Liberty Media: Braves borrowed about $100M last year for stadium

The Braves’ revenue and operating profit declined last year, while the team borrowed about $100 million for its new stadium, according to owner Liberty Media.

In a report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission late last week, Liberty attributed the Braves’ $10 million revenue decline to a one-time TV rights payment recognized the year before and attributed an unspecified drop in operating profit largely to Ervin Santana and Dan Uggla.

Liberty didn’t specifically name the players, but cited “increased player payroll due to season ending injuries at key positions which required additional players to be added to the roster” and the release of other players whose “full (remaining) contracts were recognized” during the year for accounting purposes.

Those explanations are clear references to Santana, signed for $14.1 million after injuries to other starting pitchers last spring, and Uggla, released in July with about 1 1/2 seasons remaining on a multi-year contract.

The revenue dip in 2014 followed a $36 million increase in Braves revenue in 2013, Liberty noted. The company didn’t disclose the Braves’ total revenue for 2014, but based on previous filings, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution calculated it as $251 million, down from $261 million in 2013.

Another reason for the revenue drop, although not specified in the report, likely was the attendance decline that accompanied a losing season.

The unspecified dip in operating profit (before depreciation, amortization and certain other charges) followed a $20 million increase to $42 million in 2013.

The Braves had a $112 million player payroll at the start of last season and, barring additional acquisitions, appear likely to open this season at about $100 million, which includes $13 million due to Uggla.

Meanwhile, regarding the Cobb County stadium project, Liberty’s report stated that the Braves are funding their costs “from cash reserves and utilization of two credit facilities with a capacity of $250 million.” The Braves had “borrowed approximately $100 million under those two facilities” as of Dec. 31, Liberty said.

The funding plan for the $622 million stadium calls for the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority to issue up to $397 million in bonds and for the Braves to be responsible for the rest, including cost overruns. Liberty said the Braves, in order to keep the ballpark on track for a 2017 opening, “agreed to advance funds” until the bonds are issued, possibly in the second half of this year, “at which time (the Braves) expect to receive reimbursement of the advances.”

A challenge to the legality of the bonds issuance is pending before the Georgia Supreme Court.

Liberty’s report also disclosed the most specific “expected cost” yet for the mixed-use development planned adjacent to the stadium: $452 million.

Combined with the budgeted cost of the stadium, that would put the total investment at $1.074 billion.

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