GWCC approves framework for new Falcons stadium

by: WSBTV.com<\/a> web staff Updated:

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ATLANTA —

The deal between the Georgia World Congress Center to replace the Georgia Dome with a retractable roof stadium is a risk and reward proposition for the Atlanta Falcons and owner Arthur Blank.

In exchange for raising 70 percent of the $1 billion needed for a stadium the state would own, the team would take all the risks and receive all of the revenue from stadium events.

The state would receive only $2.5 million in rent, which would increase 2 percent each year for 30 years.

"I think it's a win for all of us," said team owner Arthur Blank. "It will make a difference on the west side of Atlanta for a long period of time; not just during construction and operating the facility, but over the next 10 to 15 years really changing people's lives."

The World Congress Center board voted to proceed with plans Monday morning.

"The public deserves to be fully informed and I think it's our job to inform the public on what a great deal this is for the state of Georgia," said chairman Tim Lowe.

Hotel/motel taxes would pay 30 percent of the cost.

"Eighty-six percent of that is paid for by people outside the state of Georgia. It's a natural way to pick up some piece of it," Blank said.

Falcons fans would also have to pay for the right to buy season tickets. The Falcons do not have a price tag on that, a device known as a personal seat license.

"If we could answer the question now we'd like to because we could put it behind us and people would be satisfied with the answers," said team president Rich McKay.

The stadium is expected to be complete by the 2017 NFL season.

Falcons officials told Channel 2 Sport Director Zach Klein the construction project would create, at minimum, 4,500 jobs and pour $400 million into the local economy.

"We don't need a new stadium today, but if we want to secure a home for the Falcons for the next 30 years and have a competitive environment, when the bonds are paid off in 2017, we need some type of answer," Blank said.

Under terms with the Georgia World Congress Center, the Falcons would operate the stadium under a 30-year license agreement and would be responsible for all of the stadium's operating expenses but would retain all revenue.

The plan for the new stadium states that once all events have transitioned to the new facility, the Georgia Dome would be demolished.

 

Stadium deal could get political

Channel 2's Lori Geary talked to lawmakers, and they said under a new deal, lawmakers would have to vote on increasing the Georgia World Congress Center credit limit by $100 million.

"You look at the deal Georgia is getting, over a $1 billion investment for $300 million that will come in from outside sources, not impacting all of Georgia  taxpayers -- that's a good deal," said Georgia Chamber CEO Chris Clark.


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That message is one that Clark and supporters of a new stadium will take to lawmakers come January.

Geary found some legislators are lukewarm to the idea of increasing the GWCC's borrowing power from $200 million to $300 million.

New stadium supporters point out those bonds would be backed by Atlanta's hotel/motel tax, paid by out-of-towners.

"We have been told by the authority that the taxpayers will not be liable for this," said state Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody.

"The reality is, if for some reason that tax does not generate the revenue expected, the state is on the hook for those dollars, and that's what we have to be careful about," state Rep. Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, minority leader.

"I'm for robust public-private partnerships, but we have to be very careful about the public funds that get invested. The jury is out on this deal," state Sen. Nan Orrock. D-Atlanta.

Many of the lawmakers Geary caught up with in Athens at their biennial convention said they're undecided.

But state Sen. Vincent Fort, an outspoken democrat from Atlanta, said he'll vote no.

"I didn't think the negotiations would be this secret, excluding the media and the public. I think it's a win-lose. I believe Arthur Blank and the Falcons are going to win, and the taxpayers are going to lose," Fort said.

"Keep in mind, the Falcons could go build a stadium somewhere else for $700 million; it could be a win-win," Milar said.

Members of the Atlanta Tea Party are gearing up to do battle on the issue at the capitol.

They released a statement Monday saying elected officials have to decide what's more important: building a new stadium for billionaire Arthur Blank, who can afford it himself, or transportation needs in Atlanta.

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