Judge Hears From Residents Seeking to Block Stadium Bonds

Jul 8, 2014

A Cobb County Superior Court judge could soon decide whether issuing up to $397 million dollars in revenue bonds for a new Atlanta Braves stadium in Cobb County is legal under state law. Judge Robert Leonard heard from several residents seeking to block the stadium bonds and attorneys who argued in their favor during a more than six hour hearing Monday.

Under an intergovernmental agreement, the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority would the issue bonds for a new stadium. Then the county would repay the authority. But about a dozen county residents intervened and asked Judge Leonard not to validate those bonds. One of them, Attorney Tucker Hobgood argued the agreement is illegal. He says that’s because public money is being used to pay for a stadium that will essentially be privately owned.

“The Braves have a 41,000 seat stadium with at least 6,000 parking spaces of their own. They have all the rights to the stadium property, the seats, everything. They can rip it out. They have an option at the end to buy it at 50 percent of the fair market value. The thing is completely tied down, so we submit it’s not a public building, it’s not for public use.”

But Attorneys for the county and the Authority said the intergovernmental agreement is legal. Kevin Moore represents the authority.

“The authority has the ability, and the power, and the authority to lease and license any or all of its facilities to private entities to assure efficient, proper development, maintenance and operation. It sounds exactly what’s happening here.”

Those who argue the agreement is illegal also subpoenaed Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee. On the stand, Lee said all the agreements for the stadium are self-explanatory. And this was Lee’s response when asked what public benefit he sees from the bond validation and the intergovernmental agreement:

“You asked me if I wanted to offer an explanation to that. The answer to that is no.”

Lee later said he agrees with the public benefits as laid out in a resolution authorizing the stadium project. Judge Leonard said he hopes to issue a decision by the end of the month. If Leonard says issuing the bonds is legal, those intervening say they plan to appeal. That could delay the stadium project.