Gwinnett baseball stadium revenues fall short


GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga.,None - Three years after Gwinnett County promised a minor league baseball stadium would pay for itself, Channel 2 has learned that the county will need more tax money to cover the cost.

The county already uses rental-car tax money to help pay the mortgage at Coolray Field on Buford Drive. But, after checking out county budget sheets, Channel 2 discovered that they'll soon roll in hotel-motel taxes as well.

That comes as revenues projections at the stadium fall short.

Channel 2 was at the stadium in 2009 as the Gwinnett Braves threw the very first pitch.

Back then, Gwinnett County leaders promised the $64 million minor league stadium would be an economic shot in the arm. It remains to be seen.

Channel 2 examined budget sheets, obtained by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, which indicate county leaders will soon need another source of cash to pay the annual mortgage totaling more than $2 million. And, taxpayers will be footing the bill.

"Where else is the government going to get its money from? It's not going to get it from the revenue at the stadium,” said Kennesaw State economist and longtime critic of the stadium J.C. Bradbury.

Bradbury told Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh that he's not surprised by the shortfall.

There are several money streams that help pay for the stadium including ticket surcharges, parking fees and team contributions. Plus, the county already taps rental-car tax revenues.

According to that county budget sheet, more than $65,000 in hotel-motel tax revenue will go towards stadium debt, beginning in 2012.

"We consider it a tremendous asset for the county,” said Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Preston Williams.

Williams told Kavanaugh that the stadium is a destination. But, like any business, he says baseball is not immune to a bad economy.

"The stadium will generate the revenue streams it needs to generate," said Williams.

For now, it appears it will lean on tax payers.

It's tough to say how long the hotel-motel tax will be used to make the payments scheduled through 2038.

Channel 2 requested an on-camera interview with Gwinnett County officials on Thursday. A representative said that due to scheduling conflicts, an on-camera interview would not be possible.

Channel 2 will continue to follow this story.