The Braves are just three seasons and $672 million away from a brand new home in Cobb County. A portion of that money, however, is expected to come not from the team, but from Cobb taxpayers. That could prove problematic.
“Well people in Cobb County are excited to have the Braves, but at the same time, it’s a conservative county politically and it’s a place where new taxes and tax hikes have been pretty darn unpopular over the years,” explained Kerwin Swint, the interim chair of the political science department at Kennesaw State University.
Funding a multi-million dollar stadium project is a predicament with which Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is intimately familiar. He recently spent months working on a deal to finance and build a new stadium for the Falcons, while quietly trying to keep the Braves at Turner Field.
“The bottom line is that Cobb made a strong offer that was a better deal as long as their community supports it,” said Reed in a news conference Tuesday. “Atlanta, we’re not that liberal with our spending. The City of Atlanta residents and this council would never have allowed me to fund a project at 65 percent public money.”
Reed said Atlanta could not compete with Cobb County’s contribution of $450 million toward the Braves’ new home. But neither the team nor Cobb officials have confirmed that price tag.
In comparison, the city of Atlanta is only contributing about $200 million toward the new Falcons stadium. That funding, Reed asserted, is coming from hotel and motel tax revenues, which are largely paid by out of town visitors.
“I’ve been through a stadium process and I know that it has its ups and downs,” said Mayor Reed. “I also know the polling data on stadiums--the polling in Cobb is going to be about 71 percent of the people when they find out that it is taxpayer -funded are going to oppose it.”
Swint said people in Cobb County seem willing to support the Braves project, as long as it does not mean a broad tax increase.
“I think people are waiting for the board to reveal how they’re going to pay for this and when we find the answer to that, that’s when the potential fireworks could start happening if Cobb voters feel that the burden is going to be on them if certain taxes are going to go up, that’s when you might see some questions being raised and some protests being lodged,” said Swint.
Cobb officials are expected to present their funding plan at a Board of Commission meeting November 26.