Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed put down his Falcons’ pom-poms – they’re 2-7; he’s not a trendsetter – and suddenly wore the unfamiliar mask of a responsible elected official Monday. I know. Kinda charming. Unfortunately, his new look came two weeks after Halloween.
“… At the end of the day, there was simply no way the [Braves were] going to stay in downtown Atlanta without city taxpayers spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make that happen,” Reed said in a statement. “Given the needs facing our city and the impact of Turner Field stadium on surrounding neighborhoods, that was something I and many others were unwilling to do.”
Apologies. I probably should’ve warned you to not read that with food in your mouth.
So where was this responsible public servant months ago when he was fighting for Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s new stadium deal, giving his blessing to $200 million in public financing and committing the city to another several million dollars associated with stadium upkeep?
The Atlanta sports clown show continues. The Braves announced plans to move out of a stadium that opened in 1996. So congratulations to them. Maybe they haven’t won a postseason series since 2001 but they made the Falcons look reasoned and sensible. I mean, the Falcons are operating in a relative relic of a stadium that opened in 1992.
My house was built in 1987. I would be happy to make it available for free public events, commission and city council meetings, weddings and Bar Mitzvahs if somebody can assist with the bank note. (Free wifi available.)
The Braves’ new stadium project will cost $672 million, unless Groupon comes out with a two-stadium discount deal. Of that, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, $450 million will come from public financing (details not yet divulged).
Public means you. Or at least you in Cobb County. County officials haven’t yet confirmed this. They’re still working on a creative way to come up with a statement that doesn’t include the word, “You.” That word is so, I don’t know, transparent.
When did every public official start channeling Gordon Gekko when he first eyeballed Bluestar Airlines?
Let me just state that it’s comforting to live in a city, a state and even a country where our elected officials feel so free to build sports facilities with public dollars for private businesses. It’s reassuring to know that our schools, police departments, fire departments, roads, bridges, parks and sewers are in such tremendous shape that we can afford to commit $650 million for two new stadium projects.
If the Sudan got a new soccer stadium, it would totally revitalize the area.
If Reed hadn’t been carrying Arthur Blank’s water for month, making it seem like a Falcons’ potential move to the suburbs was like the coming of apocalypse, he would deserve praise for his comments Monday. But he is being a complete phony because he took the opposite position with the Falcons.
Furthermore, he backed the wrong horse.
This shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement of the Braves’ intended move. But if anybody had a reason to gripe about their situation, it’s them and not the Falcons.
A new sports venue presents no guarantee of urban renewal. If you doubt that, look at the scarred neighborhoods surrounding the Georgia Dome and Turner Field. That’s why the contention by Reed and Blank that a new Falcons stadium will turn around the area comes off as such bunk. If the city really wanted to commit millions to develop new businesses and mixed-use development around the Georgia Dome, it could have done so without a new football stadium.
Secondly, Turner Field has been sitting in a dump of an area since being built for the Olympics. A miniature golf course on the Capitol Ave. side of the stadium was a disaster. But if you look at cities like Denver, Cincinnati, San Francisco and others, baseball stadiums are far more likely to revitalize downtown areas than football stadiums.
The reasons are obvious. Baseball seasons guarantee 81 home games; football, eight. Baseball takes place in the summer. Kids are out of school. People are on vacation. They’re more likely to spend a day dining out and walking around downtown.
It would have made far more sense for local governments to invest in the area around Turner Field (already built) than in a new football stadium with the hope that development would follow.
To recap: The Braves are leaving because of a lack of development. Reed and Blank sold you on a stadium on the promise of development.
In the end, Atlanta will get two new stadiums to replace the two that didn’t need replacing.
This means nothing inside the palace walls, where the tenants will operate as usual.
I recall a time when the on-field product seemed far more important than the shell around that product. I’m old. But I’m not that old.