Cobb rightly seized fast-moving opportunity

When the Atlanta Braves approached us about building a new stadium in Cobb County, it was a tremendous opportunity for our community. And like most opportunities, it was only going to exist for a short time.

The team wanted to move from its old stadium. Cobb County had the infrastructure, the capability and the ideal location for this to happen. We were the best choice­ — but we were not the only choice.

Even metro Atlanta was not the team’s only choice.

With discussions of moving the franchise out of downtown it was a priority for me to get the team and their planned $400 million private development here in Cobb. Thousands of new jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars in local investments and new economic growth are now on the horizon. Thanks to our community and their support, this move will benefit metro Atlanta and boosts the region’s economy with every game.

The necessity for a fast process frustrated some, even as most residents celebrated. We were aware of our critics’ objections. We held meeting after meeting after meeting to discuss everything with the public. We posted details to the Internet and shared it with the media.

We held almost a dozen public meetings between the announcement and last month’s vote. Opponents routinely attended and detailed the reasons they felt we should not help bring the Braves here. We listened. And though we do not believe they are correct, we respected their concerns.

Individual Cobb County commissioners held their own public meetings to hear from both sides. Commissioners kept a careful tally of those who called and emailed their offices with opinions both for and against the stadium agreement. The numbers were overwhelmingly in favor of this deal.

We worked to ensure residential property taxes would not rise as a result of this project. Businesses near the new stadium will bear a substantial portion of its construction costs and the team itself will invest $280 million upfront and another $6.1 million annually for 30 years. These figures exclude the estimated $400 million the team plans to spend by creating an entertainment district around the new stadium.

Cumberland area businesses are willing to help support this agreement because they understand what it means for them. It means customers. The Board of Commissioners understands what it means for the county. It means jobs. It means visitors. It means an unparalleled economic boost that will benefit the entire county. It means funds that will help keep our tax rates low.

We could have held a year’s worth of meetings on this topic with the only result being that the team would go elsewhere. The fundamental objections of critics would remain, the huge support would remain, but the opportunity would be lost.

Instead, this will be a successful project for the public and the region, because we made the right choices for Cobb.

Tim Lee is chairman of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners.

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