Despite the threat of lawsuits from several Cobb County grassroots organizations who believe Cobb County should not provide $300 million of public funding for the proposed new $672 million Atlanta Braves stadium in Cobb County, the Braves and the county are proceeding full speed ahead.
The Cobb County Commission voted in November by a 4 to 1 margin to approve the Memorandum of Understanding for the plan, and authorized the county to issue $300 million in bonds. The speed at which this approval was granted–less than a month after the idea was first suggested–shocked many voters in Cobb County.
News that the team recently selected an architect and purchased the land for the stadium has done nothing to limit the threat of litigation. The team, however, is publicly stating that it will dedicate the resources necessary to ensure the outcome of any potential litigation will not keep the stadium from being ready for Opening Day of the 2017 season.
Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee told the Atlanta Business Chronicle on January 28 that “[w]e know this is a Herculean effort to get done, but we are confident we are going to get it done.”
Lee added that “[w]e have a strong team in place, both at the county, the authority and the Atlanta Braves. We are committed to working as diligently and as hard as possible. We are meeting at least weekly to identify issues and solutions and the resources necessary.”
But Dan Kolber, a municipal securities attorney with knowledge of the Atlanta Braves-Cobb County deal, says not so fast. Kolber told the Chronicle, “[t]he non-binding agreement [the Memorandum of Un derstanding] does not even include a standard ‘break-up fee’ or a ‘stand-still covenant’ that would have protected Cobb County if the deal were to fall apart.”
According to Kolber, “[i]t would have been in Cobb [County]’s interest to have a ‘break-up fee’ or ‘stand-still covenant.’ If you exercise your option to not continue negotiations, you pay us a predetermined amount of amount of money. It would be a lot of money to discourage them from leaving [the negotiations].”
For their part, the Braves and officials at Cobb County are hunkering down.
Cobb County Commission Chairman Lee and the Braves are aware of the risks associated with potential litigation. “As soon as possible,” he told the Chronicle,” we are going to go to market with the anticipation that someone may intervene, and we will allocate the appropriate resources to manage through that.”
“Managing through” a legal decision whose outcome is uncertain, but could be unfavorable to the proposed stadium deal, may present a significant challenge for both the Braves and the Cobb County Commission.