Braves’ latest financial results: Revenue down in first quarter

The Braves’ revenue declined in the first quarter this year, attributable in part to reduced attendance at spring-training games, according to financial results disclosed Friday by team owner Liberty Media.

The Braves had revenue of $16 million in the January-through-March quarter, down 27% from $22 million in the same period last year.

MLB’s regular season opened April 1, so the first-quarter results don’t include any regular-season games or telecasts.

Of the $16 million in Braves revenue, Liberty Media said $7 million came from baseball sources (down from $12 million in the same period last year) and $9 million from The Battery Atlanta (down from $10 million in the same period last year).

“Baseball revenue decreased in the first quarter due to reduced capacity at spring training games and fewer special events held at (Truist Park) and the spring-training facility,” Liberty Media said. “The decrease in (The Battery) revenue was primarily driven by reduced variable rent for certain retail tenants at the mixed-use development, partially offset by increases in rental income from new lease commencements.”

The company noted that the Braves operated their spring facility, CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla., at about 25% capacity this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Braves played 14 spring-training home games, compared with 11 last year before the start of the pandemic cut short spring training, but last year’s 11 were played at full capacity.

Liberty Media said the Braves’ revenue decline for January through March this year was “more than offset” by an $11 million reduction in operating expenses. The lower expenses stemmed from reduced game-day costs at spring training, cuts in personnel, reduced scouting costs, reduced costs related to the delay in the start of the minor-league season and “other cost-reduction initiatives,” the company said. The Braves’ major-league player payroll is down significantly from last season, but that won’t show up in the financial results until the second-quarter report.

Because MLB teams generate the vast majority of their revenue and profits in the second and third quarters each year, the Braves typically show large financial losses for the first quarter, as was the case again this year.

The Braves had an operating loss before depreciation and amortization -- the most common metric, along with revenue, for measuring a pro sports franchise’s financial performance -- of $20 million in the January-March quarter, compared with a loss of $25 million in the same period last year. Liberty Media attributed that improvement to the expense cuts outweighing the revenue drop.

After subtracting $15 million in depreciation and amortization and $2 million in stock-based compensation, the Braves had an operating loss of $37 million for this year’s first quarter, compared with a loss of $43 million for the corresponding quarter last year.

The Braves’ debt as of March 31 was $676 million, up slightly from $674 million Dec. 31. The debt mostly stems from the construction of Truist Park and CoolToday Park and continuing construction at The Battery.

The Braves are one of the few sports franchises with publicly traded stock. That requires the quarterly disclosure of financial information that other teams keep secret. The latest disclosure came, coincidentally, on the same day the Braves opened Truist Park to 100% seating capacity for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

For all of last year, when a shortened regular season was played without fans in attendance, the Braves’ revenue declined by almost $300 million, falling from a franchise-record $476 million in 2019 to $178 million in 2020, Liberty Media disclosed Feb. 26. The Braves had an operating loss before depreciation and amortization of $49 million last year, representing a negative swing of $103 million from a profit of $54 million in 2019, the company also said in February.