Mount Vernon Baptist Church votes to sell land for new stadium

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ATLANTA - Members of Mount Vernon Baptist Church voted Thursday night to approve the sale of the church so the city can proceed with the construction of a new Atlanta Falcons stadium.

Channel 2's Tony Thomas was there as church members overwhelmingly approved the sale, but a few vocal opponents said their house of worship shouldn't be torn down for a modern-day cathedral -- an NFL stadium.

"I think it's an abomination in the sight of God for the city and the Falcons to consider bringing down two historic black churches for a stadium for a second-rate football team," said longtime member Vickie Johnson.

"Sixty-seven years I've been here, that's a heartbreaker," said church member Gladys Morris.

But the church members voted 116 to 16 to accept the $14.5 million buyout.

"We have enough to build another church and start again," Damon Brittain told Thomas.

Under the plan, the state will pay $6.2 million for the stadium, with the Falcons chipping in the rest.

The team wants the church land to build a retractable-roof stadium on the south side of the current Georgia Dome by the 2017 season.

Church Pastor Rodney Turner said his congregation must now decide where to move.

"Mims Park is a possibility, but there are other possibilities as well," Turner said.

Mayor Kasim Reed, who pushed hard for a deal, released a statement about the vote, saying, "I am pleased that the congregation of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church was able to vote on this important matter.

"The decision tonight ensures that the Atlanta Falcons can continue pursuing their goal of building a best-in-class sports facility that will also expand economic development not only in the city, but also in the surrounding neighborhoods.

"This step forward also will allow this historic church to relocate and continue to serve its congregation and our community."

"The church is within us, not the building," said Brittain.

Just across the street sits Friendship Baptist Church. Its members will vote on Sunday whether to sell their property for $19.5 million for the stadium project.



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