Cheesecake Factory Bridge Another Sign Cobb County is Out of Its League

Tim Lee is fixated on the idea of combining his love of Oreo Cheesecake and baseball. And he’s willing to mislead to get that sweet mixture of sugar and leather.

The first time Tim Lee talked about his beloved Cheesecake Factory bridge he said it was included in the the cost of building the stadium in Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Braves and Cobb County. You don’t have to be competent county commissioner to know how unlikely that was, as we suggested in a post reviewing the MOU around a year ago:

“It is safe to say that this bridge, though specifically stated as being part of the the overall costs in the MOU, has not been budgeted.” Turns out that was correct.

Cobb County let the Atlanta Regional Commission, which specifically stated that the traffic plans the County submitted would not work at all without people circulators (read as trolleys, trams, or buses), that they would be tapping Cobb’s share of federal transit funds to fund 50% of the construction cost. Cobb County taxpayers would be responsible for the other half. That was in June.

But in July when asked if tax money would go toward the bridge construction, Tim Lee responded “Probably not. No. I doubt it,” Lee responded. “I doubt it seriously.”

Right about that time, Cobb decided to abandon the circulators, and just try to build a elevated sidewalk across the highway. The plans for this bridge indicate its length to be between 1,000 and 1,700 feet. Marta had to build an elevated walkway over Ga. 400 awhile back and it cost $32 million. Cobb budgets $9 million for theirs, despite it being 4 times as long. Oh, and according to the AJC: “the plan is to run I-75 managed lanes underneath, with the bridge providing pedestals to support future Revive I-285 lanes overhead.” That’s right, they are now building not just a Cheesecake Factory bridge, but a Cheesecake Factory bypass as well.

There is no way they can build that for $9 million. To suggest otherwise is to continue to mislead the people that actually have to pay for it.

 

58 comments

  1. ATLBlazer says:

    Somebody is going to have to find money for the bridge because there is no way there will be enough parking on the ballpark side of 285.

    Hopeful thinking that won’t happen but would be nice: Braves pony up the money for the bridge. In addition to pedestrian the bridge should have bike lanes and some form of lite rail. Unfortunately this wont happen as Portland just finished construction on one which cost $134M. There’s no way that will happen which means there’s no way parking is going to be easy at the new ballpark.

    • Baker says:

      “Braves pony up the money for the bridge” Hahahahaha.

      Why pay for the bridge when you can buy off a couple politicians for so much less? Or even free really as empty promises of economic utopia don’t cost anything.

      • bgsmallz says:

        Elevators are for Marta and Outkast…but not this bridge it appears. That would be a big difference in cost from the 400 bridge which had two sets of elevators and escalators.

        But yeah, it’s going to be a mess and wayyyy over budget and if Cobb drops the tram they are dumb.

  2. Ellynn says:

    Only $ 9 Million. That might cover the cost of a set of precast pre-stressed concrete horizontally curved bridge beams for 4 lanes widths. Not sure how he’s going to pay for the structure and ground achnoring them, or the road and fill leading to them. Or the labor. Or the engineer firm to design it. But he will have some nice beams.

  3. notsplost says:

    The chances of this stadium being ready for opening day 2017 are about the same as the Braves winning the next 3 world series.

    If I’m Kasim Reed, I’m playing hardball when the Braves come back begging for a 1 year extension at Turner Field.

    • Charlie says:

      The site work has been going on for months. While I will make no claims that all the additional buildings/restaurants will be complete as I don’t know their progress, I’m curious as to how you determine that a stadium can’t be constructed in 29 months?

      • Chamblee says:

        If you build it, they will come – at least until fans realize that a stadium surrounded by interstate parking lots won’t be well attended (at least until the 7th inning). Arts center, transfer to a bus and sit on 75N? No thanks.

        • TheEiger says:

          What are you talking about? As a season ticket holder I can’t wait for the Braves to come to Cobb. Most people drive their cars anyway. That’s why they brought the stadium to where the people are. Also, how many times have you taken MARTA from Chamblee to downtown to wait for a crowded bus to take you to the game and then do it all over again on the way home? I personally like to get in my car and drive myself.

          • Stefan says:

            The Braves get the lion share of the parking revenue. Their plan seems to be to have 10k spaces in the development, and then lease unused parking that belongs to businesses around it and resell those for more parking.

            The AJC pours cold water on the assumption that surrounding businesses will give up their parking to attendees, so that parking scarcity will drive up the cost per space. Since that is where the real ROI is, the Braves won’t advocate or pay for any real alleviation of that problem. Expect the cost of parking to be much more than the cost of a ticket. It is ~$15 at Turner Field where there aren’t competing uses and there is plenty of parking. Think about how much it will be when parking is scarce AND the available parking has a competing use.

            • TheEiger says:

              You guys will whine about everything. Don’t go to Braves game. Good god. I’ll be there for the opening game. And I’ll be happy that I didn’t drive through down town during rush hour to get there. Beers are expensive, parking is expensive. Hot dogs cost more than if you bought them at the store. Stay at home and watch the Braves on TV.

                • TheEiger says:

                  Okay. I’ll take that. I don’t have to drive downtown and sit in traffic for an hour and a half. You guys do realize that people that actually go to the games like the idea of a new stadium.

                  Stefan, your office is what half a mile from the stadium? How many games did you go to last year after work?

                  Baker, not sure where you are from, but I guarantee I went to more games. Some people like this idea. And whether you all want it to move to Cobb county or not the stadium is coming.

                  • Stefan says:

                    Well, last year was a bit abnormal for me, but I generally go to a decent number per year. I generally walk there, and truthfully, I prefer the businessman’s specials that start at noon, but I digress.

                    My point isn’t that fans don’t like the idea of a new stadium. My point is that you can’t know whether you are in favor of something if much of the information you have about it is incorrect. In the above case with Mr. Lee, perhaps intentionally so. Based on the parking numbers, baseball in Atlanta will either become a luxury good or one heavily subsidized by taxpayers. Or both.

                  • Baker says:

                    I live about 4 miles from the old stadium. And I moved there because part of the reason I liked the area was the proximity to things that capital cities offer its residents, like the stadium, the botanical garden etc…

                    I don’t have to get into a pissing contest with you about how many games you went to. I used to go to quite a number. For all I know you’re a groundskeeper who lives in Cobb and is jazzed about a shorter commute. I will say that last year I would’ve gone to zero games but a friend of mine did not realize I was serious when I said I’d never go to another game. I don’t see him very often so I went when he got us tickets to one.

                    And regarding Stefan’s point below: “Based on the parking numbers, baseball in Atlanta will either become a luxury good or one heavily subsidized by taxpayers. Or both.”

                    Yet another in the myriad of problems I have with taxpayer funding of stadiums. You’re taking tax money out of the public coffers and putting it into the pockets of millionaires and billionaires so that those that can afford luxury goods frequently have a 5% better time. And while you’re at it, it all gets more expensive so us regular folk have a harder time going to many instances of said sport.

                    If this whole thing blows up in everyone’s faces, not the gas pipe, I’m thinking the development portion of the agreement, it is going to be great. Maybe the next time a billionaire or billion dollar corporation comes to the public asking for money they won’t get it…but who am I kidding, of course they will. Politicians are easily fooled by this little gambit apparently.

          • Max Power says:

            Except for anyone who say lives in Gwinnett county because trying to come around 285 in the afternoon is a fools errand.

              • Baker says:

                Maybe if it was located somewhere centrally. Somewhere that is kind of equidistant for fans in Athens & Carrollton, fans in Gwinnett and Cobb. For fans in Macon and Dahlonega. I have no idea where that might be but maybe someday we’ll find it.

                • TheEiger says:

                  It’s in the place that asked them to come. Cobb County. Just like the reason Delta is in Atlanta and Kia is in Columbus. People and government officials wanted them there so they are there. I would have preferred that the Braves moved to the old GM plant, but I understand why they would have no desire to deal with Dekalb county or poor old Doraville.

      • Max Power says:

        Last time I drove buy, they were still rerouting the gas pipeline. BTW: Here’s a terrible idea build a sports stadium right over a gas pipeline there was a reason that area was undeveloped.

      • notsplost says:

        I haven’t driven by the site lately, but I’ve seen no evidence of any site work beyond clearing land and relocating pipelines. If you compare this project with the Falcons stadium, where concrete has been poured, cranes are clearly visible and the work is well beyond the “design” phase, it is hard to draw any other conclusion.

        Plus there is the little problem that the bonds to finance construction can’t be issued until February 2015 at the earliest due to a pending GA supreme court case. They’ve already agreed to hear the appeal and assuming they don’t overturn the lower court ruling, it could still be April or May of 2015 before any final ruling is issued.

        So cut that 29 month estimate down to 24 or less. Can a first class MLB stadium be built in that tight of a timeline? I’m not sure, but it certainly looks like we’re going to find out.

      • Baker says:

        “Kasim has already been playing hardball with the Braves, hence the move to Cobb.”

        Yes, kind of. The feeling I get is that the mayor’s office, because apparently they can’t add or multiply, ignored the team with 81 home games in favor of the team with 8 home games.

        The hardball political players here, with plenty of incompetence thrown in, was the Fulton County Commission and the Recreation Authority (with some City Council influence surely).

  4. Harry says:

    The Braves will suck at baseball for as long as they are owned by a nonlocal corporate interest who is not interested in spending money for quality players. If they don’t have quality players, they won’t make the playoffs and I won’t be buying tickets.

  5. saltycracker says:

    No problem – all aka 100% of public projects produce forecasts to meet what the planners want.
    This is fixable, make it a proposed toll footbridge and forecast millions of walkers (or higher parking revenues).

  6. DunwoodyModerate says:

    It will get done because it has to get done but I’m at a complete loss to see how the parking situation will be better than it is at Turner Field. Not one major office complex or Cumberland Mall has agreed to allow any stadium parking which is where most of the mythical “10,000” parking spaces Cobb keeps saying would be available were supposed to come from. There will be some underground parking at SunTrust Park but its not going to be available to the typical fan who goes to a handful of games a year, it strictly going to be for the suite holders and season ticket holders who pay big for it. And now there won’t be circulators to get people from one side of the Perimeter to the other even if there was parking available. So….yeah. Granted I almost always have gone to weekend games at Turner Field, but I’ve never had an issue getting a space at one of the Turner Field lots and it wasn’t a very far walk to the stadium.

  7. I think there might be a large amount of parking available near Downtown Atlanta outside some large sports complex. I forget the name but I’m sure it’ll come back to me.

    • Will Durant says:

      Yeah, a whole lotta’ parking that was needed because the city & county wanted the parking revenue over putting a train stop there.

  8. Dave Bearse says:

    Walking or shuttling from MARTA to Turner Field is so popular with Braves fans that Cobb County and the Braves are incorporating that into Sun Trust Field, as well as expanding the number of fans that will enjoy it.

  9. androidguybill says:

    When the Braves left for Cobb County, Kasim Reed told them “welcome to the burden of helping to provide infrastructure for the entire region (and many instances the state) that Atlanta has borne by itself all these decades.” He also predicted that this would ultimately get MARTA into Cobb.

    I agree 100%. As an Atlanta resident and taxpayer, I am glad that the Braves are in Cobb. First, the decision to choose the Falcons over the Braves was the right one, as the new Falcons stadium will be a multi-purpose facility that will also be used for other major sporting events (i.e. major college football games, NCAA regionals and Final Fours, major soccer events) plus a ton of conventions and other non-sporting events. The folks who claimed that the new facility “wasn’t needed” were ignoring how newer, better facilities in Charlotte and Texas were drawing more and more of these events away from Atlanta, which is no longer anywhere near the #1 destination for conventions and events that it was in the 1990s. Second, Atlanta obviously did not have the resources to mollify both the Braves and Falcons. Keeping the Braves would have cost over half a billion dollars while not providing any real benefit to the city other than the revenue from the Braves’ games themselves, which isn’t nearly as much as everyone thinks. Instead, the city will get to use that money to meet other infrastructure needs. Oh yes, and it gets to replace Turner Field – which actually hindered efforts to gentrify – excuse me redevelop and revitalize – that area with a mixture of private development and a second campus for Georgia State. The GSU portion alone will be a 1/3 of a billion investment (as opposed to Atlanta having to SPEND that much), will allow GSU to significantly increase their enrollment (and accompanying faculty/staff) and will actually bring in more revenue to Atlanta than “81 home Braves games!” will.

    Meanwhile, because the Braves’ being located in Cobb will result in generally higher attendance and lots of new (public and private) economic development, their relocation will be a much bigger economic boon to that area than it would have been for Atlanta. Which is good for them. Honestly, they actually need it, as Cobb has long been surpassed in economic and political influence by Gwinnett anyway, has been dealing with growing problems associated with “urban” areas like increasing poverty and crime and declining performance in some of their schools, and some high-paying employers (i.e. tech and other sectors) are leaving Cobb for other places in the metro area (or leaving Georgia entirely) plus everyone knows that we won’t be able to protect the defense-related jobs in Cobb forever. So the Braves will provide jobs – and ultimately transit! – for some of their low wage workers as well as give Cobb a badly needed shot in the arm and something to drive local development efforts.

    Yes, Tim Lee misled people in order to get this done. Call it the local version of “if you like your doctor you can keep him.”
    But consider this:
    A) if Cobb hadn’t stepped up to keep the Braves they might have left the metro area entirely (seriously I am not making this up; the Braves did send feelers out to Charlotte)

    B) Cobb really had no other options. Employers and the workers that employers need were either moving downtown, further out into the suburbs or out of the state entirely, and their Cold War era military-industrial complex was only destined for further rounds of cutbacks. They have been losing jobs, both to other places in the metro area and out of state, for awhile now and not doing a very good job of replacing them because they had little to offer that other suburban areas (both in metro Atlanta and in other states) do not. (Case in point: look at all the major movie studios being built or planned in the metro area. Not one is headed to Cobb.) Now they do. So while losing the Braves stinks for Atlanta, it will help Cobb much more than it hurts Atlanta. (Actually, I think that the GSU expansion will help Atlanta more than losing the Braves would hurt, but even if you were simply going to turn Turner Field into a parking lot – Atlanta DOES need more parking downtown! – it would still be true … Cobb would be helped far more than Atlanta would be hurt).

    So let them build their stadium, their bridge and whatever else they need and support them. It will be good for Cobb, good for the metro area, and down the line good for Atlanta.

    • notsplost says:

      A couple of problems with your argument:

      1. Cobb isn’t an economic engine for the region, it’s more of a caboose. It’s still largely a bedroom community, particularly in East Cobb where a lot of the tax base and better public schools are.

      2. Most peer-reviewed academic studies show little if any economic benefits arise from professional sports stadiums. It’s likely that the positive game day boost to sales taxes will be neutralized by increased costs to pay for police and infrastructure improvements, and offset by sales tax losses in other parts of the county that will not benefit from the stadium traffic.

      • John Konop says:

        The wild card is we need infrastructure improvements prior to the stadium. This project which I did not support via some of the above issues you pointed out as well as others….may force hands on dealing with transportation….Which I did not think about when this issue came up….

  10. DavidTC says:

    There’s exactly one question you should be asking yourself about this: Why are these contracts always set up so that *taxpayers* pay the cost overruns? Always. Without exception.

    If the people signing the contracts (on both sides) actually *thought* the thing would cost X million for the government, and Y for the government, the contract would actually be in the form of a *loan*. For a fixed amount. Then the damn *Braves* could build the stadium, not the county.

    What *should* be happening here is a headline saying ‘Braves suddenly realize stadium will cost them more than expected, forced to spend millions more adding footbridge’. Not a single word about Cobb County.

    It should not be up to Cobb County to pay *a single dime of anything*, except a specific dollar amount written out when the contract was signed…period. Cobb Country will provide X million dollars and land, that’s it. The Braves *themselves* build a stadium and obviously get to play there for free, and *they* can rent the stadium out to other people. After X years, or if the Braves leave, the stadium reverts to the county. (And if the Braves are still there, the county promise to keep leasing it to them.)

    But no. That’s never how it works. Every single aspect of every single stadium deal is always completely bull. *Always*. The people building stadiums always negotiate in bad faith, and the local government *deliberately* plays along, because everyone *knows* it’s going to cost more than before, and all sorts of problems will crop up, and the government will keep spending and spending.

    Stop privatizing the profit and socializing the risk. MAKE THE TEAMS TAKE ON THE RISKS AND COST-OVERRUNS!

    Likewise, why on earth would the county assume it would make money renting parking spaces? Those parking lots are *owned*. Why would they decide to let the local government make money from their parking lot…if the government can make $10 a space per a game *and* pay the company to lease the lot, obviously the company could rent out the spaces themselves and keep another $10. Or some third-party could come along, lease the lot from the business for slightly more, and only aim for $7 a space profit. (It’s amazing how a bunch of Republicans forgot how the free market works.)

    Actual answer: The county wanted to make the stadium look cheaper, so made up complete nonsense about inserting themselves as middle-men in parking, with no rational reason that would actually happen.

    • Baker says:

      Cobb should make Tim Lee pay for all this but they won’t because when most voters step into that booth, they think “Hey he brought us the Braves”. They don’t know or care to know all of which you just laid out. It’s really sad and illustrative of why we have so many problems beyond just this foolishness.

    • Harry says:

      Don’t blame Republicans. Tim Lee is a Republican in Name Only. If the demographics were different he’d be a Democrat.

      • Baker says:

        I dont think David or myself mentioned Republicans at all. If that’s how it came off, trust me, my righteous anger at taxpayer funding of pro sports stadiums is equally split amongst some cowardly Republicans in the legislature (who shoved off the Falcons funding issue over to the city) and some corporatist Democrats (the absolute worst kind of politician for my money) in Atlanta’s city hall. In the Cobb case, most of the politicians involved are Republican so in that case, my anger is focused their way.

        I definitely believe you about Tim Lee. He seems like he’ll say just about anything.

        • Harry says:

          David said, “It’s amazing how a bunch of Republicans forgot how the free market works.” I was taking exception. It’s only some Republicans, not all of us.

          • Baker says:

            “It’s only some Republicans” I agree completely and that’s why I hate it when people say there is no difference between the two parties. Alas, here in Georgia we seem to have an extra share of the forgetful variety…and a lot of them are in pretty prominent spots. Very prominent.

          • Michael Silver says:

            Harry, I disgree.

            Tim Lee is the prototype Republican: the type that pushes the “right” big government solution such as TARP, Patriot Act, drug benefits, 18 Trillion debt, Amnesty/Legalization.

            A Republican isn’t a Conservative. Conservatives are a minor voting block inside the larger Party of Government

            • Harry says:

              I am encouraged by the turnout of the little people in the election, and also encouraged by the power of the internet that gives conservatives the chance to make an end-run around legacy NY/DC/FCC media. Traditionally, the GOP is conservative. The corporate/statist RINOs know they need us and I hope are smart enough to realize they’re not held in high regard, and will work better with us in the upcoming congress and legislature. Obviously quite a few of them are Dems anyway, contribute to Dems, and that’s their choice.

      • DavidTC says:

        I wasn’t trying to blame the Republicans specifically for the deal, I was blaming them for additional dumbness of the parking plan. Or, rather, ignoring it.

        The plan is that Cobb County government claims to somehow be able to ‘make money’ from privately owned parking spaces, a plan that makes no sense at all.

        Businesses are actually going to respond one of three ways: 1) We do not allow outside entities into our parking deck at all for security reasons, 2) We’re hiring some extra people and going to rent out our parking spaces ourselves, 3) Jim’s Parking has offered to come in and manage our parking lot and a bunch of other lots in the area and will give us a larger cut of the profit than you offer.

        The Republican party, the party *supposedly* in favor of the free market solving all problems, should have, you know, realized this dumbness. You can’t just *expect* to make money off other people’s property.

        And, strangely, this plan is hilariously backwards of how conservatives keep pushing thing. 90% of the time, they want to *privatize* government services…I can easily imagine them taking a government-owned parking lot and hiring a third party to manage the parking and taking a cut of the profits. Yet, somehow, here, to make the thing look cheaper, they’ve proposed doing *exactly the opposite*, where the government steps in and run privately-owned lots.

        What the hell, Republicans?

        Here’s an idea for the leadership of Cobb County: If the government needs more money, instead of trying to start up an absurd random business *middle-manning* parking spaces and hoping that the owners of those parking places play along, you could just, I dunno, *collect some taxes*. Hell, since it’s to cover the cost of the stadium, how about you tax *that*?

        Oh, right. You can’t do that because you needed to pretend this deal would cost less than it does. The same reason you didn’t bother to figure out how to get people *to* the stadium.

  11. seenbetrdayz says:

    I think a zip-line would be much cheaper. No safety harness. Just high enough to clear 18-wheelers. Waivers in case of accidents. Probably could be built for around $1,000.

    And it would be more exciting to watch people attempt the crossing than to watch the Braves. And cheaper.

  12. Ghost of William F. Buckley says:

    All of y’all are way off base here.

    Stefan takes the cake for the Best Headline on PP Ever: “Cheesecake Factory Bridge Another Sign Cobb County is Out of Its League”

    This is the biggest insider land deal in the history of insider land deals and no stinkin’ bridge is gonna spoil that.

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