Baseball

Cobb County Has No Money Left for Public Parks Because They Gave it All to the Atlanta Braves

Voters supported funding parks, but not a billionaire's ballpark.

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We are all Barves.
Nicole Mays / Flickr

Cobb County (Ga.) Commission Chairman Tim Lee has broken the news to his constituents that their taxes will have to be increased to complete the funding of a $40 million bond — which they voted overwhelmingly in favor of — to build public parks. To date, only about half of that bond has been funded, according to AJC.com.

But in a jaw-droppingly cynical act of crony capitalism and untransparent government, the county has found a way to come up with approximately $400 million in public funds to subsidize the new stadium being built for Major League Baseball's Atlanta Braves, even though it denied the public a vote in the matter.

We have previously noted here at Reason that the Braves are currently the worst team in MLB, but their billionaire owner John Malone has tried to comfort team shareholders that their investments are safe because, "the Braves are now a fairly major real estate business as opposed to just a baseball club." Malone is right, in addition to getting the residents of Cobb County to build him a totally unnecessary cash-cow of a stadium, the Braves' minor league system is dotted with publicly-financed ballparks in cash-strapped small towns throughout the Deep South.

It gets better (that is to say, way worse), as Barry Petchesky writes in Deadspin:

The Braves' ballpark is already a new low in the sordid game of publicly financed stadiums, but maybe this can be an instructive moment. Every time a city or county funds a stadium through hotel taxes or by dipping into a general fund, local politicians and team cheerleaders proudly say that residents won't see their own taxes go up. This is a damned lie.

Not only does putting public money toward a stadium take away money that could actually go to the public good (SunTrust Park was approved at a time Cobb County schools were desperately slashing budgets), but the general fund is no longer there to prop up existing and future bonds, forcing taxes to be raised to pay off those debts.

"Cobb County homeowners will not see their taxes go up one penny" to fund the Braves' stadium, according to the FAQ on CobbHomeOfTheBraves.com, an astroturfed website supporting the stadium.

For more coverage on why you should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever publicly finance sports arenas, click on any of the hyperlinks.

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85 responses to “Cobb County Has No Money Left for Public Parks Because They Gave it All to the Atlanta Braves

  1. The county should be out of the park business, and they should be out of the baseball business.

    1. The county should be out of the park business…

      Yeah, probably. But public parks are very popular and relatively harmless at least on the municipal level. For me, privatizing municipal parks is so far down on the list of priorities that it really doesn’t register. And I bring this up as a matter of tactics. We will not achieve total libertarianism overnight. Focus on the most wasteful and least popular. If libertarian ideas ever gain traction let the public go through a long, gentle period of adjustment while they realize that government can actually shrink without mass chaos.

      1. I could never vote for Gary Johnson because he drove to work on the ROADZ.

        1. I know, a real libertarian would take his helicopter.

          1. No, a real libertarian would get his orphans to carry him in a palanquin. That way, the orphans are using the ROADZ.

  2. Where are the Soros-type philanthropists of the right who could spend a few tens of millions in Atlanta on campaign ads and get the entire Cobb County commission overthrown? Not that it would be worth it just for Atlanta, but it might serve as a warning to other municipalities so that it wouldn’t have to be done over and over. The Kochs can’t do everything!

    1. Cobb co isnt even Atlanta. Atlanta is parts of Fulton and Dekalb.

  3. Government-financed sports facilities promote economic development and civic pride. Okay, it hasn’t worked out that way, but this time, it’ll be different.

  4. …click on any of the hyperlinks.

    Hyperlinks? How exactly old is Fisher?

    1. Old enough that he begins reading off URLs by saying “H-T-T-P, colon, forward-slash, forward-slash…”

    2. He also refers to email as “electronic mail.” It must be some newfangled hipster trend.

      1. I bet he capitalizes internet, too.

        (I can’t get my phone to knock that shit off.)

        1. Heck, he’s so old he remembers when Al Gore invented the Internet! Sorry, I mean “took the initiative in creating” the Internet.

  5. Wait a minute – Turner Field is less than 20 years old and supposedly set a design standard for all the new ballparks in various cities. And it is already obsolete or can’t be renovated to current standards? Half of MLB plays in ballparks that are less than 20 years old so, by Atlanta standards, MLB cities are all going to be looking to loot the taxpayers in the next decade.

    1. Identity politickers tried raising a fuss about the Braves, but, being baseball, nobody paid attention.

    2. This is the way things are going. The Texas Rangers are pulling the same shit, too, with a perfectly nice 20 year old stadium.

    3. Turner Field is fine, basically. But there’s quite a bit of politicking going on as well that hasn’t really been mentioned much.

      1) The Ted is an historic site. So the team management was very restricted by the city in what they could do. Sure, a 20 year old stadium doesn’t need to be replaced. But renovating the bathrooms might be nice.

      2) The city is going to give that property to Georgia State University, which is their favorite way of having someone keep up decrepit parts of downtown. “Oh, it’s a fucked up, abandoned mess? Give it to GSU.”

      1. They play football in the Ga dome. They really do get all the hand me downs.

    4. The turnover rates on stadiums is becoming absurd, but the Braves problem with Turner Field was the location,being in a poor neighborhood, and from what I understand, the cronyism of the city’s vendor contracts. It did not have much to do with the structure of the facility.

      1. But the stadium should have made that neighborhood rich! Multipliers! Prime the pump. Spend money, to make money. I bird in the bush gets a worm!

      2. It’s problem is also that it is, comparatively speaking, a shithole. It’s merely adequate, with nothing about it that warrants recommendation. I’ve been to 15 of the 30 active parks and Turner is frankly the dullest of the lot.

        Look at it this way: when your entire neighborhood goes to work in beamers and Benzes you start looking for ways out of your Chevy.

        1. Too bad I can’t get my neighbors to buy me a Benz.

    5. Yeah, I’m shocked that Dan Snyder hasn’t asked for a new stadium for the Deadskins, simply because it was built by the former owner (with private money!!)

      1. He has asked for a stadium. He’s been trying to get one for a few years now. Probably going to be in Virginia because the Maryland/DC folks might ask for a name change in exchange for their largesse.

        1. He can get fucked. No fucking stadium in my tax district. No fucking way. I will go to the mattresses on that.

          1. Why not carry the mattress around?

          2. He’s already got a a stadium concept designed and everything.

            It has a moat. I’m not sure why, but his stadium design has a moat.

            1. Ok that has to be a fucking joke. Parking bowl? So you basically can’t even see the stadium from outside? You just see the facade of some enormous parking structure that envelops the stadium?

    6. MLB cities are all going to be looking to loot the taxpayers in the next decade.

      Don’t forget about the NFL and NBA cities.

    7. MLB cities are all going to be looking to loot the taxpayers in the next decade.

      I really doubt that. Atlanta’s park is a premodern, multipurpose design. MLB has been trying to rid itself of these for decades. As far as I can tell, there’s only a few cities at risk for MLB extortion: Oakland, Toronto, Tampa, Chicago, and Cleveland* are the ones that leap to mind.

      Football and the arena sports are a different story. Those guys want new buildings every other decade, probably because there is hardly any draw in having a historic venue to outweigh the supposed value delivered by a new stadium’s shiny baubles.

      *I’m sure the Jake was wonderful when it opened, but they’ve done a shit job keeping up the place.

      1. No, it isnt. It was the olympic track venue remodeled for baseball. Fulton Co Stadium which predated it was multipurpose.

        1. It was the olympic track venue remodeled for baseball.

          This is what I’m referring to. It’s not designed for baseball, it’s designed for the Olympics. The fact that it was planned and built post-Camden is unimportant; it’s still the last of an old, terrible breed.

  6. Call me completely stunned!

    Meanwhile, Cobb County reappraised property values a few years back to reflect the recession. Then, they immediately raised the millage rate to ensure they kept getting as much property tax despite the lower values. Within the last month or two, they reappraised property values again and substantially raised the values. Any bets on whether they’re going to reduce the millage rate?

    1. Yep. I noticed that.

    2. Why would Cobb County be any different than Cook County?

      1. Why would Cobb County be any different than Cookany County?

        Fixed that for you.

  7. Atlanta Braves?

    If you want to steal someone else’s money, but delegate that dirty work to government, you should call yourself “Atlanta Cowards”.

  8. the Braves are currently the worst team in MLB, but their billionaire owner John Malone has tried to comfort team shareholders that their investments are safe because, “the Braves are now a fairly major real estate business as opposed to just a baseball club.” Malone is right, in addition to getting the residents of Cobb County to build him a totally unnecessary cash-cow of a stadium, the Braves’ minor league system is dotted with publicly-financed ballparks in cash-strapped small towns throughout the Deep South.

    Gee, I wish I were a successful businessman with the skills to run something as complex and impressive as a major league baseball team. I should try harder in life.

    1. But the implication is that the land & bldgs. were gifted by gov’t to the Braves. I don’t think that’ll be the case once the details are looked up. I think the fairly major real estate business consists of parcels actually bought & owned by the Braves.

  9. Related: The Atlanta Falcons are going to receive around 600 million to build their new stadium. which is going to replace a twenty-four year old stadium which was funded solely by the state.

    1. Yeah, but the concessions are going to be reasonably priced.

      The falcons needed that stadium so they could bring the price of concessions down. Duh. Haven’t you ever owned a football team?

      1. I assume the profit is going to fund Arthur Blank’s wispy mustache maintenance.

        1. He should have his orphan labor from the Home Despot build the stadium.

    2. “Mercedes-Benz” Stadium? How appropriate.

  10. And the Hawks have been bitching that Philips arena, which opened in 1999, is inadequate.

    Not that it really matters, but school systems in Georgia aren’t funded by their namesake county/city governments. They’re actually separate entities that have their own tax power and the state provides funds based on some other controversial formula. But don’t let that get in the way of some outrage.

    1. You know who else bitched about inadequacy?

      1. The Academy of Fine Arts in VIenna?

      2. Fred Willard?

  11. I recently stayed for three weeks in a hotel right next to the new stadium location. I watched lots of digging and crane work.

    When I checked out I saw there were taxes added to my bill labeled as “Entertainment”. I asked about it and was told that paid for the swimming pool and basketball court. I didn’t believe it but was late so I let it go.

    Lying bastards!

    1. I accidentally put some “Entertainment” on my corporate credit card once. ”Twas awkward

  12. even though it denied the public a vote in the matter.

    That’s the Minneapolis model.

    1. At least here they softened the blow with that truly innovative e-pull-tab scheme.

      1. As a Packer fan, I was going to mention the pull-tabs, but you beat me to the punch.

      2. Give it a chance Tundra. I’m sure the Strib will be reporting any day now on the new updated revenues raised by the e-pull-tabs.

        I’m sure once the Minnesodans get used to them, the money will fly in.

    2. I my town, the gave the public a vote, and then when the public voted it down, the politicians built the stadium anyway.

      1. Democracy: great when it gives the politicians what they want, when it doesn’t? Fuck the voters, they don’t know what’s best for the greater good.

    3. Not only did they deny the public a vote here, but they tried to hide it until after the commission had voted on it. When they couldn’t do that, they limited the number of people who could speak publicly at the commission meeting and then stacked the rules so all 12 people they did allow to speak just happened to be in favor of the stadium.

  13. Yeah, but the new stadiums gonna have a zip line!

  14. In regards to the bit about the Braves’ minor league system, that’s why the Richmond Braves I so loved as a kid are now the Gwinnett Braves – the Braves tried to extort a new stadium out of the city to replace one that was only a little over 20 years old, and Richmond (in a rare moment of sanity) didn’t do it.

    1. The Richmond Squirrels are trying to do that now!

      1. Yup. Love taking my kids to Flying Squirrels games, but they can build their own damned stadium. And that’s why I live in Henrico. Well, that and the fact that Richmond schools are a horror show.

    2. As a Gwinnett resident, I was (and still am) so pissed over that move. Not only did we get fucked over on the financing of that stadium, I thought it was one of the worst business decisions I have ever seen. A major league and a minor league team located within 40 miles of each other? Of course it never occurred to these “brilliant businessmen” that the two would leach off each other? In all honesty, I do frequently attend G-Braves games because easier travel, cheaper ticket, the stadium is a ghost town (you can heckle the opposing pitcher using your normal voice, no shouting required), and the talent level is about the same.

  15. which they voted overwhelmingly in favor of ? to build public parks.

    There’s one born every minute.

  16. I used to be in favor of public funding for stadiums. Then I grew up and started paying taxes.

  17. If the residents can be persuaded that $40 million can appear out of thin air without their own taxes going up, maybe they deserve to be the new home of the worst team in MLB. And who are the politicians not to lie and tell them what they want to hear? Isn’t that why we vote for them?

  18. As always, fuck Art Modell.

  19. The undertold story of Normandy. Turns out the Normandy landing wasn’t all horrible; some of it was pretty harrowing, too.

    1. I saw some Buzzfeed-style article on 5 Myths about D-day, as I recall, 3 of them were hardly myths, the other two were just silly.

    2. Ah, the old lie told about cowardly British coxswains. Capt. Zappacosta never pulled a gun on the coxswain. It’s a story dreamed up by SLA Marshall and repeated by Stephen Ambrose. That landing craft had one survivor, Bob Sales, who was Zappacosta’s radioman, and he repeatedly denied ever telling that story and said that the incident didn’t happen. You can read about it here:

      http://www.warchronicle.com/co…..swains.htm

  20. On topic, I guess.

    Those other stadium articles, including the one about the boondoggle minor league stadium in Hartford?

    That one continues to become an even bigger fuck-up.

    The Hartford Stadium Authority is terminating its contract with the developers of Dunkin’ Donuts Park, halting construction and casting doubt on whether the Yard Goats will play in the city’s $63 million minor league ballpark this season.

    In a news conference Monday, Mayor Luke Bronin said the move was touched off by an email Friday from the developers, DoNo Hartford LLC and Centerplan Cos., that estimated it would take 60 days or more before the stadium would meet city building codes.

    “At that point, we simply lost confidence in DoNo and Centerplan’s capacity to complete this project and their capacity to provide a schedule that is reliable and sound,” Bronin said.

    Middletown-based Centerplan also has not provided assurances that it has the financial resources to complete the 6,000-seat stadium without seeking more money from the city, Bronin said.

    Even with Monday’s termination, it is still possible Centerplan could be brought back by Arch Insurance, under supervision, to finish the project, the mayor said.

    “That’s a decision for the surety to make,” Bronin said. Arch Insurance is the project’s surety, the company guaranteeing the stadium’s completion.

      1. Compared to the complete sack of shit that was the new Marlins stadium…

        …which is also why, while I’m not a Dolphins fan despite living in South Florida, I’ll hand it to them. Not only did Joe Robbie build the original stadium without public money, Steven Ross just put $500 million of his own money into renovating the place (mind you, that was only after he was denied for public money, but still)

  21. PROG FIGHT!

    I have never yelled at you’: Mayor’s texts to council member show terse exchange over The Jungle

    Seattle Mayor Ed Murray threatened City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw that he would stop cleaning up and protecting the city’s streets if she attempted to hamstring his plan to clear out the Interstate 5 homeless encampments known as The Jungle.

    “This is Ed Murray could you call me” the May 21 text exchange began.

    The mayor then added, “If you do a resolution on homelessness restricting our ability to deal with the rapes and other violent crime and the bike chop shops down there in the jungle, I will stop all clean ups throughout the city and pull police off enforcement. We are losing the ability to control our streets.”

    Bagshaw replied, “Is this really from you Mr. Mayor?”

    And Murray answered, “Yes.”

    The weekend exchange continued over several hours as the mayor, on his way back to the city after a trade mission to China and Japan, tried to reach Bagshaw and stop her from slowing down and restricting his plan,

    1. a trade mission to China and Japan

      Totally legitimate function of the mayor of Seattle.

  22. I will say that the money is not going solely for the stadium. The mixed use development is being build along with the stadium which is actually one of the first times that has ever happened. Those developments rarely come to fruition.

    The relocation was all about politics. Inner city Atlantans are still butt hurt by it and it is still hilarious to watch them moan. The city of Atlanta spent millions on a stupid fucking streetcar that is about to be shut down, but more people are worried about the Braves.

    Also, Cobb just raised salaries for teachers like 2 years in a row.

    1. Good. Stadiums don’t belong downtown anyway. The only reason that trend started was cities were desperate to bring any sort of life back – even stadiums that stand empty half the time and take up multiple blocks (or a dozen if it sits in an ocean of parking lots).

      1. Sprawl is only bad when it results in people having gaia-raping lawns and ugly kkkorporashun-supporting McMansions. Inefficient use of space is totes cool in a city because cities are all about efficient use of space, so it cancels out.

        Lrn2Zoning, Noob.

  23. The Braves have been in that crap-hole of a location for decades. After all this time, the immediate area around the stadium is still crap. Fans came to the stadium from the northern suburbs to watch the game, then get the hell out of there immediately after.

    There is nothing attractive about the Braves downtown Atlanta location. Why downtown Atlanta gave Ted Turner such a woody I’ll never know.

    Don’t let urban asshats like like Jonathan Mahler from that AJC article try to convince you otherwise. He says that the current Braves stadium is *only* a 25 minute walk from the MARTA station. Those are not 25 pleasant or convenient minutes. Why? When MARTA was being built, Atlanta avoided the stadium so that they would not lose parking revenue.

    Even so, by the time you walk that 25 minutes after the game to get back to the train, wait for the stupid thing to finally arrive, ride it to the MARTA station in the somewhat general direction of where you live, then finally arrive home, you could have driven home, showered, fixed a sandwich, and started watching a movie on Netflix.

    So, for the Braves and fans, the move will be great.

    For the rest of us taxpayers, we’re being screwed big time. The dishonesty of the Cobb County commission is disgusting. I’m going to be paying for that monstrosity for a long time.

  24. Oh, and as for park space, these people in Cobb buy million+ dollar homes on postage stamp sized lots, then complain because there’s nowhere for their kids to play. They expect the rest of the taxpayers to buy them a yard. NIMBY a-holes.

    And the schools? Those jerks have been swimming in SPLOST money for as long as I can remember.

    In the many years I’ve lived in Cobb, this is the first time my appraisal has been higher than what I could sell my home for.

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    1. Does this mean you can help pay for the parks in Cobb County? Sweet.

      1. Yeah, I’m paying. Good and hard.

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