The heart of Georgia could one day have a new stadium, but building one may require a lot of teamwork.
The Atlanta Falcons have been in discussion with state officials about a new stadium with a retractable roof to replace the 20-year-old Georgia Dome. Five architectural firms were selected last month as finalists to design the facility, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The price tag of the proposed stadium would be an estimated $1 billion, with about $200-300 million of that paid for by public bonds.
It’s that remaining portion of the price tag that has put a timeout on the proposed stadium plans. According to Fox 5 Atlanta, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal in recent days has said that state officials still have questions about the public funding portion of the new facility. The TV station reports that one option regarding the public funding of the stadium includes raising the Georgia World Congress Center Authority’s debt limit by $100 million to help to pay for the new facility.
Funding could also come from the Falcons’ namesake. According to the AJC, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on Friday said he has not decided whether to ask his city council for funding for the stadium, but has tasked city staff members with examining options and the potential impact on the city’s financial status.
Passing on a new stadium could lead to the Falcons flying off toward a sunnier destination. Fox 5 reported that Falcons owner Arthur Blank has "shared information" with Atlanta officials that business interests in Los Angeles are interested in moving the team to the West Coast.
Among those seeking construction of a stadium here is Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, D-Austell, who says if a deal falls through in Atlanta, she would like to see it built in Cobb County as a cornerstone for redevelopment in the Six Flags corridor.
Other supporters of building a new stadium in the state are officials with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. In a column published on their website Friday, they call the proposed stadium a “sound investment”:
Georgia has experienced the benefits of a new stadium. Construction of the Georgia Dome helped secure the 1996 Olympics, two Super Bowls, marquis [sic] college football games, and the NCAA Final Four. It is home to the Atlanta Falcons and to high school playoffs and has played a significant role in growing our hospitality and tourism industry, which generated $1.26 billion in state tax revenue and directly or indirectly supported 10.3% of jobs in Georgia in 2011.
But the Dome is no longer new. In fact, it is now one of the oldest stadiums in the NFL. Our competitors have been hard at work constructing new facilities that will threaten our future success. The Dome’s highest profile tenant has a lease that runs out in 2020, and events such as the Super Bowl or the Bowl Championship Series are only interested in newer stadiums. An agreement must be reached soon so that construction can begin and Georgia can retain its competitive edge.
Some argue that it would be better to renovate the existing Georgia Dome, but the facts tell us otherwise. The existing facility is owned by the state and taxpayers are responsible both for paying what remains of the bond debt, and for all operating, maintenance and capital expenses – including what would be a costly renovation.
Opportunities like this one do not come along often and are never without their share of criticism. While it is important to respect all opinions—and to weigh all the facts—it is equally important that we make the decision that will be best for our state in the long term.
We applaud Governor Deal, Mayor Reed, the Atlanta Falcons and state and local elected officials for their continued efforts to reach an agreement, and hope that they are ultimately able to reach a decision that will facilitate a new stadium, support our growing hospitality and tourism industry, and contribute to Georgia’s overall competitiveness. It is the right investment and one that will reap significant returns long into the future.
Should the state of Georgia and/or the city of Atlanta find a way to fund a new stadium? Should taxpayers foot the bill for a portion of it?
Share what’s on your mind with us, and then return here to see what your neighbors in Paulding, Douglas and Cobb have said.