The much-anticipated Memo of Understanding that, if approved by Cobb commissioners will define the relationship between the county and the Atlanta Braves, is finally ready for review.
After two days, the county posted the MOU on its website Tuesday evening, although its delay, amid efforts by Atlanta city council members to woo the team back, caused some speculation. Not to worry, said County Chairman Tim Lee.
“What we were trying to do over the past couple of days is make sure everybody was interpreting everything the same way. We wanted to be absolutely sure it was clear and that there was no mistaking interpretation,” the chairman said.
The agreement, which is expected to be approved by the entire county commission next Tuesday, calls for the Braves to fund 55-percent of the estimated $672 million development. But in addition to funding 45-percent, Cobb County will carry a $92 million note on part of the Braves’ investment. The team will pay $3 million a year in rent over 30 years and another $3.1 million to retire its portion of the county-financed debt.
LEE: THAT AND NO MORE
“We’re trying to do something never done before,” said Lee. “We’re trying to say up front that this is all we’ll pay. If there are any cost overruns… they’ll be on the Braves’ nickel. If they decide they want a new chandelier and it’s not covered in the contract, then it’s up to them to pay for it.”
The County will still have to fund a portion of the maintenance costs associated with the new stadium, but that money should come from a contingency fund, he said.
Cobb County’s portion of the funding for a new stadium will come from a variety of sources, according to the agreement:
- $14 million in transportation improvements
- $10 million in collections from the Cumberland CID
- $8.67 million in funds gained by reallocating county revenue
- $5.15 million through the creation of a New Cumberland Special Service District which will consists of a three mill property tax increase inside the footprint of the Cumberland CID.
- $2.74 million in a new per-room hotel tax within the New Cumberland Special Service District
- $940,000 in existing hotel/motel tax contributions
- $400,000 in a yet-to-be approved rental car tax.
THE BATTLE IS JOINED
The phone rings and a woman’s recorded voice says in a southern drawl, “If you don’t want multiple new taxes on services and your property taxes used for this stadium deal, you must let Chairman Lee know now!”
It’s the opening line of a one-minute long robo-call sent tom 150,000 Cobb County phone numbers by the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, one of the opponents to the new stadium deal. The voice belongs to the group’s founder, Debbie Dooley, who was instrumental in defeating the TSPLOST that would have funded metro-wide transportation improvements. It failed at the polls last spring.
“(Lee and county commission members) are telling their constituents, ‘We are going to do what we are going to do and we don’t need to hear from you.’ They’re refusing to hear from the public,” Dooley told WSB’s Pete Combs.
The robo-call blitz netted at least 3,000 calls to Lee and the commission on Tuesday, Dooley said. Another organization planned to make another 150,000 automated phone calls prior to the commission vote on the stadium deal. Opponents of the stadium also plan to rally next Monday, probably in District Two Commissioner Bob Ott’s territory, near where the stadium will be built.
On the other side of the Braves battle line, the TV screen comes to life and two men wearing Braves jerseys stand on the site of the new stadium and look into the camera.
“With no new property or sales taxes to our citizens, we both quickly realized the beneficial impact to the citizens, businesses, schools and property owners throughout the county,” says Superior Plumbing President Jay Cunningham.
“Jay and I applaud the courageous leadership of our Cobb County commissioners,” says Loud Security President John Loud.
Together, the two Kennesaw-area businessmen will put a thousand such ads on cable television screens throughout Cobb County between now and Tuesday, aimed at drumming up support for the stadium deal.
“We want this to be a unanimous vote on the commission,” Loud told WSB Radio. “We want to show unity. It’s an opportunity we don’t want to fumble. And when that 5-0 vote is taken, we hope people cheer like we’d just won the Olympics.”
“It sure has ratcheted up over the past couple of days,” Lee said. “I saw a poll that says 98-percent of the people who live in Cobb County are aware of this. I think sentiment will swing more positive as people learn more about the scope of the deal.”