Newly re-elected Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has issued a response to the Atlanta Braves announcement Monday morning that they would be leaving Turner Field to play in a newly constructed stadium in Cobb County.
“The Atlanta Braves are one of the best baseball teams in America, and I wish them well,” Reed said in a statement. “We have been working very hard with the Braves for a long time, and at the end of the day, there was simply no way the team was going to stay in downtown Atlanta without city taxpayers spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make that happen.”
The Braves announced Monday that the team would not renew its lease at Turner Field that ends in 2016, and will be moving to Cobb County starting in 2017, near the intersection of the I-75 and I-285 highways.
The Braves announced the move with a website, HomeofTheBraves.com, on Monday morning.
“We are extremely excited that our address will still be Atlanta and so will the name across our jersey,” the team said in the announcement, though the new stadium’s location will be just outside Atlanta’s city limits.
Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz made a recorded announcement on the website explaining why the team came to its decision.
“We wanted to find a location that was great for our fans, makes getting to and from the stadium much easier, and provides a first rate game day experience in and around the stadium,” said Schuerholz. “Turner field, which we do not own, is in need of hundreds of millions of dollars of upgrades. Unfortunately, that massive investment would not do anything to improve access or the fan experience. These are issues we simply cannot overcome.”
Schuerholz said issues plaguing Turner Field, affectionately known as The Ted, were “insurmountable.”
The new stadium site “will be one of the most magnificent in all of baseball,” he said. “It will thrive with action 365 days a year.”
A statement from the Braves confirmed that the stadium would be a “public-private partnership,” but did not detail how much revenue would come from the public or who the private partner, or partners, would be. In a statement, the team also pointed to Atlanta’s lack of reliable public transportation and infrastructure as reasons for making the move.
“There is a lack of consistent mass transportation, a lack of sufficient parking and a lack of direct access to interstates,” the team said in a statement. “Furthermore, the Braves do not have control over the development of our immediate surroundings.”
Reed did not address the issues raised by Schuerholz or the team with Turner Field, but did say that the city had already begun discussions with other potential partners for use of the stadium and surrounding area. He did not name any of the potential partners.
“It is my understanding that our neighbor, Cobb County, made a strong offer of of $450M in public support to the Braves and we are simply unwilling to match that with taxpayer dollars,” Reed said. “Given the needs facing our city and the impact of Turner Field stadium on surrounding neighborhoods, that was something I, and many others were unwilling to do. We have been planning for the possibility of this announcement and have already spoken to multiple organizations who are interested in redeveloping the entire Turner Field corridor. Over the next three years, we will be working with our prospective partners to bring residential and business development that is worthy of our city and strengthens our downtown. Those conversations will continue and I am excited about how we use the land that is now Turner Field, to be a tremendous asset for our residents, our city, and our region for years to come.”
The City of Atlanta has already committed at least $200 million of the city’s hotel/motel tax revenue to the Atlanta Falcons over the next 30 years, a number that could balloon to nearly $900 million.
Through principal and interest payments, the hotel/motel tax could be as much as $450 million over 30 years and, according to projections cited by the AJC, another $450 million could go to the stadium during that time for operations and expenses through a “waterfall” fund.
The money going toward the stadium comes from the 39.3 percent of Atlanta’s 7-cents-per-dollar hotel-motel tax that is mandated by state law to go to the Georgia World Congress Center Association or a stadium project.
The Braves have played in downtown Atlanta since moving from Milwaukee in 1966 and have played at Turner Field since 1997, after the Olympics were held in the city. The Braves’ contract with Turner Field is overseen by the City of Atlanta and Fulton County Recreation Authority.