Rome Braves officials and the Floyd County Commission signed off Thursday on a contract extension keeping the minor league team at State Mutual Stadium for up to 12 more years.
"This is Braves Country," said Jim Bishop, Rome Braves general manager. "We're proud to be here."
The amendment, effective Jan. 1, carries the agreement through 2025 with an option for the Braves to renew for another five years. County Manager Jamie McCord said the public-private partnership has been beneficial over the past 17 years.
"I don't know of another venue where a family of four can spend 30 bucks and get four tickets and four meals," McCord said. "It's for everyone ... and it's a regional draw."
The contract maintains most of the original provisions. The team handles daily upkeep and routine maintenance at the county-owned stadium and the county is responsible for major repairs, renovations and improvements.
Major changes include the county reimbursing the Braves up to $70,000 a year for uniformed police handling traffic and security. The Braves also will up their annual fee to $30,000 from $25,000. It's risen incrementally from the $15,000 set in 2003.
McCord noted that the county's spending has, so far, come solely from a separate stadium fund seeded with the fee, a share of season ticket sales and naming rights to the stadium.
A $2 million earmark in the 2017 special purpose, local option sales tax package provides money for a major upgrade — the first since the venue opened. The contract calls for the work to be done before the 2020 season begins.
"They're putting money into this, too," McCord said. "They haven't finished the architectural plans but, for example, we're expanding their clubhouse building and they're furnishing it."
Among the other items on the SPLOST list: enclosing the Terrace Level, building new group seating areas and improving the bathrooms, box office, main entrance and Gate 6 entryway. The Braves will replace the main scoreboard and audio system and add WiFi capability.
The county also is currently working on maintenance and repairs required under the contract before the Braves' April 11 home opener against the Greenville Drive. It's mostly painting, patching, landscaping and replacing the lighting with LEDs.
McCord said the money is coming from the stadium fund and the 2013 SPLOST, which contains earmarks for county energy efficiency and equipment purchases. The stadium fund had a balance of just over $50,000 at the end of 2018.
A bleak spot in the maintenance fund budget is the revenue from season ticket sales, which was down to $1,000 from a high of $123,857 in 2008. McCord pointed out that it had been rising yearly until the recession hit. The county's share dropped to $67,870 in 2009 and the decline has continued.
But a Braves initiative to boost the sales goes hand-in-hand with the stadium improvements, he added.
County Commissioner Rhonda Wallace and her husband Ronnie Wallace were among the original season ticket-holders. She said watching young players grow into major league material is part of the thrill.
Commissioners Larry Maxey and Wright Bagby joined Wallace and Commission Chair Scotty Hancock in approving the new contract.
"This extension is exciting for all of Rome-Floyd County and Northwest Georgia," Hancock said. "The level of talent the Braves showcase in Rome is unsurpassed."
During the past 16 years, the Rome Braves have captured two South Atlantic League Championships. Major league stars including Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies and Brian McCann all saw action at State Mutual Stadium.
A 15-month SPLOST approved by voters in 2001 raised $15 million to build the stadium, which opened in 2003. The contract was updated in 2011 to include the Braves Miracle Field of Rome, a specially constructed mini-stadium for Challenger League baseball.