Braves’ 47 percent revenue increase called ‘astounding’

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Braves’ revenue increased by $124 million in 2017, their first year in SunTrust Park, according to financial results filed Thursday by team owner Liberty Media. 

Liberty said the Braves generated revenue of $386 million last year, a 47-percent increase from $262 million in 2016. 

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei described the increase as “astounding,” saying in a news release that it demonstrated “the appeal of the new SunTrust Park and (adjacent mixed-use development) Battery Atlanta.” 

The Braves are one of the world’s few pro sports franchises with publicly traded stock -- a tracking stock Liberty issued in 2016 to allow investors to buy and sell shares in the team separate from the rest of the company. That requires the quarterly disclosure of financial information that other teams tend to keep secret.

Liberty said the Braves posted revenue boosts last year of 76 percent from ticket sales, 31 percent from concession sales and 45 percent from retail sales, compared with their final year at Turner Field in 2016.  Attendance increased by 23 percent, and ticket prices rose. The opening of The Battery provided a new revenue stream.

Cost of Braves’ new spring training facility jump

Expenses also increased sharply, and Liberty Media said the Braves had an operating profit before depreciation and amortization of $7 million. That compared with a loss of $16 million in the same measure the year before. 

The revenue increase has not produced a boost in the Braves’ 2018 major-league player payroll. The payroll will be lower at the start of this season than it was at the start of last season, barring major acquisitions in the next month.

Liberty Media said there were increased costs last season associated with “baseball and ballpark operations and the mixed-use facility.” The player payroll was increased last season from 2016 levels, and concession, parking and security expenses rose, Liberty said.

The company also cited this expense: The Braves recognized a $13 million write-off, mostly in the fourth quarter, of contracts related to international players – a reference to the rule-breaking scandal that cost the team 13 prospects late last year.  

In another financial metric, after factoring in non-cash expenses of $67 million for depreciation and amortization and $46 million for stock-based compensation, Liberty Media showed an overall loss of $106 million for the Braves, according to the company’s filing. The company said depreciation and amortization increased because of “property and equipment” for the stadium/mixed-use development and stock compensation increased because of a rise in the value of the Braves franchise and vesting of outstanding awards.

The Braves carried debt of $667 million as of Dec. 31, primarily loans for construction of the stadium, mixed-use development and new spring-training facility, Liberty Media said.

Liberty executives held a 45-minute conference call with Wall Street analysts Thursday, touching briefly on the business of the Braves but mostly discussing the company’s other interests, especially the Formula One auto-racing circuit, which Liberty owns. After recapping the Braves’ financial results, Maffei said: “Spring training has started. We’re looking forward to opening day on March 29th. Go Braves.”

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