Cobb’s elected leaders gushed with praise for Monday’s announcement that the Atlanta Braves plan to move into a new baseball stadium that will be built near the Cumberland Mall and Galleria Centre by 2017.
The decision to abandon Turner Field near downtown Atlanta in favor of a new $672 million site in the northwest quadrant of Interstates 75 and 285 was made in quiet conversations between Braves executives and Cobb Chairman Tim Lee.
Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the area, said he only found out about the negotiations “about a week ago” but feels it’s a good deal for the county and its taxpayers.
“I think it’s going to move the Cumberland area in the direction that they’ve been trying to go for a long time,” Ott said. “Looking at the numbers I think it’s an overall positive for Cobb County and a big economic boost.”
The new ball park falls within the boundaries of the Cumberland Community Improvement District, a self-taxing area that uses its revenue for infrastructure improvements.
Ott said 99 percent of county taxpayers should not expect to see any tax increase tied to the stadium project.
“The businesses around there are going to be footing the bill,” he said.
Big boost for hotels
Ott said he would sacrifice his principles as a fiscal conservative even for a glitzy relocation like the Atlanta Braves.
“I didn’t go off on some wild goose chase here. I’m comfortable with the numbers and I think myself and the other commissioners have tried real hard to be good fiscal stewards of the money and not going off in some wild direction here,” he said. “And I think people should reserve their judgment until after the numbers are released.”
Ott said the project would generate about 400,000 new hotel stays per year.
“That’s going to be an impact in itself,” he said.
Neither the commissioners nor the Braves executives would say Monday where the financing for the project would come from.
At this point, they are focusing on the economic impact.
What Ott said puts the project over the top for him is that it’s more than just a stadium.
“The Braves want to build something that’s 24/7, 365-days-a-year where there’s stuff to do,” Ott said.
Ott hearing about traffic concerns
With 60 acres of wooded land being converted into an intensely developed entertainment district, the impact on the county’s tax rolls would be huge, said Ott.
“A lot of people didn’t realize there was that much land out there,” Ott said. “Sixty acres is a massive mixed-use development, and that’s what it’s supposed to be in Cumberland.”
Ott said he was already hearing from his constituents on Monday. He said his email inbox was flooded and his cellphone was lighting up.
“I think the biggest concern people have is traffic,” he said. “But there are $580 million of transportation projects coming on line in that area in the next 10 years, where you have the diamond interchange and you have the reversible lanes. So there’s some good plans out there to address those concerns.
“I just think it’s going to lift everybody up out in that area. I think overall it will be a positive. It’s just sudden, new, and huge.”
Birrell, Goreham on board
The Braves hope to have the stadium completed by opening day in 2017.
It will provide a “massive boost” to Cobb’s travel and tourism industry, said Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents northeast Cobb.
Northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham agrees.
“I believe we’re going to see an uptick in tourism dollars from the standpoint of hotel nights to shopping in our stores to visiting venues such as the Southern Museum of History up in Kennesaw,” Goreham said.
She said other sites across the county, such as Six Flags over Georgia, would also benefit from Cobb having such a large new destination.
Mayors of Cobb’s two largest cities say they are also expecting to feel an impact.
“There’s going to be not only a positive economic impact for Smyrna, but it’s going to be all around,” said Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon.
He called it “all positive” and said any community would be “envious.”
Good news for Franklin Road bond?
It’s particularly exciting news for Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin, who is coming off a win at the ballot box after the city’s voters approved a $68 million redevelopment bond targeting the Franklin Road area – just a few miles away from what could become the future home of the Braves.
He said the plan for the new stadium represents “dynamite” news for the redevelopment project.
The bond allows the city to purchase and raze aging apartment complexes on Franklin Road and market them to developers who will revitalize the area. Plans for a new Braves stadium also put the hotels along Franklin Road in Tumlin’s crosshairs.
He says a new stadium would only drive growth onFranklin Road.
“This ought to be a golden stretch between (U.S.) 41 and I-75 and this just consummates it,” Tumlin said of Franklin Road.
Tumlin said he was told of the news by Lee, who headed discussions with the team, “four or five days ago” but wasn’t expecting the announcement so soon.
“As a kid who grew up in Marietta and Major League Baseball was something that happened a million miles away … to have a Major League team four or five miles away from your house is just amazing,” Tumlin said.
‘Nothing to do at night’ is about to change
Tad Leithead, chairman of the Cumberland CID, said he, too, was surprised by the announcement.
“Heck, I think it’s the most exciting economic development and real estate development that we’ve seen here in Atlanta since Atlantic Station,” Leithead said. “It’s huge.”
He thinks it’s going to play a role in growing the district and bringing in more full-time residents who want to live near the new ball park.
“One of the reasons that we have less residential in the CID than we’d like is because we have nothing for them to do at night,” Leithead said. “This is going to create the kind of environment where they can live and work right here in Cobb County and have access to some kind of upscale restaurant venues … they’ve had to travel to get.”
Solving traffic problems
Like other public officials, Joe Dendy, the chairman of the Cobb Republican Party, sang the praises of local leaders, but said their work is far from done.
“I congratulate our county leaders who were instrumental in bringing the franchise to Cobb and were able to avoid the public ping pong game the Falcons franchise recently experienced with the city of Atlanta,” Dendy said. “I think this was a total surprise to most people.”
Figuring out the transportation issues for the stadium will go a long way toward gaining the public’s confidence, he said.
“The majority who attend Braves games travel by car, so there's going to be much concern about the traffic flow around the newly selected site off Windy Hill Road. I certainly hope the county and state transportation departments, in conjunction with the Cumberland CID, are up to the task of ensuring that problem is solved before opening day,” Dendy said. “The area is already a nightmare for most commuters with possible solutions being batted around for years; so I hope this announcement will give impetus to finding the right solution for the citizens of Cobb. It is absolutely necessary the solution is all about moving cars in and around Cobb and surrounding counties from our north and east where most Braves fans travel from, and not moving people into Cobb by rail from Atlanta.”
Dendy said the other important part of the formula is for the citizens of Cobb not to experience any kind of tax increase.
“The influx of people into the county for the games should provide the revenue needed to make this a successful venture,” he said.