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ESPN Mag takes on public stadium financing

ESPN The Magazine has an article from October that reports on several instances of public officials making commitments to invest in professional sports stadiums without a referendum.

Cobb County's deal with the Atlanta Braves is mentioned front-and-center, with reporter Mina Kimes citing The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's reporting on Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee secretly hiring an off-the-books attorney to negotiate a preliminary agreement.

The article says that $8 billion in public money has been spent on sports stadiums without a public vote since 2005. It quotes Florida associate professor Tim Kellison, who performed a survey of Cobb residents earlier this year and found a slim majority supporting the Braves deal, but more than 70 percent saying there should have been a public vote about the public investment.

"A lot of it a happens under the radar," Kellison is quoted as saying. "Decisions can be made very quickly."

The article also mentions Washington D.C. residents helping to fund the most expensive Major League Soccer stadium in history, and an Arizona Attorney General investigation into Glendale, AZ., council members' decision to give the former Coyotes owner a $15 million a year contract to manage the NHL facility there.

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"So the powerful circle the wagons, praying they'll never have to face real consequences," Kimes writes in the article. "In May, the Braves' president, John Schuerholz,  spoke with unusual candor  about the team's furtive dealings with Cobb County. `If it had gotten out, more people would have started taking the position of: We don't want that to happen,' " he said.

"Elected officials might crave the spotlight, but they loathe the glare of public scrutiny. It's easier when everyone else lives in the dark."

About the Author

Dan Klepal is a reporter on the AJC’s investigative team, focusing mainly on local and state governments. Klepal previously covered Atlanta City Hall and Cobb County, where he wrote extensively about the public investment in SunTrust Park. Prior to coming to Atlanta, Klepal covered city governments in Cincinnati and Louisville, Kentucky.

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