The Braves AA team has played for 20 years in Greenville, SC. They played in Municipal Stadium under the following terms: no rent, with all revenue from tickets, concessions, parking, and souvenirs going to the Braves. Not bad, but the stadium is old, and attendance was on the wane. So it was time to "listen to competing proposals," as Bud Selig, in reference to the Expos, said on ESPN2 last night. That is, run an auction among political entities to see who'll provide the best bag of goodies.
Greenville came up with an $18 million proposal, based on the following principles: the stadium "must promote economic growth downtown," "not use residential property taxes," and "not jeopardize the city's bond rating," while allowing "the Braves to keep enough revenue to operate a team in Greenville."
Sensible enough. But a competing proposal, to use Selig's term, was sufficient for the Braves to divorce themselves from Greenville. The G-Braves will become the Mississippi Braves next season and play their games in Pearl, just east of Jackson. The $25 million stadium in Pearl is part of a $55 million complex planned by Bloomfield Properties. The twin pillars of the project are the stadium and a 125,000 square foot Bass Pro Shops. The state is providing $7.5 million in tax rebates for the stadium. Also reported are $8.2 million in incentives for the overall project, and the usual infrastructure work.
The stadium is reported to be "privately financed," although this raises the question of how the returns to private financing will be realized. Regardless, it is clear that state-level subsidies are central to the Pearl project. In a political competition between the city of Greenville and the state of Mississippi to subsidize stadium construction, the winner is obvious. Citizens of Greenville may rue the loss of the Braves, but the price of keeping them appears to have been too high.
Nearby Jackson had its own AA team until 1999, when it moved to new digs - apparently very nice ones at that - in Round Rock, Texas. Now its Greenville's turn to feel the sadness, though its a safe bet the city will find a team before long. There are plenty of teams around, including an independent league team in Jackson who will soon be looking for a new home. The game of musical chairs continues. Who's the winner, Bud?