Reed: Keeping Braves in Atlanta too pricey



ATLANTA - Mayor Kasim Reed held a news conference Tuesday about the Atlanta Braves' plans to relocate to Cobb County.

Braves officials shocked fans Monday, announcing plans to leave Atlanta's Turner Field in 2017 to build a $672 stadium for opening day at Windy Ridge Park and Circle 75 Parkway.

His news conference is the first chance for reporters to hear his take on the behind-the-scenes negotiations that led the franchise to spurn Atlanta. He said he would not try to interfere with Cobb’s deal, but said he wanted to make the “unmistakable message” that the city still wants the team to remain.

"I certainly wanted the Atlanta Braves to stay in the city of Atlanta," he said.

If the deal succeeds, he said, he’s not worried about his legacy, promising a “significant” announcement that will prove he made the right long-term decision for the region.

“We’re not walking around here moping. I hate losing. But there are times when other people make plays,” he said, adding: “We’re not losing anything. The Braves are still in the region so I don’t feel like this is a loss.”

Reed said the Braves asked for between $150 million and $250 million for infrastructure improvements for the team to remain downtown. He said that would have left the city “absolutely cash-strapped” and unable to chip away at a nearly $1 billion infrastructure backlog.

Reed said “one of the largest developments for middle-class people that the city has ever had” will go up at the site of Turner Field after the Braves move to Cobb.

Channel 2 Action News is covering every angle of this developing story.

On Monday, Reed told Channel 2's Justin Farmer it's not a done deal. The Braves still need to buy the land just north of Interstate 285 between Cobb Parkway and Interstate 75.

The city of Atlanta said it has been in talks for a year to keep the team in Atlanta.

He said he became aware that the Braves were moving on Thursday, two days after he was re-elected. He said Cobb County offered the team an excellent deal, but if it falls through, the Ted will still be here.

The Braves organization said a lack of parking, difficult access to and from the stadium and the problems developing businesses around the stadium, have made Turner Field undesirable.

Turner Field has been standing since 1997 when it was converted from the Olympic stadium. But the organization said when they decided it was time to go, they never looked back.

"We make this decision with mixed feelings. We've had wonderful, wonderful years here and we expect to have three more wonderful years here as well," Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz said during morning news conference to announce the move.

Braves officials said they will also build and operate bars and restaurants surrounding the stadium, something they can't do at Turner Field.

"Because of various state statutes and city ordinances, that was not going to be a possibility so that came into play in our decision," Schuerholz said.

The Braves organization said there's no development around Turner Field other than a handful of bars and restaurants in the area.

Braves fan Michael Beardem ate lunch at the Bullpen restaurant on Monday. He said he likes the idea of the Braves moving.

"This is like the only bar and restaurant around the stadium now, but up there I'm sure you'll have much more to pick from."

Summerhill Neighborhood Association President Suzanne Mitchell said the move will be devastating.

"Stunned. The wind knocked out of me," is how she described her reaction when learning about the news.

Channel 2's Richard Elliot followed her as she burst into tears and into the arms of Braves executive Mike Plant.

Braves officials said Turner Field needs $150 million for improvements and another $200 million for updates.

Cobb County officials told Channel 2 Action News a stadium in the proposed location would bring 3,400 jobs to the area.

Farmer was the only television reporter to speak directly with the mayor following the announcement.

Reed told Farmer that the property in Cobb County has been identified as a potential site by the Braves, but has not been purchased.

The mayor said the deal would include $450 million in public funding.

The financial package will not go before the Cobb County Commission until Nov. 26, according to Reed.  Cobb County Commission Chair Tim Lee released a statement Monday morning.

"The Atlanta Braves are a great organization and will be a welcome addition to Cobb County. Our focus is on finalizing an agreement that will bring jobs and economic growth to the area while enhancing the experience of sports fans from across metro Atlanta.

"Atlanta has evolved over the years into a broader community that offers so much for so many. Cobb County is proud to be a part of the region's continued success."

The Georgia Department of Transportation said the new stadium location was news to its agency as of Monday morning.