Braves will close Friday on $34M land purchase

The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionJanuary 23, 2014 

The Atlanta Braves will close Friday on the purchase of land for their planned new stadium and mixed-use development in Cobb County, team officials said.

The Braves will pay about $34.2 million -- $600,000 per acre -- for a 57.1-acre parcel of undeveloped property near Cumberland Mall. The team has held an option since early last fall to buy the land from Bethesda, Md.-based real-estate titan B.F. Saul Co.

The Braves plan to build the stadium on the back 15 acres of the property and, if the project goes as they hope, use the rest for a complex of shops, restaurants, bars, offices and residences that would lead from Cobb Parkway to the ballpark gates. Both the stadium and development are scheduled to open in 2017.

To put the price of the land in a baseball context: It is roughly equivalent to two years' salary for Brian McCann, the former Braves All-Star catcher who left the team this winter to sign a five-year, $17 million-per-year contract with the New York Yankees.

Or to look at it another way: The 57 acres cost the Braves about the same amount that the Falcons and Georgia World Congress Center Authority agreed to pay two churches for five acres of downtown property for the planned new Falcons stadium.

The Falcons paid Friendship Baptist $19.5 million, while the Falcons and GWCCA paid Mount Vernon Baptist $14.5 million. The churches' buildings will be demolished. State-owned land currently used as Georgia Dome parking lots, plus several other small parcels being acquired by the GWCCA, also are part of the Falcons stadium site.

The Braves' land purchase was much simpler than the Falcons'. While the Falcons' deal involved months of difficult negotiations with the historic churches -- neither of which was looking to sell its property before being approached about moving to make room for the stadium -- the Braves honed in on land that already was on the market near the northwest intersection of Interstates 75 and 285.

"I would characterize it as rather unbelievable and transformative," Braves executive vice president Derek Schiller said of the property, "because I don't think any of us really imagined there was going to be a large undeveloped parcel of land for sale at one of the major intersecting points of where we were looking."

Mike Plant, also a Braves executive vice president, said the team looked at perhaps two dozen other sites last year, all north of downtown Atlanta and many already developed. The team had become aware of the wooded Cumberland site, he said, before Cobb officials pointed it out.

Although the Braves will pay for the land Friday, Plant said the portion needed for the stadium eventually will be deeded over to the county, which will own the facility. The price of that portion will count toward the Braves' commitment to pay $372 million of the stadium cost. Cobb taxpayers are on the hook for $300 million toward the stadium. The cost of the portion of the land used for the Braves' mixed-use complex won't be included in the stadium budget.

The Braves also have a contract to buy several other nearby parcels of land, not contiguous to the site of the stadium and mixed-use complex, from the same seller. Those purchases are scheduled to close in April, Plant said. The Braves envision using the additional land, totaling about 25 acres, for future development and parking. In all, the team has 82 acres under control.

After closing on the first 57.1 acres, the Braves will proceed with planning to relocate two gas pipelines that are buried about five feet below the stadium site. The Braves expect to have the pipelines moved to the perimeter of the property by the third quarter of this year, Plant said.

No date has been set for starting construction of the stadium, which has not yet been designed.

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