Braves: we’re assuming ultimate risk

After 17 years at Turner Field, the Atlanta Braves informed the city that the downtown stadium needed more than $150 million in capital maintenance upgrades, for things such as new seats, concrete and stadium field lighting.

But capital maintenance costs over 30 years in the team’s new Cobb County stadium should be no more than $80 million, Braves executives said Monday in an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s editorial board. And team officials promised they would not ask for additional taxpayer help if those costs soar above the county’s $35 million commitment.

“We can’t,” said Mike Plant, the team’s executive vice president of business operations. “It’s capped. We know that going in. We understand the risk.

“We’re the ones taking the ultimate risk.”

When asked why capital maintenance would be so much less at the new stadium, Braves president John Schuerholz said the Braves current home was built “for a 2 1/2 week project,” meaning the 1996 Olympic Games.

“Turner Field was value engineered from the start,” Plant added. “There were a lot of things (in the stadium) made for a short period of time.”

Capital maintenance is defined as major repairs or replacement of stadium systems, HVAC systems and control components; water, sewer and gas lines; seats; painting; and concrete repair, to name a few issues.

A draft agreement between the county and the team says the county’s capital maintenance fund contribution is capped at about $1.5 million a year. The county plans to pay that annual expense out of its general fund budget.

Other issues covered in the wide-ranging interview:

  • The first phase of the privately-developed entertainment district is projected to cost $300 million. Plant said that development will be much easier to build than the ballpark, and can "track" 12 months behind the stadium and still open in April 2017.
  • Plant indicated the Braves would take on considerable debt for the projects. He said both the stadium debt ($230-$280 million) and the money for the mixed use development will come from "a couple of different sources we have in terms of lending us money."
  • Asked for evidence of the Braves commitment to building the mixed-use development, which is critical to the county's estimation of new jobs and sales tax revenues coming in: "We've bought 80 acres," vice president of marketing Derek Schiller said. The stadium is being built on about 15 acres.
  • The Braves and Falcons will not compete when trying to sell naming rights for their new stadiums, Braves officials said.