The House That Tim Lee Built (with Cobb tax money)

Cobb County Commission Chair Tim Lee, right, poses at the groundbreaking of SunTrust Park with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, center, and Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz. (AP)

So based on last week’s election returns, I’m guessing that Cobb County Commission Chair Tim Lee won’t be throwing out the honorary first pitch next year when The House That Lee Built, aka SunTrust Park, opens its doors to fans.

Sure, Lee may be there. I can certainly imagine him sitting in one of those well-appointed taxpayer-subsidized corporate suites, shmoozing with executives from Liberty Media to whom he gave away the store, its contents and the land and mineral rights beneath the store. But he’ll probably be there as a private citizen, not as Cobb County commission chairman.

Last week, Lee’s re-election effort drew the support of just 40.4 percent of Cobb Republicans. That showing allows him to survive — barely — into a runoff round scheduled for July 26. However, the history of such runoffs tells us that incumbents who fare as poorly as Lee in the first round rarely win in the second round. A mid-summer turnout will matter, but those angry at Lee’s arrogance and incompetence in negotiating the Braves deal appear pretty motivated.

In fact, it’s hard to read the outcome of Lee’s race as anything but an overwhelming rejection of the man who secretly committed hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to build the stadium, who lied and misled and withheld public documents to ensure the stadium was built, and who stymied every effort to open the publicly subsidized project to public scrutiny and input. Mike Boyce, the retired Marine colonel who will oppose Lee in the runoff, made Lee’s role in the stadium process the focus of his campaign, and the voters responded.

Now, it probably didn’t help that the Braves are on pace to be one of the worst teams in baseball history, with a turnaround years off in future. When John Malone, the billionaire owner of Liberty Media, bragged last month that thanks to the Cobb deal, “the Braves now are a fairly major real estate business, as opposed to just a baseball club,” it only added to the sense that Cobb taxpayers had been snookered.

It’s the same every time. Fans and politicians look at it with romance in their eyes; team owners look at it with a clear eye on the bottom line. Guess who comes out best? There’s just something obscene about cash-strapped local governments being forced to cough up hundreds of millions of dollars to build luxurious playing fields for athletes making tens of millions of dollars, on behalf of owners making billions of dollars.

That applies as well to the taxpayer-subsidized stadium now being built in Atlanta for the Falcons. The public subsidy for the Falcons facility is considerably less than in Cobb, and the process by which it was decided upon was much more open and honest, but the principle and the outcome are the same. The economic impact will never justify the taxpayer investment.

That’s true even though last week, Atlanta officials celebrated the announcement by the NFL that the city had been rewarded the 2019 Super Bowl. The game will be played in the Falcons’ new stadium, which was built to replace the old stadium, which was also built under the promise of getting the Super Bowl. I’m tired of the game.

Reader Comments 0

428 comments
Denise LeBrun Fritz
Denise LeBrun Fritz

Why does anyone outside of Cobb even care? Be happy the Braves and their revenue aren't your "problem" anymore and let it go. You have your hands full paying the extra taxes for Arthur's new playhouse. Stop the hating. And, I hope Tim Lee gets rewarded with another term.

Jackalope
Jackalope

Bringing truth to the old Southernism about, "Even a blind hog will find an acorn.", I find myself agreeing with Jay Bookman for the first time in my life.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

Where are your complaints about Mayor Reed who gave away more to the Falcons for 8 games a year and is about to do the same for the Hawks?

Sara Foster
Sara Foster

There must be icicles in hell and herds of pigs flying all around: I actually commend Jay for this column and agree with him. Surely the voters in Cobb will finally give Lee the pink slip he so richly deserves.

RangeRover
RangeRover

Jay wouldn't have even bothered with this had Lee been a democrat, right Jay?  Be honest!

Jay, if you ever want to be well respected make at least the remotest attempt to be occasionally neutral in some matters and actually discuss a democrat's misgivings or poor judgement.  I'm confident you have plenty of material to work with given the easiest of research.  Perhaps, say, a 80-20% ration, Jay, versus the 100% liberal bias you now have.  90-10%, maybe?  

And it's well understood that there is a parallel between the Braves awful year and Lee's voter ratings.  If the Braves were in the hunt or at least respectable unquestionably Lee would have received more votes in the Primary.

Harry David Poole II
Harry David Poole II

A 20 year study of publicly funded stadiums show the city's economy would be helped more by taking the cash up in a helicopter and dropping it over the city, than it would using taxpayer money to build stadiums for private corporations

Mailey McLaughlin
Mailey McLaughlin

Study, schmudy! You can't expect politicians to read studies, can you? You can't expect them to do what is reasonable and sound with taxpayer money when kowtowing to billionaire sports teams is more lucrative for them. I mean, box seats, for God's sake!

Catherine West-Phelan
Catherine West-Phelan

Slime has a way of sticking together.... Braves front office and Tim Lee. At least Atlanta won't have to pay anymore to entertain Cobb Braves fans.

me2sam
me2sam

Pay a a lot for the wrapping paper but its the present inside that had better get a lot better.Going to be embarrassing to see those crowds of 14,000 at flashy Sun Trust Field....at least the gridlock won't be as bad as it would with sell out crowds.Look at the bright side.

midtown-Mark
midtown-Mark

Jay Bookman, you're sounding like a Tea Party type Republican with this opinion piece.  While I live in mid-town Atlanta, I think the Braves move to this particular part of Cobb County is a long-term win for both the city of Atlanta and the overall concept of regionalism for metro Atlanta.  I think the Turner Field area will be much better off 10 years down the road with Georgia State taking over than it ever could have been with the Braves remaining at that particular location.  As well, I see SunTrust Park greatly spurring the revitalization and urbanization of a part of Cobb County where large swaths of it had been in decline.  With the rate at which Cobb County is changing, don't be surprised to see Light Rail running

in the vicinity of The Galleria and SunTrust Park within 10 years. 10 - 15 years down the road, I wouldn't be surprised if we look back on Tim Lee as being a visionary and catalyst for Cobb Country feeling like they are an integral part of the city of Atlanta rather than being something separate from Atlanta.  I could be wrong, but I think this is the trend and I think that SunTrust Park will greatly accelerate that trend.   

Airdale
Airdale

@midtown-Mark You got to be kidding!  Do you actually believe the Braves will be playing in Cobb county in ten years?  They will be in another city or another stadium where they can find a sufficient number of fools to pay for it.

midtown-Mark
midtown-Mark

@Airdale @midtown-Mark  I've little doubt that the Braves will be playing at SunTrust Park for at least 30 years since that is the length of the lease that the Braves have agreed upon.  And if Light Rail is ultimately added to the area which I think has a good chance of happening within 10 years (15 at the latest), and with the ballpark being connected to a vibrant retail entertainment and office complex, then I think there is a good chance of the Braves remaining in this location for at least 50 years.  But more importantly, I think the potential is there for SunTrust Park to accelerate Cobb County feeling as if they are part of the city of Atlanta, rather than a separate entity which feels the need to feel as if they have to be walled off from the city of Atlanta.  That's my hope and I don't think it takes too much imagination to see how SunTrust Park could end up being one of the catalysts for this to happen sooner rather than later.     

Dis custed
Dis custed

@midtown-Mark You must be on Tim Lee's payroll. Between astro turf for every high school in the county, 30 years of Bond payments and the non stated interest that effectively doubles the size of the bond liability, the unfunded bridge and the decades of traffic congestion following around this the losing est organization in baseball. How about that $100,00 media spokesperson maybe she's mid-town Mark .

KUTGF
KUTGF

By some measures, the controversy surrounding "Trump University" is a helpful microcosm of a much broader problem. A group of people, impressed by Donald Trump's purported wealth, rallied behind a high-profile endeavor, only to discover that the rhetoric was hollow and Trump couldn't deliver on his grandiose promises.
__________

Do not look behind the curtain (or is it under the hair?).

KUTGF
KUTGF

@St Simons he-ne-ha @KUTGF The Trump sales scam book is going to be made public.  Should be fun.  These high pressure pitches are like Time Share sales.  Full  of nonsense and lies. 

I recall attending a few to help me understand a case I had with time share boats.  I actually heard the sales person say that each year the maintenance fees will increase "but this is good because it means that they are taking better care of the property."  The victims shook their heads yes and I asked....  "Isn't that just because the property has higher maintenance costs as it ages.  My car costs more to maintain each year..that does not mean I am taking better care of it...its just older."  Within minutes the manager asked me to meet with him in private.... and I was escorted out. 

KUTGF
KUTGF

@OldEngineer @KUTGF Eating non-existing Trump Steaks will help anyone lose weight....  I can't wait to eat imaginary Trump Lobster  :D

St Simons he-ne-ha
St Simons he-ne-ha

@KUTGF everybody's 'impressed' with the loud drunk that comes in a bar - or the loud braggart that comes on a blog - for a minute. That crap gets old, fast.

OldEngineer
OldEngineer

@St Simons he-ne-ha @KUTGF A wise ghost writer once noted that at some point one actually has to present something concrete or they will fail miserably from all the empty bluster. Art of the Deal.

gotalife
gotalife

Things are looking good for the next President Hillary R. Clinton.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@gotalife @DownInAlbany Like Trump leading in Oregon?  She will be president only in her head?  Kind of like being under sniper fire in Bosnia?

rimsky
rimsky

Trump called an ABC reporter "sleaze."/////

Is Twunt ever going to run a political campaign?

KUTGF
KUTGF

@rimsky Trump is still lying.  He said he gave $1 million.  His foundation gave money.  Trump personally did NOT give. 

Paul42
Paul42

@rimsky

It's his modus operandi:  get a critical question, attack the questioner and the employer.  Anything to avoid answering the question.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@rimsky So?  He was honest about the ABC reporter.  He told the truth.  That's one more time than Hillary has in the last 8 years.

Paul42
Paul42

@KUTGF

Which logic illustrates another Trump lie, that Hillary hasn't given to charity, as the Clinton Foundation has given tens of millions.

gotalife
gotalife

The gop can't govern so they fixate on checking junk.


Rewarding them with the only power you have is just plain ignorant.

InTheMiddle2
InTheMiddle2

The best part is that it seems to annoy you,

gotalife
gotalife

@InTheMiddle2 Annoy?
gop politics as usual. Same ole same ole bs.
 I just think it is ignorant to vote for them.