There’s a lot more riding on the line for Arthur Blank than a Super Bowl bid when the Falcons meet the 49er’s this weekend. Already, talks are underway about the Falcons franchise demands for a modern stadium that would feature the newest in retractable roof technology and amenities.
Of course, simply talking about a new stadium has already raised concerns from various groups and many citizens of Atlanta and Fulton County. Some of these concerns are not without merit and before the legislative body votes on a stadium proposal, I think it would be wise to lay out the arguments both for and against the new Falcons Stadium.
The new Falcon Stadium would be located near the old Georgia Dome site on the Georgia World Congress Center plaza. Building this new stadium would be funded by a public/private option where the Fulton and Atlanta Hotel Bed Tax sees a portion of its revenues appropriated towards construction and the raising of the GWCCA bond limit for borrowing towards projects such as the stadium.
This new stadium would then be built with a license given for its use to the Falcons with an optional renewal clause. The old Georgia Dome would then be demolished and the space used for other GWCCA projects and parking. By 2017, the Falcons stadium would be ready to play in with a projected life span of 25+ years (Around the average for stadium lifespans in the US, at least for football. They’re not looking to build another Fenway.)
I’ve heard from constituents and those in Atlanta of a couple issues that present themselves in building a new stadium- the foremost being that we just don’t need it. While it’s true that the GA Dome is a perfectly fine and serviceable stadium , Arthur Blank has made it clear that he wants a retractable-roof arena and is willing to shop around to get one if Atlanta isn’t willing to play ball.
Only Blank knows if he’d make good to on his word and leave if it’s not built and I know this angers a lot of people. Nobody likes the idea of being held hostage by a sports team and I don’t either. Unfortunately, I also am not keen on unilateral disarmament. Currently, hate it or not, this is the way the game is played when it comes to sports teams.
If Atlanta isn’t willing to play, another up and coming metropolis will. Houston had this issue in the 90’s and it ended up being far more expensive for them in the long run. Even if it seems like a low thing to do, it happens and we would have to weigh the price of having no competitive team or venue in Atlanta if this were to happen.
The issue of cost is a serious concern for many, including myself. As it sits, the new stadium would cost $948 million dollars, to be covered by hotel tax levies, GWCCA bonds and the Falcons Franchising licenses and revenue. As a joint public/private option, the public is protected from a majority shareholders liability in the project.
An all private stadium construction simply isn’t viable in our circumstances. Likewise, an all public option would leave the taxpayers on the hook for too much. Right now, this partnership looks to be the best way to proceed if the new Stadium is approved. The project is expensive and that isn’t going to change. Some of the most compelling arguments are that these taxes could be used for educational funding or to offset budgetary cuts.
This is doable in theory, but unlikely that it would pass the state legislative body and more unlikely that it would be used outside of Fulton and Atlanta. Those hoping to use Fulton county taxes to boost Gwinnett and Dekalb schools would be sorely disappointed, even if the new stadium isn’t built.
In all, the Falcons Stadium presents us with few real options. It’s either say no and watch a major franchise team leave the state or city, taking its benefits with it, or say yes and commit to a massive project which will use resources that are spread-thin in this economy.
While I am not sure this is the right way for America’s pro teams to approach its host cities in regards to stadium construction, I also know that if we say no, it’s not going to change the system. We will have disarmed unilaterally only to watch neighboring cities snap up the opportunity to bring in the tourism and jobs the stadium creation would bring.
I know it may feel forced and dirty, but saying yes to the Falcon stadium might be our best option.