A six-pack of observations about the Falcons’ push for a new stadium, which I have absolutely no problem with (I guess that counts as one):
♦ 1. Let’s reaffirm the obvious here: Yes, owner Arthur Blank wants a new stadium so that he can make more money. With too many club seats (thousands of which go unsold at games), too few luxury suites and limited ways for Blank to generate revenue at the Georgia Dome through signage, martini bars, etc., he is at a competitive disadvantage compared to other owners, many of whom run teams that represent the Falcons’ primary competition in the NFC: Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Arizona. (Minnesota also has been pushing for a new stadium. New Orleans has been receiving concessions and is in a special situation, given the city’s economy post-Katrina).
♦ 2. We obviously have more important needs in Atlanta than a new football stadium. The Georgia Dome is not falling apart. But if Blank wants to fund this project by himself, nobody should have a problem with that. If taxpayers are willing to pass an initiative for a special hotel-motel tax to help partially fund the project, nobody should have a problem with that, either. Yes, it would be wonderful if voters could be moved to vote for a hotel tax to help raise money for education and prevent 1,500 teachers from losing jobs. But realistically, that’s not going to happen.
♦ 3. I don’t like domed stadiums. I’ve been in just about every one, and the Georgia Dome actually is one of the better ones. But I’m old school in this way: football and baseball are outdoor sports. Rain, wind, ice, snow – don’t care. I would still rather see a football game outside. The elements should be part of a football game. The thermostat should not be.
♦ 4. Can domed stadiums make more money than outdoor stadiums? No question. Officials can host basketball tournaments, split the stadium in half for simultaneous conventions and stage rock concerts in a ridiculously over-sized venue without concern of bad weather keeping fans away. But I’m going old school again. Hate basketball and concerts in 70,000-seat venues. Is this supposed to be about attendance records or fan experience? And I’m certainly not worried that the SEC championship is going to wither if the game is moved to an outdoor venue.
♦ 5. The Falcons are right to push for a downtown stadium. Suburban venues stink. They don’t have a vibe. Ted Turner’s decision to build Philips Arena downtown helped revive downtown. The fact is, Turner could have made more money by putting the arena in the northern suburbs. (His advisers were pushing for it.) But he was committed to improving downtown. I’m not at all suggesting Blank is pushing for a downtown stadium for the same reason. But in town venues definitely are cooler.
♦ 6. If you want to know why Blank retained Rich McKay even after Thomas Dimitroff was hired to replace him as general manager two years ago, this is it. McKay has tremendous knowledge about the league. But his primary function is to get a new stadium deal. McKay’s presence and his being out front in this deal create a bit of a buffer for Blank on a hot button issue.
So, do you agree and disagree with my points? And if the Falcons could get a new stadium new without any taxpayer liability, how would you feel about it?