Get your calculators. The $672 million deal between the Atlanta Braves and Cobb County, which will build a new stadium and relocate the team to the suburbs, has been broken down for all to see. As is the case any time there's $672,000 involved — let alone $672 million — there's a lot to look at, scrutinize and wonder about.
But first, two of the bigger points we've learned since the stadium's memorandum of understanding has been made public (you can read the entire thing below):
The Braves will pay for 55 percent of the stadium, which is a higher percentage than previously reported. That's $372 million, compared to the ~$200 million that was disclosed earlier in the week by Atlanta's mayor Kasim Reed. The Braves will pay $280 million up front. Keep in mind, they're owned by Liberty Media, which is worth $33.94 billion as of September.
Cobb County's contribution then is $300 million. The county is paying $24 million up front and financing the other $276 million over 30 years through revenue bonds. The provided bond breakdown shows only two new taxes — one for rental cars, one for hotels. It also shows where the money will come from each year to repay the loan. Note: None of this will be put to a vote.
• $400,000 annually from a new rental car tax
• $940,000 annually from an existing hotel/motel tax
• $2,740,000 annually from a new hotel/motel fee in the Cumberland Community Improvement District, a self-taxing special business district
• $5,150,000 annually from a property tax increase in that special business district
• $8,670,000 annually from reallocating Cobb County property taxes.
The most interesting line is the last one. "Reallocating" is a fancy way of saying they're taking the money from some place else, which, let's face it, probably needs it more than the Braves. They play in 17-year-old Turner Field. They're not exactly baseball vagabonds in need of a home. As Deadspin points out, Cobb County recently had to furlough school district employees and lose 182 teachers. Hey, more time to watch baseball, right?
The memorandum of understanding does highlight the economic impact of the project, including an estimated 9,200 new jobs tied to the stadium's construction, keeping it running once its open and "visitor spending."
The catch here is that all of this is estimated. Yes, there are no new taxes now for Cobb County residents, but what about by the 10th year of this project? What if a new tax is needed to cover something that the reallocation of property taxes has neglected? What if hotel estimates fall short? What if people aren't renting cars in 15 years because everybody can fly?
Over at Field of Schemes — which keeps an eye on publicly subsidized sports stadiums — Neil deMause has even more questions:
What about taxes? This is a huge one: As we’ve seen before, the value of tax breaks can add up quickly. The county summary doesn’t give any indication whether the Braves stadium (or the planned development around it) would pay its usual share of property taxes; if not, then that’s an additional taxpayer-provided gift to the team that it could use to pay off that 55% share.
Field of Schemes concludes that the Braves stadium deal "still looks pretty bad for taxpayers, though not as bad as a couple of days ago." Welp, that's something. And, hey, if B.J. Upton is still around by 2017, at least the people of Cobb County will get to watch him play baseball. Now there's a good use of taxpayer dollars.
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