One big thing Cleveland got right and Atlanta did not

Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee poses with Braves supporters in May 2014. (AJC file photo / Curtis Compton)

Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee (center) poses with Braves supporters in May 2014. (AJC file photo / Curtis Compton)

Tim Lee never should have been presented with the deal that led to his defeat.

Lee, soon to be the ex-chairman of the Cobb Commission after losing his re-election bid Tuesday, was undone not because he brought the Atlanta Braves to his county, effective next April, but because of the way he did it. When 400 million taxpayer dollars are at stake, it pays not to sneak around, block opponents from commenting at public meetings, and generally act indignant at the idea voters might disagree with the wonders you’ve wrought with their money.

But on my recent trip to Cleveland — yes, that Cleveland — I was reminded again how badly Atlanta missed a window of opportunity that was only open for, oh, almost five decades.

Quicken Progressive

Screen shot from Google Maps.

Quicken Loans Arena, main site of the recent Republican National Convention and home of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, sits no more than 100 yards from Progressive Field, home of baseball’s Cleveland Indians. Within blocks of them are bars, restaurants, shops, hotels — everything the Braves long wanted near the home in downtown Atlanta they’re departing and are busily creating in the new Cobb home they’re building.

Between the two of them, Quicken and Progressive are host to more than 120 home games spanning almost the entire calendar year, plus concerts, circuses, other sports and the occasional political convention. That’s a lot of activity in a highly concentrated area. (An aside: Cleveland also nearby has a bus rapid transit line similar to the one Lee also proposed for Cobb.)

Atlanta could have had that. But when the Hawks moved to Atlanta several years after the Braves and Falcons began their runs here, they moved into an arena on the other side of not one but two interstates, a couple of miles away from Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Neither area developed into the kind of destination neighborhood that sports teams have spurred in other cities.

Adding the Georgia Dome didn’t do it. Staging the Olympics didn’t do it. Nor did opening Turner Field and later Philips Arena.

Now, in a way that seems typical of these parts, we’re going to try to do it twice at the same time, in areas even farther apart.

While the Braves finish their mini-city near Cumberland Mall, the Hawks’ new ownership is betting on an entertainment district to be built near a renovated Philips Arena and not far from the Falcons’ new stadium. These are both in addition to similar types of developments, minus the sports teams, scattered across the city and region.

I have to wonder if any of them will pack the same punch as what might have cropped up around a better thought-out sports district.

While I’d be happy if Congress were to ban public subsidies for sports stadiums that chiefly benefit private team owners, the unfortunate reality is relatively few are built without taxpayer dollars. But as with other public infrastructure, the debate always seems to be over whether to build or not.

The better question to ask every time regarding stadiums, roads, transit, parks, etc. is whether it’s being built in the right way, in the right place, for the right price, to have the catalyzing effect we seek. It’s too simplistic to say that, if you build it, they (other businesses, jobs, shoppers, diners, tourists and so on) will come.

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47 comments
Dis custed
Dis custed

It's a strange argument in a city not so high on mass transit. You but these venues together along with the Hawks and a possible Casino and you truly have traffic nightmare possibilities.  Lets be happy were getting all of these new venues and  look at for what it is. Not always keeping up with the Jones. Where would you rather be watching a NFL game in late December ? Remember safety from all directions and aspects of life is a concern of the highest magnitude and as a society we are going to bear the hefty cost of living in a free and open society

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

"...whether it’s being built in the right way, in the right place, for the right price, to have the catalyzing effect we seek."

Wait. What about the $98 million downtown trolley to nowhere that's now up and running (until the state shuts it down)? The two dozen or so people who ride it each day doubtless think it has a great catalyzing effect! 

stoopidgy17
stoopidgy17

Absolutely SPOT ON!  I've lived in Atlanta for over 25 years now but I'm a Cleveland native.  When they built the Jake and Gund Arena back in the 90's, that was 100% the intent.  Build a bunch of bars and restaurants to make it a destination before and after the game as well.  90% of them were built or redeveloped along with the new stadiums.  A full neighborhood with bars and restaurants and plenty of downtown parking nearby beats the snot out of a food court (Philips) or a loan BBQ joint across the street that hardly anyone even knows about (Turner).  Denver and Baltimore did it right too.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Do fans go to see a team that is as bad as the Braves are ?  What if they build it and they don't come ?

Cobbian
Cobbian

I am not sure that the new Brave's stadium is going to be all that great a deal for the people of Cobb County.  Entertainment and tourist dollars are good as an extra layer of income, but not good as the basic "industry", source of jobs and income, for most of the people that surround the tourist attraction/entertainment center.  Servers in restaurants and maids in hotels are not the best paid employees around.


The traffic is going to be a nightmare and we in Cobb do not yet have a solution.  Wonder if there will be an attempt to bring back a vote on a Marta rail connection?   Might have a better chance of passing this time around.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Cobbian While there are some legitimate concerns and beefs on traffic, don't sell short the value of the entertainment.

Florida operates just fine without a state income tax due to tourist income.

The Braves area has the potential for same just on a much smaller scale.

Bus boys don't make that much in the food places but good waiters can knock it down and a lot of times without paying taxes on the total (not that I promote that but it's reality).

anguslee
anguslee

,According to him, Joseph Lowery and some of the other Atlanta Black Mafia fought against a logical MARTA stop at FCS because it "unfairly disrupted" long-established Black neighborhoods..

Mafia: world wide organization of killers, rapists, and drug dealers. Horrible folks, yes? Make it a Black Mafia makes it even better. Consistent standards? Woohoo.

garr
garr

Neal Bortz stated on a number of occasions on his radio show that Marta was purposely detoured from Fulton County Stadium because of the fear of lost parking revenue by the stadium authority. I believe this as it would not have taken any neighborhoods as the East-West Line could have easily jumped across I-20 without adding much distance to its route.

SebGuy
SebGuy

Without MARTA, the next owner of the Braves will move the team again to a site that is accessible by MARTA. I'd bet the Braves stay in Cobb County in less time than they played at Turner Field. I guarantee the next owner will say traffic conditions are stifling attendance and move the team back into Atlanta, or along a MARTA line.

Despite where you stand on the move, if you have been in Atlanta for more than a few days you know full well that traffic congestion cannot be alleviated by what they have planned now and that many fans will stay home because it will be too much of a hassle to go see a game.

Is it too early to start guessing where the next "new" stadium development will be built? Perhaps the new Hawks owner might want to reserve some space for the Braves to move back?

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@SebGuy Its a better site now than Turner Field as far as access.  Turner Field was a horrible location.  They should have put Olympic Stadium downtown.

bfred
bfred

@xxxzzz @SebGuy Olympic Stadium / Turner Field had a natural site that sat idle for ten years - the old Atlantic Steel plant that became Atlantic Station.  Walking distance from Olympic Park, Midtown, easy to run a MARTA spur, etc.  But no - had to be even farther from town so it could 'revitalize' a neighborhood that had somehow resisted such improvements over the preceding 30 years with the presence of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

When you disrespect the feelings of your constituents, you deserve to get what Tim Lee did.  Mr. Lee should have consulted Eric Cantor, before he made his "I know best" decisions.  Hopefully, we will begin to see a huge purge of politicians, in both parties, that like Tim Lee, care not what the people think (unless they are campaigning), but always have an sensitive ear out for what their donors prefer.   Paul Ryan may be next--- coming up in Aug,

Aquagirl
Aquagirl

Atlanta---and the metro area in general---can't plan their way out of a paper bag.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Aquagirl Hard to be effective at planning, when your first priority is making a lot of money for yourself and your friends and your campaign donors.  

lvg
lvg

When is the  Tim Lee Memorial Bridge going up over 285?Need a  Yuge sign with his name.


Wil be a way for drivers to vent their anger  on game days and know who is responsible for making 285 a parking lot.


However MARTA Bus 12 from Midtown should get the Atlanta folks to the game by dropping the off about a mile away (if they are allowed in) It runs twice an hour

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

Good one Kyle!

Unfortunately, it will never change. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

We're not going to go off topic within a couple of hours of this post going up. I'll give y'all another chance to talk about the DNC soon enough.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Cobb planners can't be as stupid as Atlanta's (no MARTA stop at AFCS or the Ted, really?) and I'm guessing they're handling traffic appropriately.

As for the amenities outside the new ballpark, I think it's going to be great, and it's way, way overdue (not that it was all that feasible in the crime-infested area of the old stadiums).

Leftist haters and transitwhiners feel free to stay the heck away so the rest of us can enjoy ourselves and the progress, please.

John Galt 47
John Galt 47

While I agree with the concept that taxpayers shouldn't be funding stadiums, it's also none of Congress' business if a state or city wants to do it.

HeyThere
HeyThere

@John Galt 47 bull. It's absolutely congress' business as it involves lots and lots of public dollars. This idea that the government "shouldn't be involved" in deals it is heavily, heavily involved in, like public funding of private stadiums, is absurd. The government picks winners and losers in these situations and we will all be better off when it is put to an end.

John Galt 47
John Galt 47

@HeyThere @John Galt 47 Just because something involves public dollars does not mean it is the federal government's business. That's why we have state and local governments. Let it be decided by the people who have a stake in it.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@John Galt 47 @HeyThere The idea is that nobody wants to do this.  But they are forced to because other regions do.  The sports leagues have monopoly power. 

Bruno2
Bruno2

Kyle: The better question to ask every time regarding stadiums, roads, transit, parks, etc. is whether it’s being built in the right way, in the right place, for the right price

I can't answer for some of the more recent bone-headed decisions by the current movers and shakers in the Atlanta metro area, but I know exactly why the original Fulton County Stadium didn't have direct MARTA access:  racial politics.  How do I know??  Two of my former patients in Atlanta were long-term MARTA board members (a husband and wife, if you care to figure out who I'm talking about).  The husband, who built most of the large buildings up and down Peachtree St, including Lenox Mall and the Atlanta Financial Center, was on the Board in the late 60s and early 70s when the locations for MARTA routes were hammered out.  According to him, Joseph Lowery and some of the other Atlanta Black Mafia fought against a logical MARTA stop at FCS because it "unfairly disrupted" long-established Black neighborhoods.

Per Tim Lee's involvement in the developing Cobb County disaster-in-the-making, I'll bet my bottom dollar that either he or his close friends benefited financially from the deal.  Obviously the decision to put a major stadium at one of the highest traffic density locations with no rail access was not done for the benefits of the citizens of Cobb County.  Anyone with half a brain knows that.

Gandolph
Gandolph

@ManicMike The Braves had been promised redevelopment around Fulton County Stadium and subsequently, Turner Field, for over 40 years through numerous administrations.  Do you really blame them for seeking alternatives when their current lease was up?

Gandolph
Gandolph

@ManicMike BTW, they first tried to work with the city of Atlanta, but were told by hizzoner Kasim that the city only had just so much to spend and they chose the Falcons to spend it on.

ManicMike
ManicMike

I personally hope Cobb Braves fans and any other person that advocated the move to Cobb from summer hill, sit In 4 hours of traffic to and from games . You people deserve it.

Bruno2
Bruno2

@ManicMike In case you've been out of the loop, no Cobb citizens nor any Braves fans other than a small inner circle of politicians had anything to do with the relocation.  I still own a house in Cobb County, and everyone I still know who lives there is against it.  The recent election results speak for themselves.

bastetsmom
bastetsmom

Lee should have, and did, lose his job.  There was not a lot of publicity, not a lot of discussion about this major development and expense to taxpayers.  It is widely regarded as a rip off and a traffic nightmare.  Someone is getting very, very rich at taxpayer expense and unfortunately for politicians, people are beginning to pay attention. 

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@bastetsmom You could make the same argument about Mayor Reed and the Falcons stadium.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

And Cobb continues the madness by building the stadium next to two "full" Interstates with no transit feeds. The Interstates are like rivers...rivers of cars...but they limit the potential of the development you refer to.

Bruno2
Bruno2

@RoadScholar I rode by the new stadium site last week, and it appears they are making some major alterations along 285 with a couple of new ramps under construction as we speak.  Considering the volume of traffic that passes through the 75/285 interchange, my guess is that no road will be big enough to handle the extra traffic.  If folks want to attend a 7PM game on a Friday night, they'll probably have to leave around 4 PM.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@Gandolph @Bruno2 @RoadScholar

Such lanes are for any person willing to pay a bit more for a faster commute.  Open to all.  And removing those drivers from the other lanes helps the poor, poor saps too.

Gandolph
Gandolph

@Bruno2 @RoadScholar The "major alterations" that you refer to along that site are the new "Lexus lanes" or toll roads being put in to separate the affluent from everyone else.  But that is a topic for another day, right Kyle?