Cobb County’s coliseum authority may have capacity to fund Braves stadium within its existing powers

By David Pendered

A public authority in Cobb County may have the financial capacity to help pay for the planned Atlanta Braves stadium without a vote by the public, the county Board of Commissioners or a city council.

The Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority (Cobb-Marietta) opened the Cobb performing Arts Centre in 2007. Credit: wdanielanderson.files.wordpress.com

The Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority (Cobb-Marietta) opened the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in 2007. Credit: wdanielanderson.files.wordpress.com

The Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority (Cobb-Marietta) has the sole power to set the hotel tax rate, according to state law. The Braves began talks with the coliseum authority in July, according to espn.com.

The coliseum authority now operates three destinations in the Cumberland area near the site of the planned Braves ballpark – Cobb Galleria Centre, Galleria Specialty Shops, and the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

In 2010, the hotel tax generated in excess of $90 million. That figure is based on a report in the Marietta Daily Journal that an 8 percent payment from the authority to the Cobb County Convention & Visitors Bureau would amount to $8.9 million.

The authority would have until the end of 2050 to pay off the debt incurred to build a facility, such as a baseball stadium, according to state law.

The Braves announced Monday it plans to open the 2017 season in a new facility located in the northwest quadrant of the I-285/I-75 intersection. The projected cost is $672 million and up to $450 million of that amount is to come from an unidentified source in Cobb County.

Cobb Chairman Tim Lee has said the deal will be presented at the commission’s meeting Nov. 26, according to ajc.com.

The coliseum authority was created in 1980 by the Georgia Legislature for the purpose of, “acquiring, constructing and maintaining facilities for the general purpose of promoting cultural growth, education and welfare,” according to its website.

The Atlanta Braves plan to build a ballfield that's in the midst of a grid of big roads that are served by three interstate highways. Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered

The Atlanta Braves plan to build a ballfield that’s in the midst of a grid of big roads that are served by three interstate highways. Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered

The board of the coliseum authority has seven members. According to Cobb’s website, the positions and incumbents are:

  • Mayor of Marietta (Steve Tumlin);
  • Mayor of Smyrna (Max Bacon)
  • Appointee of Cobb County Board of Commissioners (Bob Voyles);
  • Appointee of Board of Parks and Recreation (Johnny Gresham);
  • Chairman of Cobb County Board of Commissioners (Tim Lee);
  • Two appointees selected by the five members previously cited (Jerry Nix, Earl Smith).

According to state law, a coliseum and exhibit hall authority created before 1991 may levy a hotel/motel tax of up to 8 percent. The current hotel tax rate was unavailable Tuesday morning, as the county tax commissioner office couldn’t provide it and the authority’s spokesperson was unavailable for comment.

Cobb County’s existing sales tax rate is a total of 6 percent – 4 percent for the state sales tax, plus 1 percent for an education sales tax and 1 percent for a special purpose local option sales tax, according to the state Department of Revenue.

The following developments and purposes can be financed by a coliseum and exhibit hall authority, according to state law:

  • “(A) Promoting tourism, conventions, and trade shows;
  • “(B) Funding, supporting, acquiring, constructing, renovating, improving, and equipping buildings, structures, and facilities, including, but not limited to, a coliseum, exhibit hall, conference center, performing arts center, or any combination thereof, for convention, trade show, athletic, musical, theatrical, cultural, civic, and performing arts purposes and other events and activities for similar and related purposes, acquiring the necessary property therefore, both real and personal, and funding all expenses incident thereto, and supporting, maintaining, and promoting such facilities owned, operated, or leased by or to the local coliseum and exhibit hall authority or a downtown development authority.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

3 replies
  1. ScottNAtlanta says:

    The problem is that The Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority ran a 1.5 million deficit last year, and the stadium would be very close to Sandy Springs and Dunwoody which would siphon off quite a few hotel guests, and hotel tax revenue. I would assume until there are more available units in the Cumberland area that might be a big problem.  If they cant cover current expenditures, how will they cover this?Report

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.