By Tal Wright (Politico) –
With 9,000 fewer seats than Turner Field, the Atlanta Braves experienced a record first night in their regular-season debut at SunTrust Park. They defeated the San Diego Padres 5 -2, and ticket, merchandise, food and beverage and restaurant sales exceeded the team’s all-time record, according to Braves’ President of Development Mike Plant.
Prior to the Braves’ acquisition of the site, the empty wooded lot generated $300,000 in property tax revenues for Cobb County.
In 2018 – its first full year of operation – the Braves organization estimates SunTrust Park and its mixed use development will generate $28 million in property, sales, and school tax revenues for Cobb, which will be split evenly between the County and the State.
“Indications are that we will have significant tax digest increases due to the commercial and residential development in the Cumberland area directly resulting from SunTrust Park and The Battery,” said Bill Volckmann, Cobb County Interim Finance Director. “From inception, to date, commercial permit revenues amount to $4.65 million and business licenses revenue total $94,854.”
The Braves’ investment in Cobb County was never solely focused on just building a new ballpark, but also its adjacent mixed use development, which includes apartments, office space, shopping, and entertainment options.
The Urban Land Institute has studied hundreds of examples that illustrate how communities and developers have created mixed use developments that enhance quality of life, and make communities more desirable places to live and work.
Developers clearly agree. The Cumberland CID’s annual report notes that five new “Class A” office towers, three mixed-use developments, road and trail improvements, and 9.5 million square feet of new residential and commercial development are underway within its boundaries.
The CID encompasses just 6.5 square miles, but makes up 5.4 percent of Georgia’s economy – and 33 percent of Cobb’s economy, according to its report. By the end of 2018, the CID will realize $5 billion in public and private investments. Cobb, like midtown Atlanta, is attracting Millennials, with more than 9,000 living in the Cumberland area.
Transportation improvements within the CID include $225 million in roadway, pedestrian, streetscape and lighting, and investments in urban greenway and trail projects which total about $34 million.
DOT investments include the Cumberland Circulator shuttle system, the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes, and the Windy Ridge Pedestrian Plaza, which provides access for baseball fans who park on the east side of I-75. These improvements were on full display and well-utilized at the Braves’ April 14 home opener and its capacity crowd.
The CID also recently issued a request for qualifications for a company to create a $5 million “Urban Gateway Park” south of SunTrust Park. The RFP seeks firms to provide proposals for rehabilitating the southernmost unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA), known as the Paces Mill/Palisades Unit, in south Cobb County.
A Win-Win for Metro Atlanta
The communities around Turner Field were promised redevelopment of the area when planning was taking place for the 1996 Summer Games. It never happened. The Braves pitched a plan, which including refurbishing The Ted, but it was rejected.
Two years after the Braves announced their move to Cobb, Georgia State University and its development partners Carter and Oakwood Development reached an agreement with the Fulton County Recreation Authority to redevelop the Turner Field site and the ballpark itself.
Their plan includes converting The Ted into a football stadium for the Georgia State Panthers, transforming the footprint of the former Fulton County Stadium into a Panthers’ baseball field, creating a mixed use development, and adding student housing and single-family homes.
While the Braves’ move was a blow to downtown, it ultimately resulted in a transformation plan for the communities and empty parking lots around Turner Field, and a new campus for Georgia’s largest university.
Tal Wright is an InsiderAdvantage Georgia contributor.