The Atlanta Braves shocked baseball fans and local contractors alike Nov. 11 when the team announced a pending deal to build a new, $672-million ballpark in Cobb County, Ga., near the Interstate 75/I-285 interchange. That same day, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed added to the surprise when he announced the city will demolish Turner Field after the 2016 baseball season and redevelop the surrounding area.
Cobb County commissioners are scheduled to vote Nov. 26 on the deal, which is funded partly by new taxes. If approved, the Braves say construction should commence in late 2014, with completion of the roughly 40,000-seat ballpark scheduled in time for the start of the 2017 major-league season.
Braves officials on Nov. 12 told ENR via email that architectural firm HKS helped the team with the $672-million cost estimate, which covers the stadium, parking and related infrastructure. The team stated, however, that neither HKS nor any other firm had yet been hired to design and build the ballpark. A timetable for hiring an architect and contractor would be announced after Cobb County’s official approval of the deal.
According to a team spokesperson, the Braves will serve as the design and construction manager for the project, which is described as a "stadium and integrated mixed-use development" to be located on 60 acres near the I-75/I-285 interchange, according to information posted at www.HomeoftheBraves.com.
If approved, construction of the ballpark and related first phase of mixed-use development—which could include retail, office and residential—could occur at approximately the same time, says a team spokesperson.
If the Major League Baseball stadium project moves ahead, its construction would coincide with that of the planned $1.2-billion home for the Atlanta Falcons, which is also slated for completion prior to the 2017 National Football League season. Together with the Falcons project, the surprise news of the Braves’ stadium plans has boosted the optimism of area contractors.
"It was a pretty big surprise," says Bill Anderson, president of Associated Builders and Contractors of Georgia. “It’s very good news for construction in metro Atlanta." Anderson added that the simultaneous construction of two major-league stadium projects could make for a "tight labor market, at least for the short term."
The redevelopment of Turner Field—which was originally built as Atlanta's Olympic stadium before it was converted into a baseball park in 1997—could provide another boost to local construction if the city's plans come to fruition. In his Nov. 11 announcement about the Braves’ deal, Mayor Reed said city officials "have already spoken to multiple organizations" interested in redeveloping the area.
Deal Includes New Taxes
The proposed deal's financial terms include a 55/45 split between the Braves and Cobb County, respectively, with the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority owning the planned ballpark.
The Braves organization plans to spend up to $372 million toward the project. Of that, the team says it will provide an "upfront commitment" of between $230 million and $280 million. Additionally, it will repay over 30 years an estimated $92 million in bonds to be issued by Cobb County. The Braves will cover any project cost overruns.
Cobb County's contribution totals $300 million, with the majority of that figure, $276 million, coming from $368 million in 30-year revenue bonds that the county plans to issue. The bond issuance total includes $276 million that will be attributed to the county, as well as the $92 million that the Braves will repay.
The county will repay its portion of the bonds through revenues from existing hotel and property taxes, as well as new fees on rental cars, hotel rooms and special district property tax increases.
The Braves touted the proposed financing scheme as a win-win for both sides. In a public statement issued by the team, Mike Plant, executive vice president, called it "a very sound deal for the Braves, the Cobb taxpayer, and the Cobb business community."