New Braves, Falcons Stadiums Hand Local Taxpayers Major League Loss
Recently, the Atlanta Braves announced that they will not be renewing their lease with Turner Field, the home of major league baseball in Georgia for the past 17 years. Instead, the team will build a new stadium north of Atlanta in Cobb County. While a new Braves stadium will provide needed upgrades from a facility and neighborhood attractiveness standpoint, there is one alarming factor being overlooked in talks over the estimated $672 million project. The Braves want $450 million in public funds from Cobb County – roughly 67 percent of the total cost – in order to build this grandiose baseball cathedral.
While it’s true that using public funds to finance extravagant stadium renovation and construction projects is the most popular trend among team owners, what is particularly interesting in this case is that the Atlanta Falcons are also requesting $300 million of hotel tax revenue from the city of Atlanta to fund their $1.2 billion dollar football stadium. Opening day for each stadium is tentatively set for the start of the 2017 season, yet taxpayers should refrain from celebrating that day, given the immense tab they are on the hook to pay.
Despite Georgia being announced as the number one place for business by Site Selection magazine, the men and women who live, work, and pay taxes in Cobb County and Atlanta were not consulted even once during the discussions to use public funds. In fact, no public vote was ever held. The officials overseeing these projects claim that the surrounding neighborhoods will see a boom in economic activity and revenue generated, but that is all reliant on attendance and tourism: volatile and inconsistent figures.
If the Falcons and Braves were really interested in keeping the fans who support these teams in mind, the proposals would incorporate a plan for the reimbursement of public funds used through ticket and concession sales over a designated period of time. Instead, the local governments are going to give money to privately owned and operated stadiums with teams that continue to profit, despite repeated promises to reduce government spending. Rather than hitting a home run with the addition of the new Braves stadium, taxpayers will be on the receiving end of an economic tackle for significant loss.