Council members weigh in on new stadium debate

by: Richard Elliot Updated:

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ATLANTA - One Atlanta City Council member went on the record Wednesday supporting the billion-dollar deal for a new Falcons stadium while others are questioning the plan. 

Council members met with representatives of the Atlanta Falcons, the Georgia World Congress Center, Invest Atlanta and the mayor’s office Wednesday to dig deeper into the deal for the new stadium. Under the current plan, the Falcons would pick up $800 million of the construction costs while the city would pick up the remaining $200 million through bonds backed by the hotel-motel tax.

The Falcons have said that once their lease is up in 2017, they plan to play in a new stadium. Falcons CEO Rich McKay said building a new stadium is a far better idea than refurbishing the old one. New-stadium supporters estimate refurbishing the Georgia Dome could cost an average of $400 million.

"We're trying to create a long-term solution to the end of our lease," said McKay. "We've looked at people who have created short-term deals to the end of their lease and most of them have turned out badly."

Atlanta Councilman Lamar Willis came out for the new stadium, saying either the city will be on the hook for $400 million to refurbish or $200 million for new construction. "The average number is $400 million (to renovate)," said Willis. "The impact on the investment from taxpayers as it stands right now from the hotel-motel tax is $200 million. So when I look at it, to me, there's a net savings to taxpayers of about 200 million.”

Atlanta Councilman Kwanza Hall still wants to look more closely at the deal and examine the fine print. He'd also like to see the deal tied to some kind of community development of the neighborhoods around the proposed stadium and the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District.

"We just built (the Georgia Dome), and it really didn't change the neighborhood," said Hall. "We all drive down Northside Drive and we see what we see. So that raises a question: what are we going to do bigger and better to cause a positive impact to happen in West Atlanta?"

The City Council will vote on whether to authorize the use of the hotel-motel tax for the stadium at a later date. It did schedule a public hearing at Atlanta City Hall next Wednesday at 6 p.m.

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