Turner Field and downtown Atlanta
Photo: Brant Sanderlin
Photo: Brant Sanderlin

City may have multiple Turner Field offers

A prominent West Coast office and industrial developer, a Middle Eastern investment fund tied to gambling and a Nevada company have each expressed strong interest in buying the Turner Field site after the Atlanta Braves leave for Cobb County, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

It is not clear what their respective plans are for the site, but details about the other groups circling Turner Field emerged a day after Georgia State University and a development team outlined an ambitious $300 million vision for the area around The Ted.

Two people with knowledge of the situation said California-based developer Majestic Realty and an Abu Dhabi-based investment fund have made overtures to buy the site. One of the people said interest has also come from a Nevada firm.

Interest by multiple parties could set up a difficult choice between price and purpose. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has said he opposes gaming or casinos in the city.

Reed vowed last November to find a new owner and purpose for the baseball field after the Braves move in 2017, at one point promising to create “one of the largest developments for middle-class people that the city has ever had.”

He has since said two to four well-financed and serious buyers have come to the table.

Majestic Realty has a development office in metro Atlanta and is best known locally for building distribution centers. Majestic is also the private partner with Fulton County in a planned industrial development next to Charlie Brown Field west of downtown Atlanta.

Majestic also has experience with mixed-use retail-based centers and casino resorts in Nevada and California. The company did not comment Thursday, after initially agreeing to make an executive available.

The Abu Dhabi-based investment fund has offered as much as $65 million for the property, according to one person with knowledge of the deal. Under that proposal, the city would have no control over the site. It is not clear what the investment firm plans to build, but gambling is among the company’s businesses.

The final interested party is a Nevada-based company that has approached the city with interest in buying the property for an undetermined amount.

Casino gambling is not legal in Georgia and would require a constitutional amendment approved by a two-thirds majority of both chambers of the Legislature and a majority of Georgia voters.

The state Attorney General’s Office has previously said a form of gaming known as video lottery terminals – think electronic slots tied to Georgia’s lottery – could be legal. It would require approval by the Georgia Lottery Board, a panel appointed by the governor.

Past groups have attempted to bring video terminal gaming to Georgia as a way to boost the HOPE scholarship program. Gov. Nathan Deal has previously said he opposes an expansion of gambling in Georgia.

In comments after a speech to the Piedmont Park Conservancy Thursday, Reed said one unidentified group has offered $45 million to $65 million for the 77-acre site.

Asked about plans involving gambling, Reed said: “I’m against gaming. I’m against casinos.”

But Reed has touted the property’s marketability ever since the Braves’ bombshell announcement last fall of their move to Cobb. The mayor said Thursday that he’d “prove” that the team’s 81 regular season home games each year were an “encumbrance to development,” and that he believes the city will be in a better financial position with whatever comes next.

Reed said whatever comes to the site will be a boon to the community and bring revenue by returning property to tax rolls.

“People will definitely agree it’s a better use of that 77-acre parcel than it is today,” he said of the eventual redevelopment of the site.

On Wednesday, GSU President Mark Becker and members of the real estate team of Atlanta-based Carter and apartment developer Columbia Residential outlined a plan to convert The Ted into a 30,000-seat football, soccer and track-and-field stadium and to build a mix of shops, restaurants, student housing, apartments and single-family homes.

About 30 to 40 percent of the site would be a southern extension of GSU that also would include instructional space, parking, a baseball field that would preserve the Hank Aaron tribute in the footprint of the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. It’s not yet clear how the university would fund a purchase of the stadium or construction of the other facilities.

The rest of the project would be done by private developers.

During an exclusive briefing with AJC editors and reporters, the development team and Becker said they were aware of other potential suitors, but said they did not know who they were.

Lingering over any potential sale is the Braves lease at Turner Field. Though the team has said they plan to play ball in Cobb by 2017, the baseball club has until Jan. 1, 2016 to notify the city whether it will extend its contract.

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