Cheers sounded through the room as the Cobb Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a memorandum of understanding that would finance the construction of a $672 million mixed-use project highlighted by a 41,500-seat stadium that will be the new home of the Atlanta Braves. The franchise has agreed to move the team to the suburban site from its current home at Turner Field near downtown Atlanta.
Commissioners approved the agreement in a vote of 4-1 with Lisa Cupid, the lone Democrat on the board, voting no.
“This is a most significant and historic day for our franchise,” Braves president John Schuerholz said after the meeting. “This gold-standard franchise has joined with a gold-standard county as we plan our future together.”
Cupid said it wasn’t that she opposed the Braves moving to Cobb County, but that she was being asked to make a decision much too quickly given the size and complexity of the deal.
“I just have a very difficult time reasoning through the rush when we spend more time speaking about zoning matters that impact a fraction, a minute fraction of the public than what the stadium will impact, and we can delay and delay to make sure we don’t have enough houses in a particular subdivision, or that people don’t have to look at a certain thing in somebody else’s backyard, and we can’t delay this vote?” Cupid said. “It frightens me, to be honest, the number of threats I’ve received. If you want a 5-0 vote you could have gotten it, it could have been easy, but I will not ever be bullied into sacrificing my commitment to the people that put me into this position.”
Commissioner Bob Ott said he reviewed the information over the last few weeks and was satisfied.
“At this time I do not think that a 60-day delay (is needed); there is no more information that needs to be put out there about what we have to vote on,” Ott said.
County Chairman Tim Lee said it was the Cobb leaders of the past who prepared the stage for the historic opportunity.
“It’s just by the luck of the draw that I happened to be chairman at this particular time,” Lee said. “It is a lot of work by the Chamber of Commerce, by the business community, residents of Cobb County and all those who came before us that got us ready for this opportunity to make it possible for us to take advantage of this wonderful economic development opportunity. The Atlanta Braves intend to invest close to $1 billion over the next four years and employ several thousand people in the process and bring what is certain to be one of the most economic boosts in the arm of Cobb County in recent history.”
Looking out at the audience, Lee addressed Schuerholz.
“Mr. John Schuerholz, I want to thank you and your team and your leadership for giving us the opportunity to present to you our best efforts to try to make you feel at home,” Lee said. “Hopefully we’ve done that to your satisfaction to the point where you commit moving forward, and we’ll do everything within our possibilities to make sure you’re welcome here, you’re at home, and we welcome you to our community in Cobb County.”
Lee said the next steps are to meet in the first couple weeks of December to come up with an action plan, which includes putting into place the funding mechanisms to pay for the stadium, such as creating a special tax district in the Cumberland area.
The Braves organization is preparing to issue a request for proposals to build its $400 million mixed-use development that would accompany the stadium.
“They should be able to issue, it if not (Wednesday), first part of next week asking for qualifications on who might want to put in a proposal,” Lee said.
The Braves will have to finalize the purchase of all 60 acres of the site they intend to build on from Bethesda, Md.-based B.F. Saul Co.
“They’ve got to close on the last piece of property in January,” Lee said. “Then they will immediately start moving the pipelines and then they’ll have to do that first before they can do any real grading on the property, so that will take a couple months to get that done. So I would expect to see dirt moving sometime in the late summer or early fall.”
Colonial Pipeline and Atlanta Gas have lines that run through the property which will be relocated to the property’s perimeter since the lines cannot be built on, Lee said.
“I expect to be moving pipes in February. I expect dirt to be moving sometime end of summer early fall next year,” Lee said.
Schuerholz said after the meeting that he was thrilled how the night turned out.
“We want to thank the leadership of the Chamber of Commerce of Cobb County, the business leaders, the people who are in the various CIDs that we heard mentioned (Tuesday) and their support and especially the support and the interest of the citizens of Cobb County,” Schuerholz said. “That’s really the most important thing. Their voices were heard as the commissioners shared with you tonight, their voices were heard and heard loudly and heard well and were responded to. We’re thrilled and delighted to be here.”