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Atlanta mayor says city ‘simply unwilling’ to spend taxpayer dollars to keep Braves

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

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The Atlanta Braves are leaving Atlanta, as you know, heading to the suburbs in Cobb County starting in 2017 where they'll play in a $650 million stadium, about two-thirds of which will be paid for by taxpayers.

The City of Atlanta is sad to see the Braves go, but not sad enough, said Mayor Kasim Reed, to spend 450 million taxpayer dollars to match Cobb County's offer to the Braves. Or even $200 million, the cost to give Turner Field — which only opened in 1997 — a more modern facelift.

Reed released a statement Monday saying this came down to committing taxpayer money to help the Braves, and the city wasn't going to do it. Here's the main points of his 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.

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.

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.

The Braves, meanwhile, were going to have to pay $200 million to fix up Turner Field without the city's help. Now they're paying around the same amount for a brand-new stadium.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the exact funding structure for the stadium won't be revealed until a Nov. 26 hearing. But the fact that the stadium is going before the Cobb County Commission signals that voters won't have a say. From the AJC:

Commission-level approval tells you something very important: No countywide referendum is involved, which means no new tax would be levied. So an existing tax would have to be increased -- but one that does not raise taxes for most voters going into an election year. So you have to wonder about the current state of Cobb County's hotel-motel tax.

This city vs. team situation calls to mind the Chicago Cubs' recent battle with the City of Chicago and mayor Rahm Emanuel. That wasn't strictly about tax dollars, but the Cubs did threaten to leave the city if they didn't get their way during the upcoming renovation of Wrigley Field. Eventually, the Cubs and the city agreed to a $500 million deal that didn't raise taxes and gave the Cubs ownership much of what it wanted.

One lesson to take from both instances? The clubs and their rich owners usually get what they want. Even if they have to move — or just threaten to move — to get it. Unless, of course, we're talking about the Oakland Athletics.

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Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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