NFL teams should fund their own stadiums

The state-owned Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta is less than 20 years old.  Since opening in 1992, it has served primarily as home field to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, but it also has served as the venue for numerous college football games and other sporting events. Over that time, the Dome has also hosted two Super Bowls; the most watched sporting event in the country.  By all normal measures, the Dome is alive and doing quite well.  But not quite good enough for the folks in the NFL front office. 

During a recent visit to Atlanta, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made it quite clear that if Atlanta ever wants to host another Super Bowl, city leaders and the state first will have to construct a brand new stadium.  In other words, simply to win the privilege of hosting one particular football game several years from now, Georgia taxpayers would have to pony up hundreds of millions of dollars for a state-of-the-art sports stadium. 

While it is always easy to spend other people’s money – just ask any congressman – Goodell’s demand on Atlanta and Georgia in these tight economic times is particularly galling.  The commissioner’s arrogance did not stop with his demand for a new stadium; he even told us what kind of stadium would have to be built in order to win the NFL’s favor. Goodell said the new facility would either have to be open-air, or enclosed but with a retractable roof.  Sounding like a true football purist, he said this design was necessary because “the game is meant to be played in the elements.” 

Jason Cole at Yahoo! Sports caught Goodell on his doublespeak in that statement.  Cole noted that eight of 16 Super Bowls, from 2000 to the already scheduled game in 2014, will take place in domed stadiums; including the 2013 spectacle, scheduled to be played in the by-then 38 year old Louisiana Superdome. 

Goodell’s comments lend aid to Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who has been pushing for a new stadium for at least a year. According to ESPN, state officials have proposed installing a retractable roof on the existing facility in hopes of appeasing Blank and the NFL. However, this less-costly compromise has fallen on deaf ears with the NFL big wigs. 

Supporters of a new stadium make the standard claim that bringing the Super Bowl back to Atlanta would create thousands of jobs and net the area hundreds of millions of dollars.  These Super Bowl boosters claim that the economic benefit of the memorable Super Bowl in 2000 was $292 million. The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s own “PolitiFact Georgia” recently found that claim to be false; noting that the true impact was only about half that figure, at $150 million. 

History shows that the claims of economic benefit that come as teams lobby for bigger and costlier stadiums do not withstand scrutiny.  This was discussed at length in a study published by the Cato Institute during a public debate on whether the District of Columbia should have financed a new major league ballpark a few years ago. The Wall Street Journal points out that most of the long-term employment that came with construction of the ballpark for the Washington Nationals were low-paying jobs. 

Like most major-league sports franchises, the Atlanta Falcons are a profit-making machine; and team owners as a group and individually are hardly living paycheck to paycheck like many taxpayers. 

Leaders of the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia have more than enough fiscal problems on their plates than to worry about appeasing the NFL or one of its clubs. They should say “no” to corporate sports welfare, even if it means temporarily disappointing some sports junkies.

79 comments Add your comment

Minding the store

December 1st, 2010
6:31 am

Hear! Hear! Finally, someone that understands that the people can’t be expected to support a private enterprise. If we were writing welfare checks, it socialism. When we write checks for business, its good business practice.

No more corporate welfare! I like the way Bob says it!


December 1st, 2010
6:32 am

Agreed! But if they build it, I will definitely come. Go Falcons!!

GW Johnson

December 1st, 2010
6:41 am

The Falcons are a business, owned by a private person, Arthur Blank. So if Arthur wants a new building for his employees to play in 12 days a year, then he needs to get the loans and build his own building. If someone wants to rent or lease Arthurs building then Arthur can rent it and make money.

The professional sports teams make millions for just a little amount of work and effort. What a joke that the taxpayers are expected to support these businesses with additioal taxes and then get charged higher prices each year for tickets.

The jocks and their owners are just not getting it that the public is tired of supporting them. Even if the taxes are from hotel / motel taxes or car rental fees, someone pays and gets no return.

The yearly up keep and repair on these stadiums is an additional fee that is required to be paid by the public.

The players make millions, have a retirement plan and a union to protect them. Arthur and the other owners are multi-millionaires who live like kings and do not support the fans.

We should have let Rankin Smith move the team to Jacksonville, but the polticial leaders caved in a gave Rankin a dome stadium.

Arthur wants a new building, let Arthur pay for it.


December 1st, 2010
6:47 am

its hard to figure how the SUPERdome is still getting love from the NFL as opposed to the GA Dome in getting the big game….Goddell and the NFL continue to push the game away from their base…while people love the NFL more than ever lately , that can change fast. The SuperBowl should be rotated among all the cities in the league…each city has a different stadium sure but who are we doing this for??? Why do we need a stadium in Gwinett ? I think the NFL brass should be humble and grateful for a change and share the SUPER BOWL wealth….

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Sports Review

December 1st, 2010
7:16 am

[...] NFL teams should fund their own stadiumsAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Since opening in 1992, it has served primarily as home field to the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, but it also has served as the venue for numerous college football …WEEK 13 NFL POWER POLL, BCS STYLEBleacher Report [...]


December 1st, 2010
7:17 am

If the Falcons want a true partnership there should be no problem with giving a percentage of the Falcons to the state to cover the cost of a stadium paid for with tax revenue.

Jim from N. Georgia

December 1st, 2010
7:36 am

Bob Barr tells it like it is. We all appreciate a good game of football. A new stadium for Atlanta is an absurd notion. Not to be a stick in the mud, but watching the game in HD in the comfort of my living room is 100 times better than dealing with the traffic, flat beer, noise and lousy food. I have been to the Dome many times to see the Falcons play and not once did I see them like I can at home. Roger Goodell and Arthur Blank are deluded. How about spending a couple of hundred million on bring permanent employment to Georgian’s instead of a stadium that is not needed or wanted?


December 1st, 2010
7:39 am

No public dollars. I’m willing to buy tickets to the game, and sit through millions of commercials when I have to watch away games on TV, but it’s ludicrous to expect taxpayers, who are currently losing money, to shell out for a team that is making plenty of money.

They can take their Superbowl and shove it.


December 1st, 2010
8:07 am

Yes indeed.

As in countless other cases, big business in America is against socialism.

Until it benefits them.

What if

December 1st, 2010
8:10 am

‘Bout time. All they have to do is take a few percent off each player’s and coach’s bonuses every year or from the insane profits made by the owner and they’d pay for a gold plated stadium in no time. NOT out of my (now run out) unemployment check, thanx.


December 1st, 2010
8:25 am

In these hard economic times, common sense would dictate taxpayers should not in any way be asked to fund a football stadium. Unfortunately, common sense in this matter will probably prove to be as likely to occur as all our politicans suddenly becoming honest. So, prepare to pony up, taxpayers!!!

Michael from Martinez

December 1st, 2010
8:32 am

The NFL as a whole makes a killing. NFL TV, FOX TV, ABC/ ESPN, CBS, etc..
The NFL & NFL owners should get together and fund the stadiums.
They should also pay for the police; traffic, security, etc…

Hamad Meander

December 1st, 2010
8:32 am

Even better idea – sell the A Dome to Arthur Blank, let me make improvements and make revenue by renting it out for other events. It’s a win/win – the State should get $250,000,000+, Arthur gets complete control of the Dome and it’s revenue, and he can add luxury boxes, put a retractable roof, or flip it upside down if he wants.

I like the GA Dome. It’s a fine place to watch football and should serve the Falcons for many years to come.

Joe the Plutocrat (the artiste formerly known as paleo-neo-Carlinist)

December 1st, 2010
8:37 am

homework time. pick up a copy of The League: The Rise and Decline of the NFL by David Harris. published in 1983 or 1984, it give great insight to the NFL. there is a chapter called “The Stadium Game” or “The Stadium Ruse” which debunks the “Super Bowls/NFL franchises produce economic windfall” myths. because the book is 25 years old, some of the info is dated (but very interesting to see how some of the old-guard owers made their millions by investing in the NFL, whereas today’s owners are billionaires who buy franchises with their non-NFL earnings). but at the end of the day, old guard or new, NFL franchisees are carny barkers who only care about the color of money. they play upon pathetic jock-sniff allegience and “team pride” as a means to an end.


December 1st, 2010
8:49 am

Until some very definite and reputable figures on the cost/benefit ratio for the taxpayers can be produced, proving the taxpayers gain from the project, forget it. As far as providing a better venue for seeing pro football, so what? Has little to do with improving the quality of most people’s lives, and how many folks can afford the inflated prices for viewing pro sports events anyway? Not worth it. Those who profit so much from these enterprises can surely afford to pay for the projects which give them such wealth.

sean smith

December 1st, 2010
8:51 am

First we have a perfectly good stadium.
Secondly Arthur Blank is a billionaire. If he wants a new stadium he should pay for it.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

December 1st, 2010
9:15 am

Gee, I thought stealing from taxpayers for benefit of private corporations was the American way. Next you’ll be telling me that Congress cannot compel me to buy a private product.


December 1st, 2010
9:16 am

In the NFL there is a term known as KISS [keep it simple stupid]. The NFL owners keep it simple by selling long term leases. The NFL teams raise money by selling personal seat licensesPSL. With PSL the teams do not pay taxes. The deals are constructed so that the money is collected through tax exempt government agencies. Thanks to luxury boxes, club seats, the money contributed by NFL owners is quickly recovered. The tax payers, on the other hand are committed to up to 30 years of debt payments.
NFL owners have secured 4.4 billion dollars of taxpayer money since 1995 for 21 new stadiums. Of that NFL owners have contributed 1 billion.

Sooooo, if the state foots the bill for a new stadium in Atlanta, the NFL owners should atleast pay taxes on luxury boxes or better yet, have the state get the money from PSL personal seat licenses untill the stadium is paid for.


December 1st, 2010
9:28 am

Let Arthur pay for it– is right!


December 1st, 2010
9:43 am

You have to ask yourself why the NFL or Arthur Blank want someone else to build a new stadium. If they thought it was profitable to do so, they would do it themselves.


December 1st, 2010
9:46 am

The Dome is less than 20 years old. there is nothing wrong with it other than that it is a Dome.


December 1st, 2010
9:59 am

30 year falcon ticket holder; maybe people should remember that ab put 25plus millon dollars into the dome, also the parking in the dome area is the biggest ripoff 50 to 100 dollars near the dome, maybe he should build the new stadium himself but not in downtown, and see where the city and county we recover its tax dollars.


December 1st, 2010
10:15 am

I agree that no tax dollars should be spent, but as for the “spending other people’s money” jab, I don’t think that is what Goodell was saying.

I don’t think he cares if Atlanta builds a new stadium or not. That’s not his concern. His Company will have the game somewhere, and his Company will make a killing on it where ever it is held. Why would he care if Atlanta hosts the game or not? It’s not his hometown.

“You want to know how to have a Super Bowl, get a new stadium. If not…that’s up to you.” They asked, he answered.

The Ghost of Pete Rozell

December 1st, 2010
10:21 am

Has anyone ever asked Goddell and the NFL to consider the ROI of a privately funded stadium? Is there some difference in dollars generated “for the local economy” and dollars generated “for the NFL?” Seems to me, this is about “cost” versus “revenue”. the NFL can looks to taxpayers to assume cost, but reap/keeps the lion’s share of revenue.

Libertarian Man

December 1st, 2010
10:29 am

Well, the Super Bowl would one more home game for the Falcons for the next decade.


An American Patriot

December 1st, 2010
10:33 am


December 1st, 2010
6:47 am
its hard to figure how the SUPERdome is still getting love from the NFL as opposed to the GA Dome in getting the big game

Oh, c’mon Blake, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. It all has to do with the NFL’s Liberalism and Political Correctness Policy. As far as building (that means tearing down the old, perfectly good one) a new stadium with a retractable roof, collectively the entire metro atlanta area should tell the NFL commish. to SIWTSDS. Thank you Bob Barr, a Great American for keeping these issues in the forefront.

And to Arthur Blank……Arthur, you and Bernie get together and build a new stadium yourselves, with your own money and stop trying to stick the City Of Atlanta with more and more taxes that we cannot afford, nor want. If you and our “Glorious” COA leaders cave in to Goodell, you all should be run out of town.

Hillbilly Deluxe

December 1st, 2010
10:47 am

Owning an NFL franchise is basically, a license to print money. With all the TV contracts and ad revenue, you can lose every game and still make money. All these owners, most of whom profess to be lovers of free markets, constantly have their hands out wanting someone else to pick up the tab. Hypocrites is what they are.

Arthur is one of the richest men in the state. If he wants a new stadium, fine, build it anywhere you want, but pay for it yourself. So Arthur is trying to get someone else to pay for his golden egg and then tells them, it will be great for them to do this. Basically, Arthur is peeing in our ear and telling us it’s raining.


December 1st, 2010
10:59 am

AMEN!!!! We taxpayers are footing the bill for too much as it is…


December 1st, 2010
11:01 am

Why should the Falcons want a new stadium when Matt Ryan has only lost ONE game at the Dome?

There is nothing wrong with the Dome anyhow. They just renovated it a couple of seasons ago. If the Superdome still can still get a Super Bowl, then Atlanta should be able to get another one with the stadium we already have.

Plus, if they are going to build it on the cheap like I’ve heard, it’s not worth it. If they do build a new one, which they shouldn’t unless the Falcons/Blank are footing the bill, then build something with a retractable roof or nothing at all.

BS Aplenty

December 1st, 2010
11:14 am

When GOVERNMENT spends money who else are they going to buy from except businesses (both big and small)? Why do the knuckle-draggers constantly whine about corporate welfare. Tell your precious GOVERNMENT to stop spending money and corporate welfare, as they call it, dies.

Now, to the blog topic at hand. As with all things, Mr. Barr, the devil’s in the dome details but you don’t want to lose the football franchise. You just have to negotiate the best deal. I appreciate the yeoman’s work done by the AJC in highlighting the more limited benefits of a Super Bowl. I would mention that you may have neglected some of the more intangible marketing benefits though.


December 1st, 2010
11:15 am

Good opinion piece, I agree. I have a question for Bob Barr, since he is an attorney, right?

My understanding of the federal Hobbs Act is that publu funds can’t be used to subsiduze a private entity. I know it’s used in racketeering, but does it apply here?


December 1st, 2010
11:16 am

Pardon the typo-
public funds


December 1st, 2010
11:23 am

Why doesn’t Authur take a page out of Bernard “Bernie” Marcus’s book. Pay for it with your own money and then make money off of your investment. It would be his to do as he would with it. If later the state decided to purchase it from him or to lease it it would be his money. It would be the greatest real estate investment of his life. And even if he sold the team he could still retain the rights to the stadium and continue to make money off of it if he would like. I don’t know but it seems like a good idea to me.

Old Atlantan

December 1st, 2010
11:27 am

Hey, Arthur Blank, do you know where I-75 is? Well, load up your sorry rear end and your players and staff and hit the road to some other city. Why anyone even watches your team is beyond me.

Old Dawg

December 1st, 2010
11:34 am

The age of publicly funded stadiums is over. As the New York Times reported, the old Meadowlands Stadium still had outstanding bond payments due when it was torn down but the Jets and Giants now have a new billion dollar plus stadium. Jerry Jones has a new billion dollar plus playhouse in Texas. Yes, Dallas will host the Super Bowl in February and everyone will oh and ah – except the taxpayers in Texas.

When you compare public money spent to build and upgrades stadiums compared with other community projects like roads, bridges, sewer lines etc … things we all need and use on a daily basis … sports arenas don’t match up.

I love athletics as much as the next person; hell, I was a sports writer for the majority of my career, but let the owners or the league pay for the ball parks. The money’s gone, just like the logic for the spending always has been!


December 1st, 2010
11:42 am

Re: Why does the NFL continue to show love for New Orleans and the Superdome. It’s simple. Atlanta is NOT New Orleans. The players love going to NOLA because of all there is to do and see. It’s a 24/7 party atmosphere that Atlanta and many other cities lack. The weather is pretty good in February, too. The NFL also loves Miami for similar reasons.


December 1st, 2010
11:44 am

I agree with a previous post. Let Arthur Blank buy the Georgia Dome and do what he wants to it – with his money.

Bryan G.

December 1st, 2010
11:46 am

I hate to go against Atlanta and all, but the reason that NOLA keeps getting the Super Bowl and we don’t is because NOLA is, um, actually fun.

You can walk down the street with a beer and actually buy booze on Sunday unlike the bulls#!t laws we have here that we continue to have. Maybe when Georgia actually gets over its open container and no buying booze on Sunday crap we’ll get conventions again.

I mean, would you rather go to a game a few blocks from the French Quarter or a few blocks from Underground? Gee….do the math.


December 1st, 2010
11:48 am

Well, I have to admit Bob Barr and I don’t always agree but ever since he left Politics I find myself sharing his opinion on many things. Once again he is exactly right. NASCAR builds it’s own tracks now and the NFL which is swimming in profits should build it’s own stadiums. Why should Atlanta, already facing debt, build a stadium for an incredibly rich Arthur Blanke and his highly profitable franchise owner the NFL? The NFL should have to pay dearly for any stadium their teams play in. If the city already owns it then I say the NFL should be forced to buy them or build their own. The NFL gets a free farm system called NCAA football so when it comes to stadiums they should finally have to pony up their own cash.

Bryan G.

December 1st, 2010
11:49 am

Oh, forgot to mention…you can walk to a casino in NOLA, too. Again, none of the puritan crap we have in Atlanta.

Prez Obozo

December 1st, 2010
11:52 am

Yes, with extravagant salaries the player, owners & NFL makes it should be the NFL’s responsibility to pay for their show cases!


December 1st, 2010
12:00 pm

And who is generally behind bringing the Super Bowl to a city? Uh, maybe the Chamber of Commerce. And what political party generally currys favors to the Camber of Commerce? Bob would never miss a chance to bash the Democrats. But this time around it’s the Republican fat cats who sing this song dude!


December 1st, 2010
12:05 pm

I think 99% of Americans who live outside of metro Atlanta would much rather go to a Superbowl in New Orleans than one in Atlanta, no matter what the stadium is like. Pretty simple really, New Orleans is a WAY better tourist/party destination than Atanta. Plus the weather there is warmer in early Feb.


December 1st, 2010
12:06 pm

I’m a sports junkie and a Falcons fan and I agree with you Mr. Barr. I’m tired of taxpayers funding stadiums for sports franchises.

But even aside from whether you believe that or not, like you say, the Georgia Dome is still a great enough venue to attract many high profile events – the Chick-Fil-A College Kickoff and Bowl games, the NCAA Final Four, the ACC and SEC conference basketball tournaments, WrestleMania, possibly the World Cup, etc. Seems like the Falcons and the NFL are the only ones complaining.


December 1st, 2010
12:14 pm

“NFL teams should fund their own stadiums”

No, really?


December 1st, 2010
12:17 pm

OMG!!! Today, December 1, 2010 — It has finally hapened. Hell is freezing over. I’m agreeing with Bob Barr.


December 1st, 2010
12:18 pm

NFL players make millions and I can barely stay afloat. Now the NFL commissioner wants tax me for a new stadium or the state will not get another superbowl. Ok, I can live without a new superbowl stadium since only 90k people can go anyway. Screw you Goodell!!


December 1st, 2010
12:33 pm

I agree that the NFL should pay for it. The players come to ATL constantly and throw most of their checks making it rain in the strip clubs. They should make it rain at the Dome to rebuild. People should also see that once the stadium is built ticket prices will go up more than doubled. If you pay $110 now for a lower level get ready to pay $500 plus a deposit of $5000 to gtd the seats. Like buying a car or home. Down payment and monthly payments. Crazy…Does 20 million new jobs come with these stadiums for all the people who are unemployed in the world? Not minimum wage jobs either.