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Atlanta Braves' stadium deal is sure to have some folks thinking in Tampa Bay

Turner Field, the home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team, stands at the end of a local side street in Atlanta. The Braves announced Monday they are moving in 2017 to a new stadium in suburban Cobb County. As Tampa Bay officials consider the Rays’ future at Tropicana Field, any insight to be gleaned from the Braves’ move most certainly depends on your point of view.

Associated Press

Turner Field, the home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team, stands at the end of a local side street in Atlanta. The Braves announced Monday they are moving in 2017 to a new stadium in suburban Cobb County. As Tampa Bay officials consider the Rays’ future at Tropicana Field, any insight to be gleaned from the Braves’ move most certainly depends on your point of view.

The initial reports of the Atlanta Braves' proposed stadium deal are in front of him.

He sees the size of the investment a Georgia suburb is willing to make to build the stadium and lure a big-league franchise. He sees the acreage the team will have at its disposal to develop hotels, restaurants and retail stores around the stadium.

Surely Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg is thinking:

Sweet.

The initial reports of the Braves' proposed stadium deal are in front of him.

He sees quotes from the mayor of Atlanta that suggest there was little appetite among residents to spend the $250 million or so it would have cost to renovate Turner Field, the team's current downtown stadium. He sees that Atlanta gets nothing out of the deal except the hope of redeveloping the Turner Field site for some undetermined project.

Surely St. Petersburg Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman is thinking:

Interesting.

The initial reports of the Braves' proposed stadium deal are in front of him.

He sees speculation that it could cost Cobb County as much as $450 million in stadium and infrastructure costs. He reads that Cobb County furloughed teachers this year because of an $86.4 million budget deficit due to reduced property taxes.

Surely Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is thinking:

Yikes!

Any local insights to be gleaned from the Braves' surprising dash to a neighboring county most certainly depend on your point of view.

For the Rays, the news could not have been better. It reinforced the team's contention that a major-league franchise's worth is incalculable in the right location.

For St. Pete, it was a precedent to consider. Is it better to let a team reach the end of a lease and walk away without compensation as the Braves will do in Atlanta, or should St. Pete leverage its use agreement at Tropicana Field to get a return on its investment?

For Hillsborough County, it had a high degree of sticker shock. While Cobb officials say the $450 million figure is incorrect, they have yet to reveal how much of the supposed $672 million venture they will be on the hook for, and where the money will come from.

Now it's important to point out the Braves deal is not yet official, and perceptions could change as more information is released in the coming weeks.

Still, it's hard to ignore the implications in Tampa Bay.

Consider the similarities:

Both teams have been unhappy with their stadium locations (for the Braves, Turner Field was situated in a poverty-stricken neighborhood that did not have enough parking or mass transit stops, and was too far to walk from downtown) and both had a nearby community interested in luring a big-league team.

Now, consider the differences:

Atlanta has three years remaining on its lease, while the Rays have 14 years to go on their Tropicana Field agreement. The Braves are smack dab in the middle of MLB teams in attendance and were not considered a serious candidate to leave town, while the Rays are at the bottom of the league in attendance and have fewer roots in the market.

Finally, consider the ramifications:

Cobb County may be somewhat of an anomaly in terms of a suburban location, but it's hard to deny that baseball teams usually get what they want when it comes to stadiums. Twenty-two teams have built stadiums since Tropicana Field opened its doors in 1990, and three others have had major renovations.

In other words, the Rays will eventually get a stadium. The hard part is figuring out when and where. Not to mention, who is picking up the tab?

Atlanta Braves' stadium deal is sure to have some folks thinking in Tampa Bay 11/13/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 9:05pm]
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