AJC Article: Braves Parking Solution

Braves take a step toward solving parking problems in Cobb

By Dan Klepal and J. Scott Trubey – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Braves have taken a major step toward solving a vexing question about their new Cobb County stadium: where fans will park.

The team announced Thursday that it has entered into an agreement to purchase a 9.5-acre plot of land about a half mile from the SunTrust Park that will be largely dedicated to parking.

Parking had emerged as a major problem for the stadium, after the Cobb Galleria turned down the Braves’ request to lease some of the 5,500 parking spaces there and the Cumberland Mall raised a concern over fans hijacking some of its 5,000 parking spaces. Because of that and other concerns, the mall has filed an appeal of the county’s issuance of a stadium building permit.

Braves officials would not say how much they paid for the land, how much parking they will build on the site, and if those expenses will be part of the team’s $230 million commitment toward stadium construction — or whether the land and parking will be paid for by the team separately.

Commission Chairman Tim Lee also declined to answer the question of whether the new purchase and parking will be part of the Braves existing commitment to the stadium. Instead, he referred the question to a Braves’ spokeswoman.

“The $230 million is a hard cost we’ve committed to building the ballpark, which could include some of the parking,” said Mike Plant, the Braves executive vice president of business operations. “I don’t feel it’s beneficial or useful for us to get into an in-depth discussion about where our finances are going with hard and soft costs. It’s just not something we’re going to answer with specifics at this time.”

The county has committed $368 million toward stadium construction — although it will actually borrow up to $397 million to cover issuance costs and the initial 15 months of interest. The county will use $6.1 million in annual rent payments from the team to help pay off that debt over 30 years.

The Braves are buying the land from Genuine Parts Company, which is moving after expressing concern that their employees will be inconvenienced by traffic congestion caused by the stadium and a parking garage the Braves plan to build across from their site.

In fact, a Genuine Parts Company attorney said at a July 15 hearing on the Braves rezoning that the proposed parking garage was “massive” and would create an “unmanageable situation … that will significantly harm Genuine Parts Company and its employees.”

A Fortune 500 parent company of auto parts giant NAPA, Genuine Parts has occupied the site and building as its headquarters since 1979. Last month, the company announced it would build a new headquarters on the east side of I-75 in the Wildwood area, where the company has another facility.

Tom Gallagher, chairman and CEO of Genuine Parts, said in a prepared statement the move “will create a corporate campus feel for all of our associates. We are pleased that our longtime home will help expand the footprint of the Braves development and help to enhance the fan experience.”

The purchase will bring the total amount of land controlled by the Braves in the Cumberland area to more than 90 acres.

Plant would not say if team plans to build surface lots, parking garages or a combination of the two on the land. He did say that it would not be part of the team’s planned mixed-use development, meaning they are not planning to build shopping or restaurants on the site.

The cost of surface and deck parking can vary widely depending on local codes, property costs, site preparation, landscaping and efforts to promote environmental sustainability.

Surface parking can cost $3,000 to $5,000 per space, said Roamy Valera, a senior vice president with SP+ Corp., a major parking company. A surface lot on the Braves’ new parcel, using industry standards, could accommodate between 1,800 to 2,100 spaces, he said.

Parking garages are considerably more expensive, but permit the developer to stack floors of cars. Above ground garage parking can cost $12,000 to $15,000 per space in a relatively clear development site in a suburban setting, Valera said.

Rachel Yoka, vice president of program development for industry trade group International Parking Institute, said costs for surface and deck parking can be influenced significantly by a community’s architectural or landscaping requirements. Many companies are also seeking sustainable features, such as chargers for electric vehicles, bike sharing capabilities and solar panels or “green” roofs that can make properties more attractive.

Plant said the parking plan for the site ultimately will be released as part of the team’s overall parking and transportation plan for the entire development.

“We don’t want to get into a release of segments of the parking plan without a release of the overall parking plan,” Plant said. “We haven’t even started selling tickets yet. We’re opening in April of 2017. … We’ll release the entire parking plan at the right time when it is fully developed.”

The Braves also announced Thursday that it has signed a long-term sponsorship extension with NAPA, which has partnered with the Braves since the team moved to Turner Field in 1997 — a deal that currently includes the NAPA brand presence on the main video board.

Schiller, the Braves executive, said the sponsorship extension and the land buy were negotiated separately. He would not say what the new sponsorship deal entails, saying those details will be released closer to the stadium’s opening.