Right Now We Have More Questions Than Answers About The New Stadium

Kevin C. Cox

Almost all of the important details of the Braves' move to outside the perimeter remain a mystery at this point.

Less than a week after Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was re-elected, it has been announced that the Atlanta Braves will be moving outside the I-285 perimeter that traditionally defines the city.  While the new location sits in an unincorporated area (meaning it technically isn't part of any city), the stadium will have an Atlanta mailing address, though it won't actually be a part of the City of Atlanta.

Based on early reactions, people's take on the move is almost entirely dependent on where they live.  Braves fans to the Northwest of the city are thrilled, fans inside the perimeter and southward are angry, and fans to the Northeast seem happy overall, but wondering what transportation will look like.

However, at this point we know few details.  We know the location, the Northwest corner of the I-285 I-75 junction, and a bizarrely specific cost, $672 million.  We know the stadium will be owned by the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority and not the Braves, though the Braves will be a "significant investor" in the project.

The source of the $672 million is the first, and biggest mystery.  From the Atlanta Braves' site, it touts the projects as "[being] a true public-private partnership" however, calls to the Cobb County Commissioner's office indicated that no public money has been approved.  Some outlets have stated that roughly $200 million will be provided by the Braves and $400-500 million by "investors arranged by Cobb County."  What exactly this means is anybody's guess.  For what it is worth Kasim Reed has just stated that the money Cobb County is providing is "public" money, so this issue is even more confused.

Further mystery is in the details of how the transportation situation will work itself out.  One of the major reasons cited by the Braves for the move is the difficulty of traffic at Turner Field.  The I-75 I-85 connector can indeed be pretty bad during a game day, but as those who live in the area can attest, the I-75 I-285 junction is not substantially better, and it has never had to handle 41,000 Braves fans (rumored capacity for the new stadium).  While it is debatable as to whether the transportation situation would be improved in that area as is, it's unclear what, if any plans, for linking public transportation to the area exist.  Traditionally Cobb County has been very opposed to spending on public transportation and again calls to the Commissioner's Office indicate that there are "no current plans for public money to fund transportation."  Given the tone of animosity Mayor Reed put off in his statement, it also seems unlikely that Metro Atlanta would "play ball" (oh God, I've become Mark, I'm so sorry you guys) in helping develop MARTA out that way either.  Again, we're left with more questions than answers when it comes to traffic and transportation.

While many of the Braves' ticket buyers live in the Northern suburbs, many of them work inside the city, so it's not even totally clear that their time to the game would be shorter on average.  Especially since a drive from the city would now be in the same direction as rush hour traffic, whereas in the past, a drive to Turner Field from north of the city was mostly a reverse commute, until you hit game traffic.

We also have no idea what any of this is going to look like.  In a world where stadium mock ups are often made years before funding is secured and a move is guaranteed, apparently this move was settled on without even a single drawing of the potential look of the complex or stadium having been made.  It seems rather bizarre to me that we can know that the cost of the complex will be exactly $672 million dollars without the Braves even having solicited bids from architectural firms, which very obviously hasn't happened yet.  As for now, the closest we have to a rendering of the new stadium comes from the Braves' site for the project (which is incredibly vague on nearly every pertinent detail), and it looks like this:

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At this point it is not 100% clear that this is set in stone happening.  It's awfully quick, and it sounds like from Mayor Reed's statement that he believes this was a leverage ploy to get public funds for a new stadium that went too far.  You definitely get a "well, if they're really just going to give you $400-500 million, have at it boys" feel reading his statement.  Further, actual Cobb County Government officials have said absolutely nothing about this.  The Braves have stated that Cobb County will be doing most of the "heavy lifting" on the project, but for a county about to gird its collective loins for nearly a half billion dollars, they sure aren't saying very much.

Finally, there's even some speculation that the team may not be the Atlanta Braves after the move, and no they wouldn't be changing to the Marietta Braves as some have jokingly stated on twitter, but rather changing the team's name, mascot and logo, from the AJC's political reporters: "Could it be a chance also to rebrand the Braves' image? The scuttlebutt among some politicos is that the team may also look to change their logo amid the move."

As a midtown resident, and someone who generally believes that new stadiums are a poor use of public funds, my first reaction was to dislike the move, but without knowing virtually any of the important details it's difficult to have much of an objective opinion on any of this.

UPDATE

After speaking with some City of Atlanta politicians who wish to remain anonymous, many remain skeptical that the "private funds arranged by Cobb County" will hold up and that this deal with either turn out to be publicly funded by the residents of Cobb County or that it will completely fall through and the Braves will awkwardly remain at Turner Field.  While admitting this is all speculation on his part, one official put it this way "you don't just raise half a billion dollars in private investment without anyone hearing about it."

UPDATE

Justin Farmer of WSB is reporting that Mayor Reed is saying this is "far from a done deal" which corresponds with what I was told earlier today by lower ranking politicians.

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