Even as college basketball prepares to play the 2013 Final Four in the Georgia Dome, the president of the NCAA says a new stadium in Atlanta “clearly … would be advantageous” in luring future marquee events.
Mark Emmert, during a visit here Wednesday, said the 20-year-old Dome is a good site for this season’s Final Four, but indicated that newer facilities have increased the competition for such events.
“We obviously think it’s sufficient for this year. We’re going to be here, and I’m sure it’ll work fine for that event,” Emmert said. “But some of the new stadiums that are out there are very, very attractive to a lot of people that run events.
“The Dallas stadium is the obvious benchmark,” he said, referring to the Cowboys’ three-year-old stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Cowboys Stadium will host the Final Four for the first time in 2014. The 2015 Final Four will be held in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, which opened four years ago, and the 2016 Final Four in Houston’s Reliant Stadium, which opened 10 years ago. Sites have not been selected beyond 2016.
The NCAA currently requires a seating capacity of 70,000-plus for the Final Four, limiting the event to domed or retractable-roof football stadiums.
The Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which operates the Georgia Dome, has been in negotiations with the Falcons for almost two years about a proposed new downtown stadium. Since April, negotiations have focused on a retractable-roof, indoor/outdoor facility that would become home to the Falcons and other events currently held in the Dome, such as college football and basketball games.
Under the plan being negotiated, the stadium would cost close to $1 billion, with $300 million or less covered by hotel-motel taxes and the rest covered by the Falcons, the NFL and possibly the sale of personal seat licenses. The plan calls for the stadium to open in 2017 and for the Dome to be demolished thereafter.
Emmert said he was briefed “only a little bit” on stadium developments during his Atlanta visit. He said he is aware of the proposed time frame and budget.
President of the NCAA since October 2010, Emmert spoke to a breakfast meeting of the Atlanta Sports Council board of directors and a lunch meeting of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. He told the lunch audience that Atlanta’s history of hosting major sporting events is an asset in preparing for the Final Four, which is scheduled for April 6 and 8.
“It’s not your first rodeo,” Emmert said. “We are utterly dependent upon having local organizing communities that know how to work with us to pull off these great big events.”
Emmert discussed various measures the NCAA has undertaken in the past two years that, he said, “are starting to change the profile of college sports.”
He cited moves to raise academic standards, ban academically underperforming teams from postseason competition, stiffen penalties for major rules violations and eliminate rules about seemingly trivial matters. He expects the rulebook rewrite to be completed next year.
Overall, “the interest in college sports has never been higher and participation has never been higher,” Emmert said. “Do we have problems? Yeah, you bet we do. But no, it’s not broken.”
– Tim Tucker