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Braves Lead the League in Getting Subsidized

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Mar 15, 2015; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; The Atlanta Braves logo painted on the field during a spring training baseball game at Champion Stadium. Photo: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

John Malone’s Liberty Media unit, Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves franchise, needs a new spring training home beginning in 2019 and may have found one in Sarasota County, Fla.

Malone’s franchise wants about $40 million in public subsidies to help pay for the project. Florida politicians are balking at helping to fund the proposed complex. They probably know that moving a spring training site within Florida does not bring new tourism money. It just takes the money somewhere else.

Malone has been very successful in getting new facilities built with a substantial amount of public subsidies for his baseball franchises including the Major League team that now operates in Cobb County, Ga., instead of Atlanta. Malone’s minor league teams in Pearl, Miss.; Rome, Ga.; and Gwinnett County, Ga. also have taxpayers funded stadiums.

Pearl has an AA minor league baseball team but building a baseball park may have contributed to Pearl’s financial difficulties but that’s not a Malone problem. Cobb County has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the new Braves stadium which is replacing a 20-year-old facility in Atlanta which was partially funded by taxpayers’ dollars for the 1996 Summer Olympics and repurposed into a baseball park.

The Collier County, Fla., Commission voted 5-0 against funding a Naples spring training home for Malone’s Braves. Collier’s Commissioners were concerned about the 92 percent 1986 tax code reform stadium problem. Under the right set of circumstances, an owner can get up to 92 cents out of every dollar generated in a stadium or arena leaving the local municipality needing to find other tax revenue sources to pay down the facility debt.

Sarasota County, Fla., is Liberty Media’s next target. Malone wants to leave Walt Disney World’s baseball park and be closer to a spring training cluster on either of Florida’s coasts as Orlando area based teams have fled for publicly subsided complexes elsewhere.

By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.

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