the veil of secrecy and the rush… to approve this deal,” he said. “It’s not characteristic of the government I’ve grown accustomed to having in Cobb County, that I grew up with.” Andrew Windham, who spoke in favor of the deal on behalf of the Cobb Young Professionals, said they “understand the epic and life-changing impact this opportunity avails not only to us and our community but future generations” as he called for its passage. But Amy Barnes, a Cobb County activist who came to Tuesday’s meeting with a sign that read “Billionaire Care is the next Obamacare” asked commissioners to vote against the deal. “This is nothing but a back door SPLOST,” she said, adding the development would also invite crime. Plans for the future stadium and retail complex began brewing just five months ago when Braves executive vice president Mike Plant and Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee — in a three-hour lunch in early July — first discussed the idea of building a stadium in the county. Such stadium deals typically take two to three years, if not much longer, to get from initial conversation to governmental approval of an agreement. At the time of Plant’s meeting with Lee, the Braves were amid negotiations with Atlanta city officials over its lease renewal agreement, set to expire in 2016, and development plans near Turner Field. When the Braves announced the team was leaving for Cobb, Atlanta officials were still vetting a 16-point proposal from the Braves about those plans. Those plans are now moot, it seems, with Tuesday’s vote on the stadium expected to pass despite vocal opposition from residents concerned about the use of taxpayer dollars. Political affiliations stretching from the Atlanta Tea Party to the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club have joined the fight, and watchdog group Common Cause Georgia has called for a referendum on the decision. This deal calls for the Braves and Cobb County to build an estimated $672 million, 41,500-seat, open-air stadium in time for the start of the 2017 season. The county’s proposed $300 million share consists of $24 million up-front and $276 million from proceeds of bonds that will be repaid over 30 years from a mix of existing property taxes, existing hotel-motel taxes, a new 3 percent car-rental tax, a new $3-per-night room charge for Cumberland area hotels and a new tax on Cumberland area commercial property and apartment complexes. Adjacent to the new stadium is a proposed $400 million mixed-use retail development that the Braves will largely control and that will be privately funded. Tuesday’s vote is on the stadium project alone.
Cobb County approves partial funding for future Braves stadium
Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Nov 27