Why Did Atlanta Let the Braves Go?
There are many unanswered questions why the city apparently not only gave up on its most successful professional sports franchise of all time, but also the residents living around its stadium. It didn’t happen overnight.
The ink is dry and it’s official: The longest continuously operating franchise in Major League Baseball is moving. Of course we’re talking about the Atlanta Braves. The deal was signed on Nov. 26, 2013, when the Cobb County Commission approved a “memorandum of understanding” with the team.
The team’s 12-mile move spawned both local and national media attention, both negative and positive. Longtime fans have simply denounced the organization, saying that they’ll never support the “Marietta Braves” while others understand that moving closer to your fan base is just business smart. Naturally, there’s a slice of the community mired in apathy, but a lot of us feel like the Braves broke up with us and we have no idea what we did wrong. The organization, however, acts like we should've seen this coming all along.
Micah Rowland, chairman of the Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) that includes the stadium area lives and owns property in Mechanicsville, a neighborhood bordering the western edge of Turner Field, told Atlanta Magazine that he is not sure that the Braves’ exodus is necessarily negative. “I don’t know. It may be a good thing. Our issues were tied to the Braves parking; it devastated our communities.”
Under the watch of Mayor Bill Campbell, Mechanicsville was a neighborhood included in Tax Allocation District (TAD) bonds in 1995. The premise of a TAD is that the city borrows money through the sale of a bond. It then invests the profits back into predetermined neighborhoods in need with an expectation that property values will increase. Then there’s a justification for raising property taxes and the city can repay the bond with interest.
There were big hopes for Mechanicsville and construction crews started rolling in, taking on new construction and rehabbing 1920s bungalows. Many folks bought into the hype only to see their investments fail, but they hung in there.
Then in 2006, the Atlanta Development Authority (ADA) presented another elaborate plan to revitalize six areas surrounding the stadium and there was hope again. Shirley Franklin was mayor and the plan was specifically called the “Stadium Neighborhoods TAD.” The plan was chockfull of grandiose and lofty goals -- jobs galore, increased housing values, green spaces and parking spaces; we all win. Go team.
“The vision for the Stadium Neighborhoods TAD is to create a major financial incentive that would support creation of an effective public-private partnership to facilitate the resurgence of the area closest to I-75 and Turner Field by encouraging new substantial private investment,” the plan read.
Cue the crickets. Three mayors later, the plan never seemed to stick. The property taxes on a 1,700-square-foot new construction home in the stadium area went from $2,768 in 2010 to $491, about an 83% decrease. Many homes are in foreclosure. Business windows are covered with bars.
We built it but nobody came. So, who’s to blame?