Look, I’m not a huge fan of the idea that the Atlanta Braves are going to call the suburbs home starting in 2017. While stadiums are notoriously bad at spurring economic growth in surrounding areas, several cities have had great luck developing the area around ballparks and making it a great place to hang out. Colorado and Cincinnati are just two examples to cities and teams making a commitment to downtown areas and bringing growth along with them.
The Braves just couldn’t get it in Atlanta, so they’re moving. The debate has moved away from Cobb vs. Atlanta and turned into a battle between the pro-business Chamber of Commerce types against the anti-tax, cleaner government types (another strange alliance between the Tea Party and Sierra Club). They have a legitimate beef with the county over with how quickly Cobb moved to sign, seal, and deliver the land to the Braves, and made their views known at a series of quickly organized town hall events held last night. (If you’re looking for a great analysis of the Mountain View town hall, check out Blog For Democracy’s play-by-play)
While I admire the efforts of anti-stadium groups, they’re coming up short and they know it. Much like Common Cause Georgia’s attempts to derail the new Georgia Dome, efforts by groups in Cobb are coming too little too late, and that’s exactly how Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee and the Braves wanted it.
They kept the stadium deal a secret, dropped a bombshell on metro-Atlanta and Lee scheduled a vote on the issue just two weeks after the Braves’ announcement that they were moving to Cobb.
Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.
It’s a done deal and everyone knows it. Lee’s going to get his votes tonight and the memorandum of understanding will be signed, and an RFP for the development will be submitted thereafter. It’s happening; the Braves are moving to Cobb County in 2017. We better get used to the idea.
Sure, we could argue that Cobb tax dollars should be used for schools, infrastructure improvements, and other needs, but this is a county who’s eschewed from spending money in those areas in recent years. I guess from a glass half-full perspective, at least they’re going to spend money on something major.
Pro-Braves groups argue that millions of dollars in SPLOST revenues will benefit Cobb schools following the stadium’s construction, which is all well and good, but what does the school system do in the intervening years?
There are boundless questions that require answers and sadly, we’re going to get most of them after it’s guaranteed that the Braves are moving to Cobb County. No one needs to go quietly into the night and accept defeat, but Tim Lee, his business cronies, and the Braves developed on hell of a deal, behind closed doors, and for good reason. They knew the anti-tax, anti-growth tea party types in Cobb County would balk at the deal.
Cobb didn’t exactly let the anti-Braves groups have their day in court (they took public comment on the stadium out of the equation) but press conferences, and solitary town hall meetings are about all those groups are ultimately going to get.
Opposition will still be there, long after tonight’s vote is recorded and well into the construction phase of this project. However, the hyperbole and “I hate the Braves” mentality will fade. We’ll all funnel into the new park in 2017, throw money at the Braves, and hopefully celebrate something more than a division title.