Updated: 7:16 p.m. Thursday, March 7, 2013 | Posted: 1:37 p.m. Thursday, March 7, 2013

City, Falcons strike new downtown stadium deal

Kasim Reed, Arthur Blank news conference
Kasim Reed, Arthur Blank news conference

By WSBTV.com web staff

ATLANTA —

The Atlanta Falcons and the City of Atlanta have come to an agreement on key aspects of a deal to build a new home for the NFL franchise.

Talks of building a new retractable-roof stadium in downtown Atlanta to replace the Georgia Dome have been going on for months, but Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Falcons owner Arthur Blank announced a deal to move forward during a Thursday afternoon news conference.

The Falcons agreed to pay an additional $50 million for infrastructure around the stadium, and the Blank foundation also agreed to pay $15 million for improvements in the surrounding neighborhoods. Invest Atlanta will also pay $15 million for improvements in surrounding neighborhoods using Tax Allocation District funds.

The terms announced Thursday also call for an equal opportunity plan that will ensure at least 31 percent participation in design and construction by women and minority business enterprises.

“Equally important, a new stadium will lead to the creation of well-paying jobs during its construction at a time when many of our friends and neighbors are seeking employment,” Reed said. “This new stadium will also keep the city of Atlanta at the forefront of the hospitality industry in America as we pursue our goal of attracting 40 million visitors annually. It will strengthen the viability of the more than 200,000 jobs that support our tourism and convention business every single day.”

Various aspects of a deal will ultimately require approvals from the Atlanta City Council, GWCCA board, Invest Atlanta and the Fulton County Commission.

The maximum public contribution for the project is $200 million, which will come from the hotel-motel tax collected in Atlanta and unincorporated Fulton County.

The remainder of the funding for the $1 billion stadium will come from the Falcons and other sources.

“We appreciate the mayor and his staff’s diligence in moving the agreements for a new stadium toward completion,” Blank said in a statement today. “We are grateful to the members of the Atlanta City Council who have given us the opportunity to address their questions or concerns, and we will continue to work with the mayor, city council, Invest Atlanta and our partners at the Georgia World Congress Center in reaching final agreements.”

The announcement does not mean a final deal has been made with all parties involved. The Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority continue to negotiate terms of a binding legal document that would outline the deal.

 

New stadium expected to attract big sporting events

The new stadium won't just benefit the Falcons, but will help keep and attract other major events to Atlanta.

NCAA president Mark Emmert was recently in Atlanta and told Channel 2 Sport Director Zach Klein while the Georgia Dome is sufficient this year to host the Final 4, a new stadium would clearly be advantageous in luring future marquee events to town.

The main tenant of the stadium is the Falcons and a source close to the team told Klein that the new stadium will keep the franchise in Atlanta for at least the next 30 years.

As for other events, the current SEC championship game contract runs through 2017, the same year the new stadium is expected to be completed.

The city, state, officials with the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and the Atlanta Sports Council will all work together in an attempt to bring college football's Final 4 and national championship game to town.

Sources close to that process told Klein the new stadium will be a huge part of their proposal.

Atlanta is a few weeks away from hosting the 75th annual men's Final 4 and according to the NCAA and the Atlanta local organizing committee, the impact from that weekend alone should be around $44 million to the local economy.

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Neighbors excited yet skeptical over stadium

Neighbors who live across from the current Georgia Dome were not only excited about the prospect of a new stadium but also the millions promised for their community.

When it gets down to it though, residents told Channel 2's Wendy Corona that they are still very skeptical.

"I don't think that we're going to see half that money come," neighbor Tajiana Hampton said.

Hampton lives in the shadow of the Georgia Dome where vacant lots and boarded-up homes are sprinkled amongst some new development.

Filling the voids with development is something Hampton would like to see more of.

"I'd like to see that come to the neighborhood so people over here have more opportunities with the community," Hampton said.

With talks Thursday of an injection of $45 million to the neighboring area, the talk on the streets is very guarded.

"That's a nice start. Of course I'd like to see that come to the community, but of course we both know that all that is not going to the community," Hampton told Corona.

No one seems to be getting their hopes up. A lifelong Vine City resident, who goes by Buddy, told Corona the investment needs to be geared toward the children in the area.

"It'd make a whole lot of difference. Kids would have somewhere to go and play instead of just running up and down these streets out here," Buddy said.

The common cry among neighbors was the community needs the money.

Other residents Corona spoke with mentioned the money could be used to put so many of the unemployed residents back to work.

They said the people are there, but the money is not.

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Opponents not happy with stadium announcement

Opponents of the new stadium told Channel 2 Action News they're not pleased with Thursday's developments. They said the public has been ignored throughout the process.

Channel 2's Carl Willis talked to one of the most outspoken critics of the new stadium, William Perry, with watchdog group Common Cause Georgia.

"The top line always sounds good, but the bottom line is the public continues to be shut out. We're talking about a great deal of public funding and we believe the public deserves a seat at the table," Perry told Willis.

Perry questions if the public contribution, coming from a hotel/motel tax collection, will in fact be capped at $200 million.

Regardless, he said the public should have had the chance to vote on the deal.

"There were billion-dollar stadiums built in Dallas and in San Francisco. Both of those cities held referendums for the public to vote on their portion of the payment. That ought to happen in Atlanta as well," Perry said.

State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, is also expressing his skepticism, saying the actual cost of the stadium is unknown.

"We don't know specifically just how much it's going to cost nearby infrastructure, roads, sewers, sidewalks. (It's the) $64,000 question. Unless we know how much it's going to cost and how it's going to be paid for, we don't know the real cost to citizens of the city of Atlanta is," Fort said.

Perry said the public dollars should be used for other needs within the city.

"This city, according to the mayor, has $922 million in infrastructure backlog repairs. Certainly, $300 million from the hotel/motel tax could go a long way in cutting down that backlog," Perry said.

Perry doubts whether area communities will truly see a benefit.

"There was a lot of boom that was supposed to happen for Vine City when the Georgia Dome was built and I think those folks were left holding the bag and still waiting for the big dream to come and it never came," Perry said.

Despite the breakdown Fort gave, he said for this process to be transparent, the city must tell Atlantans exactly what the improvements to sidewalks, sewers and roads will cost taxpayers.

Channel 2's Dave Huddleston, Zach Klein, Wendy Corona, Carl Willis and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this story

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