One of the oddities about the location of the new Braves stadium, the Cumberland Improvement District (CID), is that it's in an unincorporated area that really only taxes businesses for improvements to infrastructure and little more. There are almost no residents in the CID, and nobody really runs it, other than the Cobb County Commissioner's office. This lead to a relative dearth of hard information yesterday, as there was only one office to talk to, and they weren't really saying anything yesterday.
That changed a little, as Cobb County comissioner Bob Ott spoke to the Marietta Daily Journal (who have been all over this story). Some of the more interesting quotes from the interview:
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.
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.
Ott said he wouldn’t 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.
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.
It's unclear how the Cumberland Improvement District, a relatively tiny group of businesses, can afford to pay a half billion dollars in increased taxes, so we're only slightly less in the dark about where this money is coming from than yesterday. That isn't to say the money isn't or won't be there, just that it's very unclear where it is coming from right now.
Further, I'm still a bit befuddled how the only real agency that runs the area only found out about the plan a week ago. Maybe there's more to it than that, but it's difficult to make anything more of the statement at this point.
The article then goes on to talk about how huge they believe the economic impact of the stadium will be for the Northwestern suburbs.
Next, we had other Cobb County politicians saying, perhaps, less positive things about the move, or rather potential consequences of the move they don't want for Cobb County. From the AJC political blog:
Questions about the consequences of a Braves move to Cobb County began circulating among the tea party set last night. Here's a Facebook posting from Steve Brown, the Fayette County Commission chairman:
"The I-75, I-285 and US 41 location for the new Braves stadium is one of the most congested sites in metropolitan Atlanta. The next stage will be asking for rail transit, count on it. And who will be asked to pay for it?"
Cobb County GOP Chairman Joe Dendy sent out a statement that included these thoughts on mass transit and taxes:
"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.
"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."
Joe Dendy saying he doesn't want people coming in by rail on MARTA could create some backlash from the businesses who are ostensibly paying for this stadium, who likely want every last person they can fit jamming into Cobb County for games. While the suburbs are larger people and wealth wise, there's still quite a bit of wealth inside the I-285 perimeter that it would seem foolish to simply wall the stadium off from. Further, there's this thing called the United States' busiest airport (Hartsfield-Jackson), that if Cobb County wants to increase tourism, like all the commissioners are saying in the Marietta Daily Journal piece above, they'd be wise to connect to by more than taxis and rental cars.
It's difficult to say what these lone Cobb County politicians' statements mean at this point, but the issue of public transit to the stadium is seeming like it could be a major one. It's difficult to understand how the area will recognize the drastic increase in tourism if the transportation is to be entirely Cobb County Transit and cars. That will bring in people coming in for games, sure, but an increase in tourism? Wasn't a lack of easy transit one of the major problems the Braves had with Turner Field? Also, Dendy's emphasizing that he only wants traffic from the North and East (Marietta and Alpharetta, among others, notably not Atlanta) was fairly telling. A MARTA extension to the stadium could go a long way in both increasing revenues, and uniting what is, to put it charitably, a fairly divided area.
At the very least, it is somewhat reassuring that Cobb County officials have finally even acknowledged that this is real, but it's still obvious that the major details are either yet to be worked out, or simply unknown to the public at this time.