Statement from Mayor Kasim Reed concerning 11/12/13 AJC column on Atlanta Braves

November 13,2013

According to AJC columnist Jeff Schultz, I “backed the wrong horse” in my decision to aggressively pursue keeping the Falcons in the city, under the assumption that we did not pursue the Braves with equal vigor.

I believe both teams are a part of our cultural fabric, and have given our citizens many reasons to cheer over the almost 50 years they’ve been here.

I’d like to keep them both inside the city.

But to draw comparisons between the negotiations to keep the teams inside the city, and assume that we did not place an equal focus on the Braves, is to ignore a number of critical facts.

Hopefully, Jeff paid close attention to our briefing with the news media today. But just in case he didn’t here a few critical points worthy of re-capping:

The financing deal for the new Falcons stadium did not require a contribution from the city’s funds. The public portion of the stadium is being financed through an already existing revenue stream approved by the Georgia General Assembly, the hotel/motel tax.

The hotel/motel tax is funded primarily by people who do not live in Atlanta - 84 percent to be precise. The city is not required to stand behind the debt for the football stadium. The hotel/motel tax does that.

To make the improvements needed for the Braves to stay in Atlanta, the city would’ve been required to invest between $150 million to $250 million in Turner Field. There is no identifiable revenue stream to fund that contribution without severely impacting the city’s financial health.

The city currently has a $900 million backlog of critical infrastructure improvements that I have pledged to take on during my second term in office. We need to work on improving our roads and bridges, synchronizing our traffic signals and expanding our green spaces.

As I said today, the timing simply was not right to assist with public funds to subsidize a second major sports team at a time when our neighbor, Cobb County, has made such a generous offer to the Braves.

As for the notion that a new Falcons stadium has limited value, I submit the following: To reduce a new football stadium to just “eight games a year” is nonsense, and Jeff should know this as a sports writer.

The Georgia Dome has been host to a Super Bowl, the SEC Championship game for many years now, Georgia State University home football games and a host of major music acts, to name just a few of the many, many events held at this facility.

It is also the anchor for the Georgia World Congress Center complex, the central facility for our $10 billion convention and tourism business, which supports more than 220,000 jobs in the region.

We have to decide if we want to be a region or not. The metropolitan Atlanta region is not just a term we can use when it’s convenient for planners. We must be a unified, connected metro region with Atlanta as its heart.

I wish the Braves well and I look forward to traveling 12 miles to Cobb County to see our beloved Braves on Opening Day in 2017.