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Mayor cites cost to taxpayers in Braves move
In a statement Monday, Reed said the city was unwilling to match an offer put together by nearby Cobb County given the needs facing Atlanta.
In a stunning announcement, the Braves said Monday they are moving in 2017 to a new 42,000-seat, $672 million stadium about 10 miles from downtown in suburban Cobb County, apparently swayed by a lucrative financial package that was just too good to pass up.
Reed said the city couldn’t match a $450 million offer from one of Atlanta’s sprawling northern suburbs, though it wasn’t immediately clear how the county of some 700,000 people plans to raise the money or whether it will require a vote of the taxpayers.
Atlanta’s Turner Field had a signature moment right at the start _ a trembling Muhammad Ali emerging from the shadows to ignite the flame that opened the 1996 Summer Olympics. In the years that followed, the Atlanta Braves hosted many memorable events of their own, from the World Series and All-Star game to the farewells of Bobby Cox and Chipper Jones.
Now, just 17 years after it opened, it looks as though the stadium affectionately known as “the Ted” is headed for extinction, like so many sports facilities in the city.
Mike Plant, the Braves executive vice president of business operations, said the team has not signed a contract with Cobb County, but he’s “100 percent certain it will happen.”
Until now, Cobb County was perhaps best-known nationally as the base of former House speaker Newt Gingrich and for passing an anti-gay ordinance in the 1990s that led the Olympic organizing committee to abandon plans to hold events there during the Atlanta Games.
After three more seasons, it will be known as something else _ home of the Braves.
“It was with mixed emotions that we made this decision,” team president John Schuerholz said. “The new stadium, we believe, will be one of the most magnificent ever built.”
Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee said the team is working to finalize a memorandum of understanding that would be presented to the full commission at its Nov. 26 meeting. He said his fellow commissioners have already been briefed on the deal.
“The response has been very positive, very enthusiastic and supportive of this investment, which will bring significant economic growth to Cobb County and the region,” Lee said.
He declined to answer any questions about public financing. When asked about the $450 million figure cited by Reed, the chairman said, “I don’t know where he got that from.”
The Braves had made it clear for years they were not satisfied with Turner Field, located just south of downtown near some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. The team frequently cited a lack of neighborhood development, complaints about the closest MARTA rapid-transit station being about a mile away, and the inability to secure more parking spaces.
While the city made a high-profile effort to help secure a new $1.2 billion, retractable-roof stadium for the NFL Falcons, talks with the Braves quietly broke down over the summer.
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