When the Braves announced they were leaving Turner Field and downtown Atlanta, and Cobb County voted to issue more than $376 million in bonds to help build a new stadium, Atlantans sour about the deal decried Cobb officials as fiscal fools, and Cobb voters eventually showed up at the polls to oust then County Chairman Tim Lee. But according to a new Georgia Tech study, those initial negative reactions appear to have been short-sighted.
The Georgia Tech Center for Economic Development Research just released a study showing that while the county will see an annual net loss of $5.8 million for helping to build and for operating the stadium, it will also see annual revenues in excess of $11.3 million from neighboring development.
And the Cobb County School system will see an additional $15.9 million in annual revenue.
These revenues are being generated in the form of new property taxes, sales taxes, new hotel/motel taxes and other government revenues from the nearby Battery and other development because of the new stadium.
So for an annual commitment of $5.8 million, the county has generated net revenues of $27.2 million for itself and the school system – that’s a $21.4 million net gain.
Some in the Braves organization are arguing that these figures are overly conservative and the actual net gain will be much higher. Opponents of the stadium argue that the numbers are overly aggressive.
But unless these folks at Georgia Tech are grossly incompetent, it seems pretty obvious that the county is financially better off for having worked out the deal with the Atlanta Braves organization.
I went back and looked through old articles that were being written about Cobb County development prior to the announcement of the new stadium. None of it was very pretty.
While new projects were being unveiled throughout the metro area – like Avalon in Alpharetta, The Beltline around Atlanta, and the myriad of new suburban downtowns from Duluth, to Suwanee and Lawrenceville, very little was being done in Cobb County.
The office and retail developments that were once vibrant in the 1980s were looking dated. Other than daytime office use, there was very little happening in downtown Marietta – Cobb’s largest city. It wasn’t easy to find commercial property that was increasing in value at the same rate as other areas around Atlanta.
But today is a different story. New development, especially near the stadium, is running rampant. Deals are being brokered for those dated commercial developments that today find themselves in demand. Comcast moved its regional headquarters to the Battery next to the stadium.
One of the world’s largest elevator manufacturers, Thyussenkrupp Elevator, announced it will build a state-of-the-art facility in the Battery that will house 900 employees that will make up its U.S. headquarters. And a friend tells me that she goes to the Marietta square all the time for dinner and fun at night.
The County Commissioners in Cobb took a pretty big gamble to get the stadium there. One could argue whether former Commission Chair Lee lost his election because of the financial aspect of the deal, or the secrecy and lack of public process by which the county went about securing the deal. But it is really hard to argue honestly that the county is worse off. People are going to Cobb County now. Developers want to invest there. Before the stadium it was a county that kind of looked like it was getting old. Now it looks like it’s getting new. Cobb County leaders and the Atlanta Braves swung for the fences on their decision to bring the Braves there and build The Battery. As time goes on, it’s looking more and more like a home run.
Geoff Smith is a mortgage banker with Assurance Financial focusing on residential home loans for refinances and home purchases.
*The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of Assurance Financial Group