By Maria Saporta
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed released a statement at 12:44 on Monday afternoon — literally saying good-bye to the Atlanta Braves in downtown Atlanta.
The mayor explained that the city did not have the millions of dollars it would need to match Cobb County’s offer for the Atlanta Braves.
The mayor’s full statement read as follows:
“The Atlanta Braves are one of the best baseball teams in America, and I wish them well. We have been working very hard with the Braves for a long time, and at the end of the day, there was simply no way the team was going to stay in downtown Atlanta without city taxpayers spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make that happen. It is my understanding that our neighbor, Cobb County, made a strong offer of $450M in public support to the Braves, and we are simply unwilling to match that with taxpayer dollars. 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. We have been planning for the possibility of this announcement and have already spoken to multiple organizations who are interested in redeveloping the entire Turner Field corridor. Over the next three years, we will be working with our prospective partners to bring residential and business development that is worthy of our city and strengthens our downtown. Those conversations will continue and I am excited about how we use the land that is now Turner Field, to be a tremendous asset for our residents, our city, and our region for years to come.”
The statement came as a surprise to many who expected the city to come up with a counter offer to keep the Braves in downtown Atlanta.
As late as 12:30 on Monday afternoon, A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, was hopeful a deal could have been worked out to keep the Atlanta Braves downtown.
“There have been serious discussions between the city and the Braves, and I’m hopeful these discussions will continue and find a way to keep the Braves at Turner Field,” Robinson said in a telephone conversation. “We are all aware that their lease is up in 2017.”
Robinson said that he believed there were solutions to the issues that had prevented the Braves from renegotiating a new lease with the city.
“I’m hopeful that whatever gap exists between the city and the Braves can be bridged,” Robinson said at the time. “The Braves are an important part of our downtown community. We have a lot going on in the city and in downtown. Our downtown is being transformed, and we would hate to see the Braves not take advantage of these developments.”
Robinson also said there was the symbolism of such a move.
“Sports is a business, but it also represents the psychology of a city,” Robinson said. Keeping the Braves downtown was a vital part of keeping the central city as economically vibrant as possible.
In an exchange of texts between the mayor and me Monday morning, it appeared as though Reed was exploring the possibility of an Atlanta response to the Cobb County deal.
In a text, Reed made a point of saying that the Braves had not yet closed on the 60-acre Cobb County parcel.