The New Corporate Art of the Baseball Stadium
Part One: The Corporate Game
Although it is no longer America’s highest-revenue sport, baseball is still known around the world as America’s “national pastime”. Because of its long season, it attracts more viewers than any other American sport. Because of the way it is played, it is America’s most diverse sport. And because it has existed as a major league for well over a century, its current state reflects a long evolution that has paralleled the American story. More than ever before, however, the business forces that sustain it are dominating the way it evolves.
Despite a popular narrative that baseball is on the decline, baseball today is more popular and successful than it has ever been. In virtually every measurable characteristic, baseball today is growing. Compared to 1990, revenues for the major league game have grown nearly 400 percent. Player salaries have grown 300%, stadium costs have grown 200%, attendance has grown 10%, and the prices of tickets and concessions have approximately doubled. (All dollar numbers are adjusted for inflation). Compared to the baseball of 30 years ago, the game today is a bigger ordeal – for cities, for teams, and for families paying to attend a game. Compared to the baseball of 60 years ago, the baseball of today is almost unrecognizable. In 1960, often highlighted as one of baseball’s golden eras, attendance was only 11,000 viewers per game, 38% of what it is today, while players on average made only the modern equivalent of $85,000 on average, less than 3% of the game’s current median salary. It’s hard to believe in the modern context that the players of yesteryear were paid like ordinary human beings.
While the revenue story is a good one for the sport, especially for owners who continue to invest in teams despite the fact that owning a baseball team is a more risky and less profitable investment than investing in the stock market, the growth in measures like ticket prices reflect a more challenging dynamic for the game today. While it might be considered admirable that in 60 years ticket prices have only doubled while player salaries have grown 25-fold (TV deals have made up most of the difference), even a modest doubling means that baseball today is less accessible to the average fan. To many fans, the price of going to the ballpark today is prohibitive and feels like a fleecing. To teams and cities responsible for paying the large sums that fund ever-higher player salaries and increasing stadium costs, the amounts are quickly becoming inexcusable and indefensible, especially as the rising price to attend a game, and the accompanying exclusivity of the sport, has made it more difficult to argue that the sport itself is a public asset.
The growth and intensification of baseball – and of spectator sports in general – reflects the highly inelastic demand curve among the corporate constituencies that primarily fund the game. To put that another way, baseball has identified that it can generate the greatest revenue when prices are high because the companies and wealthy individuals who pay for luxury seats and corporate boxes are willing to pay exorbitant amounts to continue to have a seat at the table of professional American sports. Much like first class airline tickets and college educations, more money can be made on a small volume of high-profit sales than can be made on a large volume of low-profit sales. Baseball, like most things in society, has become a corporate art that is funding its success through corporate investment.
Within this corporate environment, keeping baseball affordable for the average fan is of paramount importance to the future of the game. In an age when technology has created an unlimited array of entertainment options, baseball’s leadership has an obligation to ensure that the game is reasonable in scope and that it offers a net-positive experience for cities, for teams, and for fans. Because baseball is an entertainment experience, providing options that are net-positive in this regard should be its only intrinsic goal. Baseball, after all, may make people happy, but it does not cure cancer. Growing the game for its own sake does not grow the economic pie; rather, every dollar people spend on baseball is a dollar that otherwise may have been spent on another form of entertainment. While baseball’s continued existence may depend on its appeal as a corporate art for team owners, that continued existence also requires that cities and fans continue to deem it a worthy investment.
Part Two: The Age of Ubiquity
In addition to long being recognized as the best “buy” in professional sports, one of the reasons baseball has been successful is that, perhaps more than in any other professional sport, its unique format has bred deep team loyalties and distinguishability between the teams. Baseball’s long season means that for many cities, it is part of the civic identity more than other sports. In places like Cincinnati and St. Louis, the baseball team shapes civic identity more than other sports teams. Because the players do not cover their faces when they play, fans become well-acquainted with “who” the players are. Because baseball does not have the same redistributive format with regard to wealth and talent that other sports do, it has retained a David vs. Goliath spirit of “earned” success that breeds identity and loyalty with individual teams. And because baseball has been around so long, team histories are intertwined deeply with civic histories. Cities hang on to baseball loyalty: despite the expense of supporting a baseball team, no American city that has ever had a major league baseball team is currently without a team. The same is not true for football or basketball.
As baseball moves forward, ensuring distinguishability is important to the game. In the coming years, it is likely we will see this distinguishability tested. Already there are some who would like to see the American and National leagues combined, despite the fact that many fans take personally the differences in play between them. The push to standardize the application of the designated hitter is more real than ever. Efforts like the luxury tax are well-intentioned to ensure small-market teams have the ability to retain their best players, but they also present the risk of turning baseball socialistic. The standardization of video boards at stadiums is already a step away from distinguishability and toward ubiquity.
For much of baseball’s history, the unique distinguishability of teams has extended to the stadiums in which they play, but this aspect of baseball’s uniqueness is perhaps the one most being tested. Prior to the turn of the millennium, it felt, at least, like there was great diversity among baseball stadiums. In that era four generations of stadiums congregated together, mixing the footprints of numerous eras of American economics into a diverse melting pot within which to watch the game. Representing the 19-teens, three classic ballparks were clinging to life as the vestiges of the game’s earliest era. Eight more represented the game’s middle decades when baseball moved west and postwar progress was fueled by the automobile. Eight more represented the multipurpose boom of the ‘70s – baseball’s “concrete doughnut” phase – while two stood in for the innovative yet unpolished ingenuity of the ‘80s. The final nine parks were recent additions: the first children of baseball’s “retro” era, leading the way into the 21st century blending the best in progress with a touch of yesteryear.
Comparisons among stadiums at the turn of the millennium required fans to weigh fundamental considerations that had shaped the American landscape over an entire century of transformational change. That Camden Yards and Jacobs Field stood out had little to do with their comparative attributes relative to one another, but in how they were experienced relative to 80 years’ worth of aging or ill-conceived alternatives. One could easily select the standouts from each generation. Teams, in turn, were associated with the era of their stadiums. And it was a point of pride in Cleveland in Baltimore, older cities pursuing a renaissance, that their parks, the newest parks of “our” generation, were probably the best of the bunch. The success of the new stadiums offered a point of longing for teams in the bottom tier wanting to move up.
Today the landscape of baseball stadiums has radically changed. Currently all but six parks are younger than 27 years of age. Of those parks, the overwhelming majority were designed at great expense by the same architects, and nearly all represent a single body of fundamental ideals. There is but one true “multipurpose” stadium left in baseball, only four parks that represent the middle of the 20th century, and only two hanging on of the sport’s earliest era. Both of those have been renovated extensively. When fans compare the landscape of stadiums today, we are comparing similar peers of a similar era. What stands out no more are the qualities of our generation compared to those of the past, but rather the ways in which minute variations in the implementation of similar ideas from the modern era have been implemented differently in different instances, still by the same designers. Comparatively, the formal differences between Target Field and Citi Field are fundamentally insignificant compared to the differences between Camden Yards and Three Rivers Stadium. With the gap narrowed, comparisons today are often entirely aesthetic, more focused on minutia. And the architects at Populous, HOK Sport, or HKS would be the first to tell you that some of their parks, in some Vitruvian sense, are more beautiful than others.
Part Three – How We Got Here
This is an article focuses on stadiums more than on the economics of baseball as a business operation. The driver of the latter is primarily television, and my understanding of television and licensing contracts is less well developed than my understanding of string theory. So I won’t even venture toward an explanation of why team revenues today are so much higher than in the past beyond a point. What I can tell you is that gate receipts for non-luxury suite tickets are not the primary culprit, and the lavish expense of stadiums not the primary manifestation. From a sentimental architecture and design perspective, however, the current landscape of stadiums has a variety of origins.
The popular story of how “retro” ballparks were born is a well-worn tale in the baseball community. For several generations baseball had built stadiums, and for several generations the newest of those stadiums had failed to meet expectations. There were many interesting attributes of several of the stadiums built in the 1950s and ‘60s, but at a cost 60% marked up from those built in the teens and ‘20s, they were hardly awe-inspiring collectively. In turn the stadiums that opened in the ‘70s were another 60% more expensive, but even less inspiring than their predecessors. By the time the ‘80s and ‘90s rolled around, fans, owners, and the cities who were increasingly being called upon to pay for these facilities were yearning for a transformation.
The sources of these yearnings are mirrored in the same trends that have brought forth a rebirth of the American city and a rebirth of the qualities of placemaking and walkability, sources of “authenticity” in our world that many felt were being lost amid the rapid ascent of the automobile and the explosive growth of corporate America. If the stadiums of the teens and ‘20s had been “palaces” – at least when viewed through the liquored lenses of memory and nostalgia, the stadiums of the ’50s and ‘60s were utilitarian modernism. Like the stadiums that would follow them, they were generally built outside of cities, surrounded by parking lots, easy and convenient to access by car. The stadiums of the ‘70s were another breed altogether, taking efficiency (through round multipurpose configurations) and artificiality (astroturf), to another level of interchangeability entirely. While many of the “concrete doughnut” stadiums of the 1970s were indeed marvelous works of sleek, modern architecture, their complexity masked with clean lines, they quickly developed a “cookie cutter” reputation. Astroturf quickly became the greatest symbol of lost baseball character, of modernity gone awry, and of the loss of much of the sensory character that had given baseball its unparalleled mantle of sentimentality in the American psyche.
Much as society began tiring of the artificial obsession of the 1960s and ‘70s, perhaps taking for granted the ease and convenience it wrought while lamenting its negative attributes, baseball fans too began to grow uneasy. Like with most of society’s forays into modernism, discontent during the 1970s and 1980s had bred unease, and unease had in turn bred restlessness and nostalgia. As fans who grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s grew restless in adulthood, the clamor to relive the experiences of their youth led to a clamor for something different.
The first cities to react and test the waters in this uncharted new era were places like Minneapolis and Toronto, who each in turn crafted new kinds of multipurpose facilities that broke new ground. Importantly, these new facilities each included abundant luxury suites, an essential element in the modern ballpark to help offset the rising costs of fielding a team.
The subsequent opening of new Comiskey Park in 1991, the first new baseball-only stadium in two decades, cracked the door open for Camden Yards, which in 1992 changed the game forever by cracking the code on what it really meant for a baseball stadium, on the precipice of the 21st century, to rediscover the soul of the game from the early part of the 20th.
What Camden Yards introduced that the other stadiums hadn’t was a design that evoked what was “natural” about the game. Without sacrificing modern amenities or luxury suites – in fact the sight lines there were the best of any stadium to that point and the luxury boxes more abundant – it achieved a historic-looking design that mimicked many elements of century-old ballparks, including brick facades and a boxy orientation that made it appear quirky and complicated.
The reaction to ballparks built for ease and convenience outside of cities was a rebirth of ballparks that seemed, or at least appeared, to be of the past – commonly termed “retro”. Because of the success of Camden Yards, for a time in the ‘90s “retro” was the most popular word in baseball. Camden Yards was popular from day one. So too were Jacobs Field, The Ballpark at Arlington, and Coors Field, three similar stadiums that opened in Cleveland, Arlington, and Denver within three years. Four ballparks, all distinctly similar, but a radical departure from the other 26.
While their “retro” qualities are easy to pointpoint, their greatest similarity is the three of these four parks were built in the downtowns of major cities. While they weren’t Fenway Park, painfully shoehorned into an urban block, they were positioned comfortably in a compact setting, surrounded by other elements of an urban downtown, and capable of fueling retail, becoming the catalytic lifeblood for new downtown transformations. Qualitatively nice, this also offered a new incentive for cities being asked to pay for stadiums: build a ballpark, and it’ll revitalize the neighborhood.
As more teams clamored to replicate the success of these parks, each successive new build upped the ante on what it took to be distinguishing. To help new ballparks stand out, architects spared no expense in concocting new features and new gimmicks that were simply add-ons to a redundant overall strategy. By the early 2000s half the league had a new park, nearly all built in this same new style, each building on the features of the others.
Somehow, through all this HOK, Populous Design, and HKS have remained the architects of choice for baseball, even though their designs have evolved only modestly over two decades. Seemingly unimaginative, they have dropping increasingly mediocre billion dollar bombs on increasingly placid corporate victims. They’ve been able to do this because teams are desperate to keep up with each other and desperate for any sort of gimmick that can grab headlines and nominally increase revenues in the short-term. In turn, teams have clamored for copycat new parks and gimmicky amenities with a relentless lack of creativity so long as they can brand the newness as an “upgrade”, and higher priced amenities as “premium” ones. While many of the newer parks in the early 1990s were rousingly successful, the now-staid formula that created them has become an exercise in clickbait construction – a “fast-casual” sort of ballpark design that draws little upon aesthetic elegance or genuine ingenuity. Most parks that are opening today are neither nostalgic not beautiful: their greatest asset lies in their amenity-laden sophistication.
It was probably a given that replicating history could only happen so many times before it got stale. Camden Yards and Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field) aren’t the creative new standouts anymore. Rather they’re merely the oldest versions of a trend that’s been copycatted nearly 30 times. While Camden Yards was cool in the ‘90s because it seemed authentic and different, its innovations are old news today. That the same thing now exists in Houston with a retractable roof and a gimmicky train – or in New York with an oversized scoreboard – or Pittsburgh with a view of the city – has created something of an identity crisis. If all that exists to tell the parks apart is a bunch of cornball McMansion-quality amusement park fodder, where’s the game really headed? And what ever happened to the authenticity, Americana, and fruit-of-the-earth stuff that helped distinguish Camden Yards in the first place?
A few years ago Populous released renderings of their “ballpark of the future”, perhaps sensing a bit of malaise with where things stood in the present. Their vision for the future is more like a smartphone than the ballparks of yesteryear. For better or worse, their vision promotes more technologically advanced gimmicks, more complication, less elegance, and a palpably even more disconnected experience than most parks today. More screens, more quirky features in the outfield, more gimmicky places from which to catch a glimpse of the game, more stacks of suites and bars and “premium” sections and ribbon boards and the like.
While there’s nothing wrong with gimmicks – and there’s plenty of evidence that “clickbait” architecture works – I don’t sense that most fans really don’t seem to be enjoying all of this crap being thrust at them. If you took a poll of ballpark “approval” ratings, I bet it’d be much lower today than it was in the past, even though nearly every team now has a park built within the last few years, simply because the same ubiquity that retro parks sought to eliminate has been replaced with a perhaps even duller form of widespread monotony today. As a more casual fan than I used to be, ubiquitous ballpark architecture has made the game boring. It’s a difficult conundrum: while the parks today are nicer than ever before, not to mention more expensive, what are we really getting for our money, given that we’re paying twice as much?
Part Four – Keeping Up with the Joneses
The ubiquity of stadiums today – and the resulting ubiquity in the way the game is experienced generally – isn’t to say that the current crop of parks or experiences is worse than their predecessors. By contrast nearly all parks are better as places to watch a game. This is with good reason, and has come with a price: the average inflation-adjusted construction cost of all parks in service today is about twice as much as it was in 1990. Parks that have opened since 2000 are about twice as expensive as those that opened in the ‘90s. Those parks in turn were nearly twice as expensive as those that opened in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and those in turn were about twice as expensive as those that opened in the first few decades of the 20th century. Stadiums have grown exponentially more elaborate, more baseball-focused, and are designed to outshine competitors that predominately today are of a similar vintage.
As the parks get more sophisticated, cities are increasingly being asked to pay for them. Not only has the price of a ballpark doubled now that football and baseball teams require separate digs, but the price has in fact escalated more times than that since the per capita price of the new facilities has itself escalated so dramatically.
As cities are asked to shoulder increasingly more of the burden for ballparks, more and more are asking themselves whether it’s worth it. While many early storylines from Baltimore, Cleveland, and Denver pointed toward the discovery of a new value proposition for stadiums – the rejuvenation or sustenance of downtown neighborhoods – most academic research that has evaluated the subject has concluded that what appears may not actually be so. While it’s true that Coors Field has propelled growth in LoDo in Denver, that growth hasn’t been organic. Rather, primarily it’s come at the expense of other neighborhoods in the city. Baseball stadiums work like a lot of subsidized real estate in the United States: more often than not successful neighborhood development simply attracts development from one place to another, rather than catalyzing new development altogether. While a case can be made that saving certain neighborhoods is an economic necessity, the turbulence Cleveland has experienced with its downtown momentum since Jacobs Field opened has made it clear that any gains, net-neutral as they may be, may not even be permanent.
While the experience of a stadium is usually better when the stadium is part of a larger entertainment destination – a mixed-use neighborhood with bars, restaurants, and other additive elements, such as in San Diego, Cincinnati, or Washington, DC – the creation of neighborhoods is hardly justification for a city to build a new stadium or to try to attract a team. That is unless politicians are comfortable explaining to bastions of business owners in other parts of town why they’re less important to the city than new ones that might be conjoined with a stadium.
While the economic development case against the use of civic funding for stadiums is overwhelming and clear, cities often find it harder to justify the alternative: while funding a stadium is bad business, so too is not funding one. If stadiums are the key to keeping a team that can be successful, then stadium funding is an invariable outfall of the argument that a successful team is a critical component to being a world-class major league city.
While a few cities in America are recognized within the public consciousness as successful cities without major league baseball, there are none that have achieved world class status – say, as measured in national breadth of their draw to graduates or of Alpha status on the Alpha World Cities Index – without it. Like many core cultural components – such as a strong parks system, adequate transportation options, or a thriving corporate community – professional sports, and in particular professional baseball, are core elements of the equation for civic success. They are critical “romantic blather” for a city.
While the proof for this is hard to discern and to distinguish from studies suggesting a city would lose no economic development capital from losing a team, this impact is wholly independent from economic development as conventionally defined. How many people and companies, for instance, might pick Tulsa as a place to land over seemingly similar Oklahoma City if Oklahoma City weren’t distinguished as a major league city by virtue of its relationship with the NBA? In the case of baseball, a look at the last five major expansion moves – in 2005, 1998, 1993, the 1970s, and the 1950s – suggests there has been a difference in the years following the move between the cities that got teams in each instance and those that didn’t. Aggregately, cities that successfully landed expansion teams grew more quickly over the one to three decades after acquiring a team than those that they beat out, and also grew more quickly relative to their prior growth rates. While a city is only usually even considered for a major league team after a period of rapid growth, cities that have landed teams have generally continued to grow, while those that lost out often saw their growth trajectories cool. While the numbers aren’t eye-popping, they are noticeable. A city that grows its population by 9% in a decade, as have cities on average who landed a team in the decade after they landed it, is generally adding hundreds of thousands of new residents more than a city that grows by 4%, the typical rate for cities have tried, and subsequently failed, to attract a major league team. Such growth differences are often key in attracting other civic “wins”, including conventions, artists, and cultural leaders.
While it’s not exactly an airtight piece of math, there is a case to be made that keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to baseball is critical to urban success more generally. Consider, on the whole, the economic fortunes of those that have sought baseball and won – Denver, Washington, Miami, Phoenix, Tampa, San Diego, Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Atlanta – with those who were considered but failed – Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Las Vegas, Sacramento, Charlotte, Buffalo, Nashville, and Orlando – over the last 50 years. While many in both groups have been successful, the former group has achieved greater growth and status on the international stage in virtually every area.
That having a team is important to civic fortunes is a tough case to argue, but not an unreasonable one. That having a team that keeps up with the Joneses also requires using public dollars to help pay for a stadium that keeps up, especially in an era when stadiums have gotten so much more expensive, is a tougher case. Despite the fact that ballot referendums on the subject typically lose, nearly every team has convinced its civic leaders that this is the way to move forward.
Since I parted ways with the small community that has made a hobby out of evaluating ballparks nearly a decade ago – google rankings of the major league stadia and you’ll find dozens and dozens of 1-30 lists –little has changed in how ballparks are built but for subtle improvements in a number of areas:
More spacious overall designs
Bigger, glitzier scoreboards
More areas where you can stand and watch the game
More areas where you can sit or get distracted in the concourses
More ballpark seating area “neighborhoods” with creative branding (i.e. “premium seating”, swimming pool areas, etc.)
More diverse and expensive food options
Occasional attempts to better architecturally integrate within cities
Generally, busier, less elegant, and yet more expensive designs
Generally smaller capacities
To my eye, none of the advances referenced above, no matter how consistently implemented, has risen to the level of transformational thinking, certainly not from an architectural perspective nor, probably, from the perspective of most fans that would just like to be able to enjoy a game in a nice setting for a decent price.
Now several years removed from the last time I really analyzed ballparks, I can offer a bit of perspective on how the game (and the conditions that impact ballparks) have changed:
The game itself:
SABRmetrics and advanced stats have finally earned a seat at the table
Steroids have been eliminated, and, as a result, many of the powerful storylines that defined the game in the 1990s have disappeared
Success remains diversified (enough)
Player salaries have continued to escalate
The game within the world:
Football has cemented itself as America’s top sports entertainment dollar, while other sports like soccer have also soared relative to baseball
Many other ways of consuming the game have materialized
Competition for attention has become fierce
Nearly every team has built a new ballpark, reducing the shock value of new venues
Tickets and food (particularly the food) at ballgames has gotten expensive well out of the reach of most families
The world at large:
Downtowns have lost their significance as job centers, even as they have soared in popularity as residential and retail destinations.
Autonomous and teleworking technologies, new mobility options, and integrated smartphone applications have changed the way we all live and work.
The global economy has evolved and automated, stretching the budgets of average families
These bullets offer a generic summary, but from the a number of takeaways are hard to dispute:
It’s left most fans clamoring for many things:
Exhaustion with pricey gimmicks
A yearning for “authentic” and not ubiquitous experiences that can define the identify of their team in place and time
Clamor for intimacy, closeness, and a respite from the blaring sounds and blinding screens that dominate most games today
Demand for more affordable ways to consume the game
A more blasé attitude about whether to attend the games in person at all
And baseball teams clamoring for several things:
The need to captivate fans’ attention more completely
More diverse revenue streams (clearly we’ve maxed the amount we can sap out of people for food and drink at games)
A yearning to offer a sense of authenticity without losing the attention from the clickbait generation.
The struggle to remain competitive without having to keep up with every new quirky investment across the league every single year
The Future of Stadiums
If the game is indeed getting too ubiquitous and too expensive, pricing out average fans and forcing cities to reconsider whether financially supporting a team is really worth it, it’s essential that we bring to a close the era of perpetually rising costs for stadiums that aren’t delivering value. Luckily, several solutions to the problems cited above are right under our noses.
Build less expensive stadiums with fewer frills: The relatively new ballparks built in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, and Arlington all cost under $500 million in 2018 dollars, each around a quarter of what it cost to build the new Yankee Stadium and at least 40% less than it cost to build each of Citi Field, Nationals Park, Sun Trust Park, and Target Field respectively. While several of these parks benefitted from cheaper land and construction labor costs in their respective cities, that alone does not account for the difference. Taken collectively, these discount stadiums have fewer frills per capita, but they still gt the job done.
Not only were the discount ballparks cheaper, but they include most of the parks near the “most beloved” list of new ballparks. The stadiums in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Baltimore are on that list, and all three remain near-consensus top-five picks among stadium aficionados. That these parks were each built at roughly the same cost in 2018 dollars as Three Rivers Stadium and Riverfront Stadium demonstrates that it’s not the money that makes a great stadium: in many instances smart, simple designs actually produce the best results for everyone.
Sell cheaper tickets and food and make baseball fun again: In recent years many parks have sought to keep up with the diversified modern palate by offering more food options and more kinds of luxury tickets. At the same time, stadiums have gotten smaller. It’s created an environment in which there are many options, but nearly all of them are expensive. With the opening of the new football stadium in Atlanta in 2017 the team opted to revert to historically low food prices (including $2 hot dogs), and to simplify the menu offerings. Despite the lower prices, they’ve increased revenues 16%. Baseball should learn well that only a small handful of fans attend games hoping to eat filet mignon. Making the hot dog more accessible would be a solid move.
Baseball has also opted to pinpoint an optimal price point for tickets that produces the most revenue, but it’s a point at which prices are higher than they were in the past. Attendance, higher now than 30 years ago, is lower than it was five years ago. Larger stadiums and cheaper tickets would help restore the sport’s public appeal.
Invent creative new funding mechanisms: If stadiums must be pricey, and cities must fund them, inventing new ways to leverage their benefits to create a “completed loop” payment plan is an option for cities to stop bankrupting themselves on baseball. While the deal that Cobb County crafted to get Sun Trust Park isn’t particularly good for them, it’s better for them than most other stadium deals have been for other cities. In the case of the new ballpark in Atlanta, the County footed the bill for the stadium while the Braves paid a slightly lesser amount to create a surrounding entertainment district – all in the suburbs. Cobb County is confident that tax revenues accrued from the new surrounding development will eventually make their investment a revenue-neutral gambit. We’ll see. If cities can make deals like this work, perhaps they’ll make stadiums at least an investment worth considering. Cobb County was uniquely positioned as, without a downtown, much of the spending that now comes in through the Battery development adjacent to the stadium would not have otherwise come to them. It’s still not a wealth creator, but at least it benefits the county at the expense of the rest of the Atlanta metro.
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