John A. Tures: Tea Party is exactly right about Braves

January 31, 2014 

Long before I came to LaGrange, I was an Atlanta Braves fan. So when the Braves made their surprise announcement about moving to Cobb County, it caught me off guard. After all, I had made pilgrimages to the fine Fulton County Stadium and even better Turner Field. I'm kind of used to the ATLANTA Braves.

When I heard that Georgia's Tea Party was against the new stadium deal in Cobb County, I decided to give it a closer look. And I think the Tea Party is on to something. Not only will the new deal make the team less competitive financially, but will stick taxpayers with an unnecessarily big bill.

My family has made many trips to Turner Field. I've been to many ballparks, and Atlanta's compares very well to them. Others who have done the same hold similar opinions. There's not a bad seat in the stadium. There is a lot for kids and adults to do. The staff is incredibly friendly. The prices are reasonable. Only the parking could use some help.

Braves team executives say the stadium would need $150 million in repairs and upgrades, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution interview. They claim that they need another $200 million to improve "fan experience," although I have no idea what they look to upgrade, given how good it is in the first place. Only a retractable roof for hot or rainy days will help, or a MARTA line to the stadium.

But the new stadium is going to cost $672 million. Of that, the Braves have pledged $372 million plus any cost overruns. Since you know there will be cost overruns, you can guess what that means: letting star players go (like Tim Hudson and Brian McCann this year, and others in the future), or raising ticket prices. When you see where they plan to build this boondoggle, you know the answer is both.

That means Cobb County taxpayers will be responsible for $300 million for the stadium. And as if that weren't enough, the county's schools are $80 million in debt. That's why the lone Democrat on the Cobb County Commission voted against the deal. But the county's GOP commissioners voted to approve the stadium. There wasn't even a vote for Cobb County residents, despite the fact that a referendum like a SPLOST is the most appropriate means of deciding such a huge spending measure. And just wait until the Braves use the threat of moving elsewhere to shake the county down for more money.

That new stadium is going to be where I-75 and I-575 meet, where traffic is a nightmare without the presence of a major league baseball team. There's no MARTA stop there either (at least there's a bus shuttle for Turner Field.) And the stadium will have 10,000 fewer seats, meaning higher concession costs to make up the difference.

Without the Tea Party's opposition, the Atlanta Braves run the risk of being the Miami Marlins, one of the worst teams in baseball, with an owner who gets rich off MLB revenue sharing, who trades anyone with talent, has the smallest payroll, runs a team that hasn't been competitive in a decade, and gets the people of South Florida to spend their hard-earned tax dollars on an expensive stadium for him that's always empty. Let's back the Tea Party on this one.

John A. Tures, associate professor of political science, LaGrange College;

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