Editor’s Note: Love the Braves, hate the Cobb stadium deal

Cobb schools SPLOST vote World Series

The Atlanta Braves had not one, but two, parades on Friday, plus a special concert at Truist Park with rap luminaries Ludacris and Big Boi to celebrate their improbable World Series championship.

Tens of thousands of fans lined up in downtown Atlanta and along Cobb Parkway as the Braves’ caravan made its way to the ballpark.

For a moment, the exuberance almost got the best of Cobb County’s finest, as police surrounded a man whom they thought had wandered out from the crowd, but who was actually Braves’ relief pitcher Tyler Matzek.

It was hard not to get caught up in cheering on a team that was devastated by injuries, didn’t have a winning record until late in the season, then knocked off teams predicted to beat them, including last year’s champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the playoffs.

As someone who grew up in metro Atlanta and whose family’s ties to the Braves go back to their days in Milwaukee, this last week truly has been special for me.

My first game as a fan was as an eight-year-old in 1969, when the Braves won their first pennant in town.

In 1995, when the Braves won the World Series at the same venue, I was a sportswriter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I don’t remember much about that decisive Game 6 on a Saturday night at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, as I was coming back from somewhere after covering a college football game.

So it was a real treat to savor the first sports team I had ever followed beat back all the obstacles. This year’s Braves are a testament to determination, resilience, teamwork and optimism, qualities that take on special significance during these abnormal times of a pandemic.

The euphoria was bound to go overboard, of course, as these occasions sometimes do.

On Thursday, in a commentary published in our local daily newspaper, the headline referred to the late Tim Lee, the former county commission chairman who brokered the stadium deal that brought the Braves to Cobb, as the “angel in the outfield.”

Even more tellingly, the narrative glossed over the dubious process by which Lee, the Braves and local business insiders worked in secret for months, until they could keep their secret no more.

The above commentary asserted several times that “Tim did the right thing.” But the glaring lack of transparency, a bevy of investigations and ethics complaints and a rushed timeline without much of a chance to get meaningful feedback from the public are still gnawing.

This coming Thursday will mark the eighth anniversary that Lee announced a proposed 30-year memorandum of understanding with the Atlanta Braves to help construct a stadium in the Cumberland area.

In that agreement, Cobb would commit to a $300 million subsidy—taxpayer money—to help finance the ballpark, as well as to regular capital maintenance, public safety and other costs.

The four district members of the Cobb Board of Commissioners had exactly two weeks to digest a complicated long-term deal. The public had an even smaller window to ask questions of their elected officials at hastily arranged town hall meetings.

I covered these proceedings during my time at Patch, a hyperlocal network founded by AOL a little more than a decade ago.

Bob Ott, the former Cobb commissioner whose District 2 included the area along Windy Ridge Parkway and I-75 where the stadium would be built, was thrust into a sudden, and very glaring, spotlight.

Always accessible, Ott prided himself on holding informative town halls all over his Cumberland-East Cobb district.

But he made himself scarce for most of those two weeks, inundated with messages and calls from constituents and the media like no other issue in his then-two terms in office.

On the night before the vote, Ott held a town hall meeting not in his district, but in the commissioners’ meeting room off the Square in Marietta.

I found that odd, and asked him after it was over if he had made up his mind. He said he would do so when he pushed the button to vote.

Like the other town hall meetings I attended during that intense fortnight, I realized that the Braves stadium deal was a done deal.

Twenty-four hours later, in a cramped board room dominated by pro-stadium forces, the commissioners approved the MOU with a 4-1 vote, with Lisa Cupid, now the chairwoman, voting against.

Like many people who raised questions about the deal, Cupid wasn’t opposed to the Braves coming to Cobb County, or even having a partially publicly financed stadium built.

Like many of those same people, I also wondered about the rushed, secretive proceedings. Citizens groups as disparate as the Tea Party and Common Cause tried to get some answers, but community scrutiny wasn’t well organized.

Lee defended the timeline and process by asserting that if Cobb didn’t act, then the Braves would go elsewhere.

But as longtime Braves executive John Schuerholz admitted not long after the Cobb vote, the team didn’t have another venue in mind after wanting to leave the city of Atlanta after nearly 50 years.

In other words, the Braves played Cobb like Max Fried toyed with the Astros’ lineup on Tuesday, setting down the commissioners in almost perfect order.

The timing of all this is important to remember, as Cobb and much of the nation were starting to come out of the recession.

Commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Helen Goreham were doing verbal cartwheels from the moment the proposed stadium deal was announced, smitten by the catnip of economic development that has tempted elected officials everywhere.

You can love the Braves, as I have for most of my life, and still hate the way that stadium deal came down.

You can be excited about the dining and entertainment options at The Battery Atlanta, which the Braves have financed to the tune of nearly $400 million, and wonder why the franchise still needed the public’s “help” to build a ball park.

The process stunk to high heaven, lacked even a modicum of transparency, gave no thought to a referendum, and was followed by lame excuse-making.

Lee paid the ultimate political price when he was ousted in the 2016 Republican primary by Mike Boyce, and didn’t get to enjoy the ultimate payoff of his stadium efforts. He died two years ago of cancer at the age of 62.

After the stadium opened in 2017, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce commissioned an economic impact study proclaiming a nearly $19 million annual benefit to the county.

One of the more vocal critics of such claims, Kennesaw State University economics professor J.C. Bradbury, noted in an op-ed during the World Series that one can cheer for the Braves and not get caught up in such runaway economic development fever.

Not wanting to rain on a parade, but I feel the same way. The economic “home run” that was promised Cobb citizens still hasn’t been realized, and shouldn’t be conflated with success on the baseball field.

When a public official is hailed for doing something “right” without that individual being examined for how he/she conducted public business, that’s more than blind cheerleading.

The ends never justify the means, especially public officials spending tax dollars and not giving the citizens much of a say.

Holding elected officials—or the legacies of those who are no longer with us or who are out office—to account isn’t just about determining if what they did was the right (or wrong) thing to do.

It’s also scrutinizing how they do it that should matter.

 

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DETAILS: Atlanta Braves parade, Truist Park celebrations

Atlanta Braves parade

Submitted by the Atlanta Braves late Wednesday:

The parade route will begin [Friday 12 p.m.] at the corner of Marietta Street NW and Peachtree Street and travel North up Peachtree to 10th Street. The second phase of the parade will then continue through Cobb County on Cobb Parkway, beginning at the corner of Riverwood Parkway and culminating at Circle 75 Parkway [starting at 2 p.m.]. 

Braves Country is invited to line the parade route to cheer on their World Series Champion Atlanta Braves. Fans can also watch the parade and join the post-parade celebration and concert with Atlanta natives and Grammy Award-winning artists, Ludacris and Big Boi inside Truist Park [starting at 3:30 p.m.]. The Braves encourage fans to arrive early.

Tickets will be free but must be reserved in advance. Tickets and parking passes for the celebration at Truist Park will be available TOMORROW at www.Braves.com/parade. Premium and A-List Members and Braves Insiders will receive early access to reserve their tickets, beginning at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., respectively. Tickets will be available to the public beginning at 1 p.m.Atlanta Braves parade

To ensure the safety of all guests, The Battery Atlanta will have limited capacity on Friday, November 5, during the celebration. Access for non-ticket holders will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis. The Braves strongly recommend pre-purchasing parking.

Complete coverage of the World Series Championship Parade and team celebration will air live on Bally Sports South, Bally Sports Southeast, the Bally Sports app, and Twitter @BallyOnBraves beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET. The Bally Sports crew will be embedded throughout the city and The Battery Atlanta, including host Chip Caray; studio analysts Brian Jordan and Peter Moylan; and reporters Paul Byrd, Kelly Crull and Nick Green. Local channel listings can be found here.

To ensure the safety of all guests, The Battery Atlanta will have limited capacity on Friday, November 5, during the celebration. Access for non-ticket holders will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Also, watch out for significant traffic delays in the area around Battery Atlanta throughout Friday afternoon. Major impacts to traffic & bus service anticipated. Known areas of impact include Cobb Pkwy (Riverwood Pkwy to Battery Ave) & cross streets. Please plan accordingly.

On Thursday afternoon, Cobb County government issued some more details and suggestions for those planning on attending the parade and/or Truist Park events:

  • Fans who receive tickets to the celebration inside Truist Park should get parking at the time they secure their tickets and proceed directly to the stadium. Braves parking lots will open at 9 a.m. and require a purchased ticket.

  • Anyone coming to watch the parade procession should plan on heavy traffic and avoid Cobb Parkway. People are advised to carpool, use a ride service, and use a traffic app like Waze to get into the area.

  • Road closures along and near the parade route could start as early as 10 a.m.

  • Most of the parking along the parade route is privately owned, so fans should make sure they find a lot that is available for celebration parking.

  • Anyone who watches the procession south of I-285 and wants to walk toward Battery Atlanta should NOT attempt to cross under the interstate along Cobb Parkway. They should instead use the pedestrian bridge accessible from the Galleria parking lot.

  • To ensure the safety of all guests, The Battery Atlanta will have limited capacity during the celebration. Access for non-ticket holders will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you can’t attend or would rather watch, the MLB Network will simulcast coverage starting at 12 p.m. Friday.

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Cobb schools closed Friday for Braves parade, celebrations

The Battery Atlanta, World Series Security

There won’t be any classes Friday in the Cobb County School District, which has declared a “student and teacher” holiday due to festivities surrounding the Atlanta Braves.

The Braves are holding multiple events Friday after the team won its first World Series in 26 years Tuesday over the Houston Astros.

Here’s from a Cobb school district announcement Wednesday afternoon:

“The Atlanta Braves parade and celebratory events will occur in Cobb County during the day and this holiday will also keep anticipated high traffic, throughout Cobb County, as manageable as possible for everyone who lives in Cobb.

“Friday will be a student and teacher holiday while all annual and hourly staff will receive direction from their direct supervisor. After-school program (ASP) will not be available and Friday night athletic activities will remain as scheduled.”

Some of the details of the celebrations are still to be released; for now, the Braves are saying that they will have a parade in downtown Atlanta, then head up Interstate 75 for a celebration near their home stadium at Truist Park.

The downtown Atlanta parade begins at noon Friday along Peachtree Street, from Marietta Street to 10th Street, before heading to Cobb.

Cobb DOT sent out the following message at 4 p.m. Wednesday:

“Braves parade will be on Friday (11/5) starting in Atl and ending in Cobb. Major impacts to traffic & bus service anticipated. Known areas of impact include Cobb Pkwy (Riverwood Pkwy to Battery Ave) & cross streets. Please plan accordingly. Details will be shared as available.”

Marietta City Schools and the Fulton County School System also have called off classes for Friday because of the Braves’ events.

Here are details about the parade and a Truist Park celebration that includes a free concert with Ludacris and Big Boi.

The World Series championship is the second for the Braves since they moved to Atlanta in 1965. The Braves also won Game 6 of the 1995 World Series at Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium, before moving to Turner Field from 1997-2017.

The franchise’s other World Series titles occurred in Boston in 1914 and Milwaukee in 1957.

Nearly 20,000 fans showed up at Truist Park Tuesday for a viewing party for the clinching Game 6 in Houston.

Crowds of more than 100,000 were reported at Truist and The Battery Atlanta for the three World Series games played last weekend in Cobb County.

A Veterans Day parade is scheduled for The Battery on Saturday.

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Atlanta Braves to hold World Series watch party at Truist Park

Cobb schools SPLOST vote World Series

Game 6 of the 2021 World Series starts shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday in Houston, and the Atlanta Braves are inviting fans to show up at Truist Park.

The gates open at 6:30 p.m. and ticket prices range from $10 to $75 to attend at the park.

Paid parking will be available at the Battery Atlanta Red, Green, Purple, Yellow and Silver decks.

The cost is $15 per vehicle and the lots open at 5:30 p.m.

The Braves can clinch their first World Series title since 1995 with a win Tuesday, since they lead 3-2.

If the Astros force a Game 7, the Braves will have another watch party at Truist on Wednesday, with the gates opening at the same time and the same pricing and parking arrangements applying.

For tickets and information, click here.

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CobbLinc expands bus service for World Series games

CobbLinc World Series bus service

Submitted information:

The World Series is bringing with it an expanded transit service this weekend. CobbLinc will operate additional trips for Route 10, Route 25, and the Circulator on Friday, Oct. 29, Saturday, Oct. 30, and Sunday, Oct. 31. Routes 10 and 25 will run additional outbound trips and a sweeper trip as described below. For complete routes and maps, go to http://cobbcounty.org/…/cobblinc-service-adjustments…
Route 10
  • Additional outbound trip: Midnight from Marietta Transfer Center ending at MARTA Arts Center Station at 12:51 a.m.
  • Additional outbound trip: 12:30 a.m. from Marietta Transfer Center ending at MARTA Arts Center Station at 1:17 a.m.
  • Sweeper split-trip: earliest departure 2:15 a.m. (possibly later due to traffic) from Cumberland Transfer Center
  • One bus will go to Marietta Transfer Center
  • A second bus will go to MARTA Arts Center Station

Route 25

CobbLinc Circulator Route Map
CobbLinc Circulator Route Map. For a larger view click here.
  • Additional outbound trip: Midnight from Cumberland Transfer Center ending at MARTA H.E. Holmes Station at 1:20 a.m.
  • Sweeper trip: earliest departure 2:15 a.m. (possibly later due to traffic) from Cumberland Transfer Center
Circulator
  • The Circulator will operate a combined route prior to 5 p.m.
  • The Circulator Blue and Green routes will be operating according to the normal printed schedules starting at 5 p.m.

Circulator Blue – runs continuously/frequency depends on traffic

  • The first trip pull out: 5 p.m. at Cumberland Transfer Center
  • The last trip ends: 1:50 a.m. at Cumberland Transfer Center
  • Service ends at 1:50 a.m.
Circulator Green – runs continuously/frequency depends on traffic
  • The first trip pull out: 5 p.m. at Cumberland Transfer Center

  • The last trip ends: 2:15 a.m. at Windy Hill Road and Powers Ferry Road/Hyatt Regency

  • Service ends at 2:15 a.m.

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Cobb Police issue World Series safety, security, traffic bulletin

Submitted information:Cobb Police, Holly Springs Road suspicious person, East Cobb crime forum

Like many others in the metro-Atlanta area, Cobb County Police is excited that our Braves are vying for Major League Baseball’s championship in the Fall Classic. Though we are celebrating along with everyone else, the Cobb County Police Department is also taking our role of maintaining public safety very seriously. We continue as the lead public safety agency at Truist Park, The Battery, and the surrounding areas. With the increased traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian), we have increased our footprint in all areas, and the public will notice a marked increase in patrol officers. Our department has coordinated extensive operations plans with Atlanta Braves, Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services, Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, and other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies who have either assisted with personnel resources or will be affected by the increased flow of traffic into their own jurisdictions.

Even with our increased presence and extra security measures, we still need the public’s help in keeping this a safe and fun event for all. We encourage all visitors to Cobb County to remember to Lock-Take-Hide. While visiting for the games or out at any other venues, please make sure to Lock your vehicle when you park. Take anything of value out of your car before you leave home (or your hotel, if visiting). And if you can’t remove items of value from your car, be sure to Hide them in the trunk long before you arrive at your destination. Purses, laptops, and handguns are high-value targets for thieves and are usually the items taken from vehicles that are broken into. Please visit Cobb Travel and Tourism (www.travelcobb.org) for additional information on other events and venues if you are visiting Cobb County for the first time.

See something, say something.

Yes, we will be out in numbers, but we can’t see everything and be everywhere. If you notice something out of place or a crime being committed, please call 9-1-1. Officers working in the area will be responding to 9-1-1 calls at The Battery and the surrounding areas in as quickly a manner as possible. With the increased number of officers on foot patrol our response time to calls will be greatly decreased (faster). Reporting criminal or suspicious activity as soon as possible can help keep everyone safe and quite possibly could avoid a potentially major dangerous situation for all.

We will have a number of officers on hand specifically to help direct traffic flow (both vehicular and pedestrian). In addition, our Twitter feed (@cobbpolice1) will post updates of any traffic events and/or emergencies. We’ll also post any newsworthy updates through Twitter as well. If you aren’t following us yet, head over to Twitter and add @cobbpolice1.

The Cobb County Police Department is proud to be part of this historic occasion. And our #1 priority is to maintain a safe environment for all as we celebrate and root on our hometown Braves.

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Cobb schools push SPLOST vote with World Series pitch

Cobb schools SPLOST vote World Series

Bandwagon-jumping is nothing new with the success of a local sports team.

The Cobb County School District is urging citizens to vote to extend the Special-Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) for schools by noting in a post that leads its website how schools have benefitted from having the Atlanta Braves in the county.

The Braves play their first World Series game at Truist Park on Friday against the Houston Astros—the final day of early voting for the Nov. 2 referendum, as it turns out—and the district is indulging in a special brand of cheerleading for the home team.

The proposed SPLOST VI, if approved by voters, would generate nearly $900 million from 2024-2029 for construction, maintenance and technology projects for both Cobb and Marietta schools.

Saying that “Cobb County will also win big due to the Braves’ success on the diamond,” the Cobb school district noted how out-of-town fans during the playoffs have already been boosting the local economy—and school SPLOST coffers by extension:

“Now, with worldwide attention focused on pro baseball’s most celebrated stage, Cobb County residents will once again benefit from outside money being spent locally, this time thanks to Astros fans. Every drink, snack, and souvenir purchased by every baseball fan at Truist will help fund education in Cobb County.

“Those 40,000+ fans won’t just be spending money at the park; they will also purchase many other items locally, like meals and gas, that help fund local businesses and services. The economic impact from the 2021 Braves will be felt long after the Commissioner’s Trophy is presented to the team. 

“The NLCS and the World Series are high-profile events that bring notice to Cobb County, but they also bring dollars and help to stimulate and prosper our local economy. While most don’t often think of the economic impact of sports at the local level, they are incredibly significant. While we cheer for our home team to end Atlanta’s 26-year World Series win drought, we can also cheer that our local schools are being helped by dollars from Houston fans.”

The post linked to related news stories and a special video the district produced to promote the SPLOST but didn’t break down any dollar figures.

The one-percent sales tax was first approved by Cobb voters in 1998, but some critics wonder why the Cobb and Marietta school districts wanted a referendum two years before the current SPLOST expires.

There’s been some political pushback, both in terms of how previous school SPLOST funding has been distributed, and against current Cobb school board spending practices.

That prompted a reaction from Cobb superintendent Chris Ragsdale, as well as from parents and citizens working to extend the sales tax, including those advocating for a rebuild of Sprayberry High School.

As the Braves swept to a 6-2 Game 1 victory over the Astros Tuesday night in Houston, the Cobb school district posted a similar SPLOST message on its social media channels.

The district also posted separately on the coming rebuild of Eastvalley Elementary School, which is to be relocated to the former site of East Cobb Middle School on Holt Road, among other SPLOST-related stories on the district’s homepage.

The Eastvalley project is to be funded with revenue from the current SPLOST V, but a timetable for construction hasn’t been announced. The former ECMS campus is slated to be demolished by December.

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Cobb commissioners approve $350K for World Series security

The Battery Atlanta, World Series Security
Additional police and security will be out in force around Truist Park and The Battery Atlanta this weekend for the first World Series games in Cobb County. (ECN file)

Here’s a very late addition to the Cobb Board of Commissioners meeting lineup Tuesday night:

Just as the Atlanta Braves are set to play their first World Series game in 22 years, commissioners will be approved spending up to $350,000 in “emergency” security and other costs for games played this weekend at Truist Park.

The vote was a unanimous 5-0.

The Braves play the Astros in Houston Tuesday and Wednesday; Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary) would be at Truist Park Friday, Saturday and Sunday, all evening games.

The county sent out a release late Tuesday afternoon saying that the money will come from its reserve and the expenses “could include such things as supplies, equipment, signage, and overtime.”

Cobb Finance Director William Volckmann told commissioners most of the money will be used for additional overtime for security and law enforcement.

County spokesman Ross Cavitt said in the release that Cobb public safety officials have been holding meetings with Major League Baseball and state and local officials.

Cobb Public Safety Director Randy Crider said in the release that baseline security procedures have already been established stemming from plans for the MLB All-Star Game, which was to have been at Truist Park in July.

However, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred relocated the game to Denver because of Georgia’s new elections law.

This weekend’s games will be the first World Series games to be played in Cobb County by the Braves. The franchise won its only World Series in 1995 in Atlanta at Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium.

Their last World Series was played at Turner Field in downtown Atlanta in 1999, when the Braves lost to the New York Yankees.

The Cobb statement said Cobb Police have cancelled leave, strengthened shifts and added special units “in order to increase manpower around the stadium.”

The release didn’t say how much more personnel would be in force, nor what any extra security or traffic measures would entail.

Truist Park has had five postseason games already in 2021, and the Braves clinched both of their previous series there, first against the Milwaukee Brewers and on Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Cobb release did say the following:

“Cobb Police and Cobb DOT have a proven traffic plan to get people in and out of the area, and they will be coordinating with GDOT and our neighboring cities to make sure fans can get in and out of the area as quickly and safely as possible. With a popular convention at the Galleria this weekend, county leaders are hoping as many area businesses as possible will encourage their employees to work remotely this Friday.”

Commission chairwoman Lisa Cupid:

“Much like the Braves, we faced some adversity earlier this year. But we are eager for the eyes of the sports world to see the unique venue that is Truist Park and the Battery Atlanta which has helped solidify Cobb County as one of the premier tourist destinations in the southeast.”

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