If you’re anything like me you’ve probably sipped a few $10 beers at Turner Field and pondered what the Atlanta Braves will do for a new stadium in 2036.
One recent sweltering evening, as the home team was losing by a touchdown, my mind drifted like a texting I-285 driver. I did a little smartphone research and concluded the Braves, since they acquired the name in 1912 in Boston, swap stadiums every 20 years or so (and cities every 35).
Do you think the Braves will last 20 years at still-under-construction SunTrust Park in Cobb County?
Not a chance. That’s why we’ve got to start thinking about how the public is going to help pay for future sports venues now.
Those unfamiliar with stadium funding history are doomed to repeat it, which is why I envision the following $10 beer-fueled scenario.
Sometime in the 2020s, a resurgent Georgia Gov. Tim Lee will convince the Georgia Legislature to amend a Zika-treatment funding bill to include $1 billion for Georgia to host the 2036 Olympic Games.
Now, $1 billion may sound like a lot, but the next new stadium — “Taxpayer Field” — is going to cost way more than that.
That’s where local government — say Gwinnett County — comes in.
Brian McCann, former Braves catcher and future mayor of Duluth, convinces Gwinnett to provide property for a new state-of-the-art (at the moment) facility. McCann also leads the marketing effort for a “special-purpose local-option sales tax” to build a new I-85 to I-20 toll road that includes a tunnel through Stone Mountain. To pick up needed political support the tunnel promises to obliterate the Confederate Memorial Carving.
The Falcons get wind of the windfall and want a piece of the action too.
The public realizes the only way to keep the Falcons from winging it to Oklahoma City is to fund a Home Depot gift card big enough to build “Blank Check Dome” on the final patch of unincorporated soil in south Fulton County. And don’t forget the new Sweetwater MARTA line.
Sounds far-fetched doesn’t it? Or does it? In the future, $1 billion is chump change.
The public will finance more than half a billion for the construction of SunTrust Park and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Taxpayers contributed $1 billion to the 1996 Olympic Games, which provided Turner Field.
The 2016 Olympic Games kick off Friday in Brazil. Billions have been spent in “legacy” infrastructure projects, but some of the facilities have collapsed or been deemed unfit for human occupation.
Will the Olympics ever return to Atlanta?
According to Christopher Gaffney, a senior research fellow at the University of Zürich, “Wherever we see an educated population that has a relatively free press, relatively high levels of governmental transparency, and that has put it up for a referendum, in every one of those cases we have seen the Olympics be rejected. Without exception.”
Translation: If the Olympics return to Georgia we won’t get to vote on it. But hey, we’re used to it.
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