Baseball

Atlanta Braves Poised to Receive Yet Another Publicly-Funded Stadium

Sarasota-area officials want to hand over tens of millions for a spring training facility without letting taxpayers have a say.

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Where my money?
David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire 953/David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire/Newscom

The Atlanta Braves were once a dominant Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise, cruising to division championships and the occasional pennant year after year in the 1990s and early 2000s. These days, they've been much more successful at getting politicians in Southern towns to publicly subsidize the team's stadiums than they have been at winning baseball games.

The latest contestants in the competition to hand over tens of millions in taxpayer dollars to a billionaire's for-profit vanity project are the city of North Port (Fla.) and Sarasota County, where the Braves have announced they intend to open a Spring Training facility in 2019.

The approximately $80 million real estate venture will be aided by as much as $5 million in financing from the city of North Port, upwards of $9 million in donated land and infrastructure development from the West Villages district, and about $22 million from Sarasota County in "tourism development" dollars, which the Herald-Tribune notes is "just under the cap that would require the contribution to be approved by a voter referendum." Additionally, the state of Florida will provide $20 million in grant funds bookmarked for towns looking to get into the MLB spring training business. A potential hiccup for the Braves is the indication that the state legislature may scale back such grants during the upcoming legislative session in the spring.

West Villages General Manager Marty Black told the Herald-Tribune he hopes the Spring Training facility will help make the surrounding area a "sports medicine hub," adding, "It's about more than baseball…it's about creating a community and creating real careers and jobs."

As I've previously noted here at Reason, the Braves' minor league system is already stocked with stadiums owned by the team but built with taxpayer dollars:

The Braves' modus operandi is consistent: they court a downtrodden city's political class, then threaten their current host city with leaving, and pit the two against each other as the cities offer up public money they don't have in order to keep or import a Braves minor league team.

The approach has proven remarkably successful, so much so that last year the team's billionaire owner John Malone sought to reassure stockholders anxious about yet another last-place finish that "the Braves are now a fairly major real estate business as opposed to just a baseball club." The team's new major league ballpark—also built with public funds and without a public vote—is set to open this season in Cobb County (Ga.). After Cobb's politicians depleted the county's bond to build public parks by giving $400 million to the Braves, they announced taxes would have to be raised to fulfill that bond's financial obligations.

You know how we feel at Reason about the empty promises of increased tax revenues and economic stimulation for communities that subsidize sports arenas and stadiums. Although the crony capitalist stadium scourge continues in places like Sarasota, Orlando officials listened to taxpayers who wanted no part of a publicly-financed Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium, and wouldn't you know it, the team was able to come up with the funds to built the thing themselves. Missouri's new Governor Eric Greitens (R) also "completely ruled out state funding for stadiums" just before taking office.

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49 responses to “Atlanta Braves Poised to Receive Yet Another Publicly-Funded Stadium

  1. The new stadium in Cobb is just across 75 from my office (I can see it out my window when I’m down there). Afternoon games are going to make it absolutely miserable for people working in that area to get home.

  2. You don’t understand….it will become the best baseball stadium in the world! And John Lewis approves this message.

  3. Turner Field is a wonderful stadium and only 20 years old. Moreover, it is right in the center of the city and reachable by the entire metroplex. Going out to Cobb County is going to make it virtually impossible for anyone other than people in the NE area of Atlanta to get to week day games.

    Not only is this a rip off, it is likely going to kill baseball in Atlanta.

    1. We built a palace for the Twins right downtown. We had to or OMGTHEYWILLBECONTRACTED!

      They promptly tanked.

      Any city that builds a stadium deserves everything they get.

      1. Another excuse I heard at the time was that they needed a new stadium to increase revenues, which would increase payroll and therefore make for a stronger team. Uh-huh…that has happened.

        1. Yep, that’s true. But expecting the Pohlads to open the purse is retarded.

          The Twins are doing their preseason rah rah tour. Imagine trying to sell season tickets to that fiasco.

          You in Minnesota?

          1. North Dakota.

            Yeah, I was really hoping once Old Man Pohlad died that things would change. Nope, the kid just doubled down.

            And now they may be trading Dozer. Ugh. I still haven’t forgiven them for letting Cuddyer go. (I should probably move on)

            1. Jump on the Wild bandwagon. The fucking seasons are so long, it almost doesn’t matter which sport you pick!

              1. What do you mean the seasons are long?

                *reads in other window: pitchers and catchers report Feb 13*

                OK, maybe the season is a little long.

              2. The wheels are going to come off that bandwagon once word gets out that you can beat Dubnyk by firing shots over his monstrous pads.

                1. Are you talking about last night? He spent more time on his knees than Winston’s mom.

                  But he’s a good goalie. It will be something else that rips the wheels off. We know and accept this as Minnesota sports fans.

                  1. Yeah, the Devils somehow put their 8 week funk behind them on this trip and remembered that they’re allowed to possess the puck and perform actions which may prevent the other team from scoring.

                    I have no hate for Dubnyk beyond my general distaste for oversize goalies. You know what you’re getting from him night to night, which is exactly what you need for the cup run that I hope you don’t get to see until Parise’s gone.

                    1. Parise remains a non factor. I thought the Devils played a really good game last night. I am used to the fucking defensive slog from them, so it was fun to watch them mix it up.

                      Hockey is a weird game. We lost Brodin last night, which will hurt, so this may be the start of something bad for the home team. Who knows?

                      It’s still better than baseball!

              3. I got into hockey during the time when MN didn’t have a team, so I root for the C-A-P-S.

                (what dystopian world did we live in in the 90’s where Dallas and fucking Tampa had hockey teams, but not MN?)

                1. I pretty much stopped following hockey once the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas. Winnipeg and Quebec going to Phoenix and Denver was the “icing” on the cake.

          2. Carl was the fucking model for Montgomery Burns. But they made Monty more likable.

            Everything about that stadium is a sham. How Carl got County Commissioner Opat to push that fucking stupid tax plan through is beyond me. Three times Carl tried to swindle the state out of money for the stadium. Why keep talking to someone that does that shit?

    2. I’m going to disagree wholeheartedly. Location was fine from this tourist’s perspective, but the stadium itself might be the worst modern one I’ve been to. It’s like the architects just tried to repurpose a leftover Olympic stadium or something rather than making something designed for its main tenant. Good value, but charmless.

      That isn’t to say that any local government should give them a new one, but you’re never going to tell your kids about the time you went to the Ted.

      1. The sightlines are good and it is easy to get in and out of. What else do you want from a stadium?

        1. Charm, character, the ability to get tanked for three hours in a neighborhood bar and stumble in just before the anthem. I’m a stadium geek, so I expect more out of the whole experience.

          It’s a perfectly adequate place to watch a ballgame, but most places are fucking cathedrals nowadays. I’m sure ownership has park envy.

          1. I remember going to the Metrodome in the late 90’s when the Twins were wretched. I bought general admission seats in the upper deck for $4 each.

            We ended up pretty much with an entire section to ourselves. It was sort of eerie to see so few people in the upper deck. I let my daughter who was 4 or 5 at the time run up and down the steps for the whole game. The one guy selling concessions basically asked me if I’d like him to go get me anything. I actually tipped the fucker because I felt so bad for him.

            That is a great experience!

      2. Having been to Turner Field and Fenway Park, the “charm” of the Cathedral of Boston quickly wears out pretty quick when you’re crammed into seats built for people from 100 years ago when they couldn’t afford 3 square meals a day, and you better hope your seats actually face home plate, or you’ll be in sore need of a chiropractor. New things rarely have charm; that comes later when it has had time to create memories.

        1. Fenway is the worst stadium in the country.

          Awful! Turner Field at least never pretended to be anything other than a stadium.

    3. I miss Fulton County. I saw a couple games there when I was a kid. All these new stadiums need to get off my lawn.

    4. They should have just built a new stadium 20 years ago.

    5. This might be intended for it to be difficult for people outside of NE atlanta to go to games, as that part of the metropolitan area and nearby suburbs is one of the most affluent in the city.

  4. he hopes the Spring Training facility will help make the surrounding area a “sports medicine hub”

    The audacity of hope.

    1. Don’t they play Spring Season in Disney World? Somebody bribed the owner into leaving? I bet another team picks up that sweet deal.

  5. It’s entirely possible:
    “BALCO Fast Facts”
    http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/31/…..index.html

    1. In reply to:
      “he hopes the Spring Training facility will help make the surrounding area a “sports medicine hub””

  6. I honestly have no idea what I would do if I resided in Cobb County, but I would be pretty pissed. I don’t know how that city council sleeps at night.

    1. On top of a pile of money, with many beautiful ladies.

      1. +1 Ranier Wolfcastle

    2. With pillows propped up by bags of money?

  7. Some kids like baseball, some even play.
    How could you be against this? Why do you hate childrenz?

  8. …they announced taxes would have to be raised to fulfill that bond’s financial obligations.

    You know how we feel at Reason about the empty promises of increased tax revenues …

    Tax revenues will be increasing — what are you bitching about?

  9. Whatever problems there are, I’m very proud that San Diego let the Chargers go fuck themselves over a new stadium.

    1. I’m hopeful that the citizens stadium authority bureaucrats of LA (or whichever town near it) don’t let their multitenant facility end up like MetLife here in Jersey. That dump is almost a bigger waste of money than the mall next door that they’ve been building for 20 years.

    2. During one of the recent anti-“Redskins” flare ups, the mayor of DC said the city wouldn’t consider taking them back until they changed the name (the Skins play in Landover,MD).

      My reaction was, Great, yet another reason for them to keep the name.

      1. Keep them out of Virginia. Let Maryland pay for the “economic miracle” the stadium has wrought.

        1. JCC paid for the stadium with private $. Maryland isn’t paying for squat except ROADZ.

      2. If they’re going to demand public money for a stadium, they should have to do whatever the city says. Change your name? Done. Change the team name to the Clowns and have the team play in clown suits? Yep.

        Fuck Dan Snyder and fuck the Washington Football Team.

    3. Playing at a university soccer stadium for a couple years could be amusing.

      1. One of several reasons I chose the words “go fuck themselves”. I predict that, except for exceptional visiting teams, their attendance will be lucky to hit upper single digit thousands.

        1. I also like that although they will share a future stadium with the Rams, the Chargers are stuck at StubHub while the Rams play in the Coliseum. I don’t know if they tried to get in to the Rose Bowl, but am glad they aren’t. They deserve to spend time in the wilderness.

  10. I am so glad my county was thwarted in their attempt to build a stadium for a single A team. Some on the board continued to push for their vanity project even after the financial review showed it would be better for the county to throw a few million dollars into a bonfire. They finally backed down after they solicited public comment that was overwhelmingly negative and publicly viewable.

    1. You just think they backed off.

      I’m sure that somewhere some county commissioner is being plied with food and drink and told that if he passes a new tax plan he will be remembered forever.

      Sadly, if you look around, you will see that pols are NEVER punished for voting for stadiums. As long as they are smart enough to pass the financing plan soon after an election, they can be sure that voter anger will have disappeared by the next election.

  11. I grew up watching the era of Braves mentioned in the beginning of this article. I have since moved to New England, but I remember following the Cobb County stadium story when it was in the news.
    The city council held a town meeting for people to voice their support or concerns with giving a billionaire a tax funded stadium and they had security bounce anyone that had anything bad to say so as to make it seem everyone was in support of the stadium deal.
    IIRC the Braves will have had 3 stadiums in my lifetime; Fulton stadium, Turner field, and now Cobb County stadium (whatever its called).

  12. On the other hand, if the stadium was privately financed and privately owned, the state and local governments would approach the owner and say “Nice stadium you got there. Would be a shame if something happened to it.” And then hand them an exorbitant property tax bill.

    When Jerry Reinsdorf bought a large parcel of property in the late 1980’s with the intent of building a baseball stadium with his own money, the state politicians ganged up on him and said “You don’t get to build what you want on your own property with your own money.” And instead worked feverishly to give him what he wanted without spending ANY of his own money.

    The Cubs own their stadium and they can’t do a goddamned thing to it without getting approval from the mayor – they’re allowed to spend their own money but they’re only allowed to use a connected developer and they have to make sure the alderman gets juiced in. Basically, an exorbitant tax – but their customers are willing to pay those exorbitant fees at the moment.

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