Yet, last year’s strong financial performance was followed by an offseason in which the Braves have not increased their player payroll despite long indicating SunTrust Park’s increased revenue would allow them to do so. The payroll is currently lower than it was last season.
“We are super-excited with the signing of Josh Donaldson, along with the return of Brian McCann to the Braves,” Maffei said. “We want our team to win the World Series and believe our team has the potential to and is on the right path to do so.
“The management team has our full backing to do what they believe is right to win,” Maffei said.
Donaldson and McCann signed one-year contracts with the Braves as free agents for $23 million and $2 million, respectively. Nevertheless, the Braves’ major-league player payroll, which was $126 million at the end of last season, is currently around $115 million.
Liberty Media said that from 2017 to 2018 the Braves’ revenue from baseball rose 9 percent to $404 million and revenue from real-estate development rose 153 percent to $38 million.
The Colorado-based company attributed the growth in baseball revenue primarily to increased ticket and concession sales and two home playoff games. It attributed the rise in development revenue to increased occupancy at The Battery Atlanta, the mixed-use development adjacent to the stadium.
“I would note that 2018 included several big positives that benefited our results on the baseball side,” Maffei said. “That included a very favorable home game schedule, a competitive team with meaningful games into the last month of the season (and) non-game-day special events in the ballpark that trended up.
“Great team performance brought us postseason revenue, which we certainly hope will continue in 2019. But we don’t necessarily budget for it.”
Liberty Media attributed last year’s surge in the Braves’ operating profit before depreciation and amortization to “higher revenue and reduced operating expense due to the acceleration of player salary expense in prior periods as a result of released and injured players.” That included the release of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in December 2017, at which time his 2018 salary of $21.5 million was written off.
The financial results released Thursday show that the Braves reduced their debt to $494 million at year’s end, compared with debt of $626 million Sept. 30. That was in part attributable to repayment of mixed-use development debt associated with the Braves’ sale of the residential portion of The Battery.
However, Liberty Media indicated the Braves will borrow more money to fund the next phase of construction at The Battery. That phase is expected to cost approximately $200 million, including $145 million in debt, the company said.
The Braves ended 2018 with $107 million in “cash and cash equivalents,” Liberty said.