Commenter MuddyLee, my valued musical consultant, asked this morning for an update on the big local story here in Georgia, which does have potential national resonance: the publicly-financed move of the Atlanta Braves to a proposed new stadium in Cobb County, a Republican-controlled suburb to the northwest of the city.
It looks like a done deal, since last night, when the Cobb County Commission, with all the Braves brass in attendance, voted 4-1 for a $300 million package of commitments that will pay for nearly half the cost of a new stadium, leaving Atlanta’s Turner Field, built for the 1996 Olympics, empty and likely to be demolished.
There’s quite a back-story to this strange (to me, anyway) development, much of it involving the City of Atlanta’s inability (politically and fiscally) to compete with the rich suburban jurisdiction after a costly and complex decision to give the NFL Atlanta Falcons a new downtown stadium, even though the Georgia Dome isn’t much older than Turner Field.
At the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which broke the whole Braves-to-Cobb story, the much-esteemed political writer Jim Galloway has been focused on the hypocrisy of allegedly tight-fisted Republican leaders agreeing avidly to corporate subsidies that will probably either result in higher taxes or reduced school funding. There’s been some scattered but loud Tea Party opposition to the deal, and Galloway thinks there could be some blowback in future Republican primaries, and not just in Cobb.
And this being Georgia, there’s a pretty clear racial subtext to the move. Yes, the Braves had some legitimate complaints about Turner Field’s parking facilities and poor MARTA (public transportation) access, along with the usual sports-franchise demands for more corporate- season-ticket-holder-friendly facilities. But it’s no secret a big part of the move was to take the team out of the heavily African-American downtown ATL to a place closer to the Braves’ white fan base–as it happens, a jurisdiction that has firmly rejected participation in the MARTA system tout court.
Personally, I’ve always disliked the whole stadium-subsidizing slice of the corporate subsidy racket, and am aggrieved that the metropolitan area where I spent much of my life has now set a new low standard of suckerdom in the face of team pleas and threats. If the Cobb County Republicans who made the Braves move possible suffer from it in the future, it will be pain they richly earned by pandering to the “fans” who want to watch the Braves play without excessive proximity to those people.