Fund Says Atlanta Braves Stiffed It On Parking Fees

ATLANTA (CN) –  A community fund established to benefit residents living near Turner Field, the soon-to-be former home of the Atlanta Braves, claims in court the team failed to share promised parking fee revenue, shortchanging area nonprofits by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The agreement at the center of the dispute dates back to 1993. The stadium was built for use during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, after which it would be converted for use as a Major League Baseball stadium.

To offset the impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods of Summerhill, Mechanicsville and Peopletown, the S.M. P. Community Fund was established to receive and distribute a percentage of the parking fees from the facility and provide them, in turn, to area nonprofits serving the communities.

The Braves are now in the process of building a new stadium, SunTrust Park, in Cobb County, Georgia. It scheduled to be the team’s home commencing with the 2017 season.

But the team’s departure from Turner Field has not been without controversy.

Earlier this year, the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority, which operates the Turner Field sports complex, accused the team of short-changing the community fund. The dispute became public knowledge in September, after Atlanta’s 11Alive News secured internal documents that revealed the two entities being at odds for months over a number of issues.

But the biggest dispute of all was over parking for special events that take place at Turner Field when the Braves aren’t playing – but when the Braves still collect parking revenue.

According to 11Alive News, Atlanta’s NBC affiliate, the recreation authority said the Braves should have turned 50 percent of that revenue over to the community fund, but only paid it eight percent.

In a complaint filed in Fulton County State Court on December 30, the community fund uses slightly different numbers, but the result — a shortfall in owed revenue — is the same.

According to the fund, the agreement included covered parking lots, plazas ramps and walkways, and the Braves were to pay 8.25 percent of the gross revenues received from parking at Turner Field.

“The intent of the community fee shall be for purpose of benefiting the neighborhoods in which the Baseball Complex is situated or which are otherwise affected by the Olympic Stadium, as ­the authority shall determine,” the complaint says.

In addition, 25 percent of net ticket revenues for special events held at the ballpark were to go to “to “such entity as directed by the authority for community purposes as contemplated for the community fee.”

“Despite this contractual obligation, since at least 2010, Defendants have failed to make such payments in full,” the lawsuit says. “In particular, Defendants have mis-counted the number of parking spaces and so understated the percentage payable under Section 12.8 for the community fee for parking.”

“Additionally, Defendants have held special events which were reported as gratuitous when in fact fund(s) were collected,” it continues.

According to the complaint, the Braves also mischaracterized net ticket revenue as parking revenue and rented parking facilities to third parties “for in-kind benefits that were not accounted for a net ticket revenue on those special events.”

“All of these resulted in at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid community fees, directly damaging community fund, in an amount to be proven at trial,” the lawsuit says.

S.M.P. is represented by Peter Coffman of Atlanta.

Representatives for the Braves were not immediately available for comment.