How is Falcons’ stadium with no taxpayer liability a problem?

Arthur Blank wanted to keep Rich McKay around to be his front man for a new stadium deal. (Curtis Compton/AJC.)

Arthur Blank wanted to keep Rich McKay around to be his front man for a new stadium deal. (Curtis Compton/AJC.)

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?

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

249 comments Add your comment

Benjamin

May 24th, 2010
12:44 am

First, unless someone beats me while I’m typing this.

A new stadium with no liability to the taxpayers is fine with me. I am not a huge fan of the Dome — or its location, for that matter — and like you, I like the thought of football played outdoors.

AintYouYou

May 24th, 2010
12:47 am

Just do the retractable roof and be done with it. That aside, the stadium is prolly going to be in Doraville.

rekingball

May 24th, 2010
1:02 am

Your point #1 says it’s about Blank making $.
Your point #4 you say it should be about the experience, not the concert promoters or NCAA making $.
Is that what they call a double standard, or somthing like that?

I agree with AintUU, just go ahead and put the retractable roof on the sucker, that is the only logical way to go.

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Domes suck

May 24th, 2010
1:37 am

I hate domes. Atlanta is too nice in the fall to be playing games inside. If Green Bay can play in an outdoor stadium, no one else should be allowed to play indoors. Real fans will go to the games regardless of weather.

whatever

May 24th, 2010
1:49 am

Jeff – I fully agree: Football (as well as Baseball) is an OUTDOOR sport. I hate dome teams (Falcons not withstanding – though I really want to see them outside). I WANT to feel the temps, the rain, the snow, smell the grass, whatever is the case – it’s part of the GAME experience. And none of that carpet crap.

JTH

May 24th, 2010
1:57 am

I’m all for a outdoor stadium, because football was meant to be played in the weather. Even better if it’s not taxpayer money. So my only question is; Where they going to put a new stadium?

Dr. Warren

May 24th, 2010
2:04 am

Grant Field or Sanford Stadium on a crisp fall day in Georgia is an experience, something to remember. The Dome is just a building. Hell, fans in Foxboro have always sat outside, and that’s 1300 miles north. I get envious when I drive through cities like Baltimore and Seattle and see their football-only stadiums. We’re missing out, Atlanta. I don’t think taxpayers should pay one dime to help Blank make more money, but if tourists and Blank are going to pay, I say let’s get going on it.

scottbravesfan

May 24th, 2010
3:03 am

baseball and football are meant to be played outdoors. The Georgia Dome is fine and a good venue they should keep both the Falcons new stadium and the Dome so they can still host things like basketball tournaments and the SEC championship game,since they want an indoor venue to host that game.

Also make sure they keep the Falcons stadium in Atlanta. It’s stupid to build it 20 miles outside the city. Suburban stadiums are awful. Part of the fun of going to a game is going into the city to watch it.

TheAntiMe

May 24th, 2010
4:51 am

Somebody’s got to be rich a make tons of money. I don’t mind so much it being Arthur Blank since he not only is trying to make the Falcons a championship team but he also has demonstrated a certain resposibility to the Atlanta community.

Bottom line for Atlanta NFL fans, the more money that a person like Blank – who is willing to put the revenue back into the team instead of into his direct deposit – makes, the better chance we have of seeing a world championship come to Atlanta sometime within the next decade or so. At least, much more so than with some owners such as, say, the Atlanta Spirit Group.

TheAntiMe

May 24th, 2010
4:54 am

OK, a certain responsibility to the Atlanta community. Besides, I never claimed I could spell.

Maxx

May 24th, 2010
4:56 am

Agree with you overall, and YES

Maxx

May 24th, 2010
5:02 am

Let me clarify: I think that Football was designed to be played outdoors. I think Baseball should be played inside, merely because the games can be rained or snowed out, unlike Football. I think the Falcons should play outside, no question. Football is meant to be played in the elements, domes are for pussies

drew

May 24th, 2010
5:54 am

I’m wondering how many of these old-school “football is meant to be played outdoors” fans attended Falcons games at the old Fulton County Stadium. I recall sitting in a half empty stadium, freezing my azz off. I’ve also suffered through a few Peach Bowls there.

And yeah, REAL fans will show up regardless of the weather, but there’s the rub…there are very few “real” fans in Atlanta. Atlanta fans are about as fickle a fan base as you’ll ever see. Given the choice of sitting in a cold rain, or the comfort of their own home (or a bar), you know what they’ll choose. Even when the Dome was sold-out, there were lots of empty seats at Falcons games. Throw the bad weather factor into the mix, and the no shows will double. And you can call them pussies all day long, but that’s not gonna fill the seats.

But if visitors and Arthur Blank are gonna foot the bill, let’s go for it. But I’d suggest you put a lid on it…a retractable one.

D B Cooper

May 24th, 2010
6:04 am

agree 100% Drew well put

D B Copper's Plane

May 24th, 2010
6:24 am

The Falcons need to be outside. It will be more like going to UGA or Tech game and I think Atlanta fans will embrace it being outside. Let the GWCC keep the dome if they want to for the other events. BTW I found this site that shows every seat in the Dome in PDF files by section http://www.SeatandRow.com

Golden Hand

May 24th, 2010
6:27 am

The stadium’s not going to be in Doraville. The traffic grid there won’t support it, and the local nimby’s won’t let it happen. It’s already been voted down by Doraville City Council, and Dekalb’s not pushing for it.

shaggy

May 24th, 2010
6:32 am

Put a winning product on the field, and the “real” fans come out of the woodwork to freeze their azz off, as exampled by Green Bay, New England, and New York. I am a “real” fan that attended games in Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, who doesn’t like going to football games in an oversized tent. Conversely, the “poser” fans can sit and watch football, a man’s game, being attended by man fans, plus some tough women too. Wimps need not apply. The game (thank God The Braves play outside) was invented outside and the weather element should be a part of the game. NO CRYING IN FOOTBALL…BY THE FANS EITHER.

Peachtree Pete

May 24th, 2010
6:33 am

Downtown is revived? As an Atlanta native, I can tell you that downtown is far from “revived.” Basically the only reason to go downtown is to go to work or to a ball game. As for putting a stadium in the ‘burbs, I agree. Bad idea. But DO NOT tell me that downtown is revived. Downtown is filthy, dangerous (check with a Ga. Tech or Ga. State student), and boring. Compare it to Baltimore, NYC, or St. Louis. We lose.

Felix the Cat

May 24th, 2010
6:35 am

as a season ticket holder…i have tailgated in some cold december (s) and January (s) ..it was nice to get in the dome and thaw out..but its only a few games mostly at the end of the year.. Rain would be the other issue..Retractable roof is very expensive but would serve many purposes…I wish a way to fund the retractable roof would get strong consideration…

Tha Real Falcon

May 24th, 2010
6:46 am

I would ask exactly how many Falcons game do you attend each year, Jeff?

norman

May 24th, 2010
6:48 am

You think attendance is poor for the falcons at the dome, just wait and see how attendance will be in an outdoor stadium. Sellouts in 95 degree temperatures with high humidity in August & September aint gonna happen regardless of win-loss record. Sellouts in December with cold freezing rain aint gonna happen. So Schultz, you and the other 15,000 max fans enjoy the game.

The Real Falcon

May 24th, 2010
6:49 am

And do you sit in a booth when you go or in the seats?

gmoney

May 24th, 2010
6:52 am

I travel all over the country and all the hotel and car rental taxes really piss me off.

Larry

May 24th, 2010
6:53 am

More than just an opinion on this topic I have been a season ticket holder and native long enough to experience both AFCS and the Dome. I can tell you after weathering the many hot, humid early season games and a few fall rain storms–just cold weather wasn’t the issue–I was thrilled to see the Dome constructed. I still enjoy it today when it’s oppressively hot or raining hard outside.

However, I also loved the perfect fall weather that compliments outdoor football and the uniform colors are much more vibrant in the bright sun. It just feels like football!

The bottom line for me is this. If Dallas, Texas can swing a state of the art facility why can’t the much more beautiful and diverse Atlanta, Georgia? I think we almost certainly can so the answer is very simple for me. Either retrofit the current Dome with a retractable roof, build a whole new facility like Dallas, or compliment the Dome with and out door stadium to play the early season games in the Dome, mid-late seasons outdoors, and and actually have the unique option of choosing one or the other based on need and circumstance. The selection of one or the other would create some fun controversy and give old Jeff another article to write about should the outdoor filed be selected one game during a classic fall thunderstorm in Atlanta!

dawgma

May 24th, 2010
6:57 am

Billionaires should build their own damn stadiums. I am sick of seeing a city hand over public money to loaded pro team owners to build stadiums and then paying a yearly ticket price increase to help the team pay for the rest.

Larry

May 24th, 2010
6:58 am

gmoney,

I do too and wholeheartedly agree with you! I think it is wrong to pin the burden of payment on visitors–business or recreational visitors–for a sports facility that pads the owner’s pockets.

The Falcons are a business majority owned by Blank. If he wants a new facility then he and his investors should ante up just like he and they had to do every time he built another Home Depot Facility. Other than the emotion of a fan, what is the real difference?

Larry

May 24th, 2010
7:02 am

Suburban venues succeed because the vast majority of people in metro areas have no interest in coming into the morass of downtown environments. Schultz and downtown Atlanta both stink.

SimpleDawg

May 24th, 2010
7:03 am

A retractable roof stadium is the only answer…..if you want to maintain high season ticket sales, the SEC CG, Regional & Final Four college basketball games, etc., etc., etc……

Kirby Smart

May 24th, 2010
7:04 am

Who cares?
Let’s talk about how UGA let me get away.
I can turn water into wine and I could have made Georgia shine!

the Insider

May 24th, 2010
7:05 am

If Arthur Blank wants to make more money, then Arthur Blank can invest the money in a new stadium, just like track owners in NASCAR do. That means no motel/hotel tax or any other tax. And honestly, Jeff-you haven’t seen a game in the elements since you were in college. You sit in the press box and look at the fans being cold and wet.

R Pitts

May 24th, 2010
7:09 am

Dumb, dumb, dumb article. Get a brain dude! If Blank wants a new stadium, fine. But not with one cent of tax money of any kind at all. Any tax money could be better spent on other things. Otherwise, just move the almost always sorry team to another city. Fact is, we need a domed stadium for all the events we host. No domed stadium means no NCAA tourneys or final 4s, no SEC tourney, no ACC tourney, and no place to hold overflow for GWCC events, among other things we’d lose. For Atlanta, open air makes no sense. If the Falcons leave, so be it as it would not be much of a loss. The city really does not and never really has embraced that sorry team. So, fly away birdie, fly away!

BugKiller

May 24th, 2010
7:11 am

Jeff,

So you’re cool with losing the SEC Championship Game to New Orleans?

You’re cool with never hosting another Final Four?

You’re cool with no Peach Bowl? No Chik-Fil-A Kickoff? No chance at ever hosting a Super Bowl again?

In New Orleans they spent something like 200 million to renovate the Super Dome. I was there for the Sugar Bowl in 2007.

As nice as they made the Super Dome, it’s STILL not better than the Georgia Dome.

How can you say the Georgia Dome doesn’t have enough suites? It has like 200 suites! That’s one of the highest number in ALL of football. Tampa doesn’t have that many in their newish stadium.

How about this?

Artie BUYS the Dome from Atlanta. He then gets some of those eggheads from NATS to design and implement a retractable roof made of FABRIC, so as to be able to work with the existing structure of the Dome.

He can then spend then money to put that on as well as make any improvements he wishes.

OR.

Have Arthur Blank build his own damn stadium in one of the Turner Field parking lots, work with the Braves to create a parking deck to make up for the loss of parking spaces, and then work with the city to bring MARTA to that area.

This way, the new stadium is close to downtown, BUT also allows for TAILGATING.

How about that???

Big Dog 98

May 24th, 2010
7:12 am

Attention Kirby Smart…please go away.

Humm...

May 24th, 2010
7:26 am

OK, ready for the brewer’s to step up for the naming rights…Anheuser-Bush Stadium, “POPING THE TOP ON ANOTHER ONE”… and as you drive by you can say, “Passing a Bud”… or group seating sales refered to as a “Six Pack”, or football late in the season as “A Cold One”…
Lots of possibilities…

GEORGIA97

May 24th, 2010
7:37 am

Here comes JSS to dazzle us with his DOT knowledge, “Chum.” Downtown Atlanta stinks and who enjoys tailgaint next to whinos covered in used beer? Move to the burbs, I say.

tom

May 24th, 2010
7:44 am

Mr. Blank obviously does not want to host a Super Bowl and does not care about the fans. No one wants to sit out in the elements if given a choice. He has tunnel vision. By the way, why does Rich McKay still have a job?

Phillip May

May 24th, 2010
7:47 am

somehow I doubt that you would be exposed to the elements in the press area. retractable roof for multi-use venue is the way to go. I saw enough miserable games in miserable weather at old fulton-county stadium. depressing rain and 37 degrees does not have the same “vibe” as 27 degrees with snow. even detroit figured that one out. don’t forget the chic-fil-a bowl, sec championship, final four, and super bowl…

tim

May 24th, 2010
7:49 am

If Mr Blank is truly committed to the ecomony of Atlanta then a dome or retractable is the only way to go, but it seems he wants to get into the soccer business with an open facility and compete with the Georgia Dome for events.

Posters who comment just about football and Atlanta doesn’t need a covered facility doesn’t have a clue what a Dome contrubutes to the economy. Ask Indy. Without a covered facility that City would still be a non destination for any large event.

This ISN”T JUST ABOUT FOOTBALL GAMES 12 TIMES A YEAR1

To poster Bugkiller….The Braves don’t own Turner Field. MARTA stations aren’t there because it’s solid rock and too expensive to connect with the existing rail line.

Reggie

May 24th, 2010
7:50 am

Why not just move it to south Georgia. You’ll be comfortable there? Right?

Rankin and the Boys

May 24th, 2010
7:51 am

Don’t forget it was Rankin Smith who held us all hostage back in the late 80’s with his threat to move the team to Jacksonville if he did not get a new stadium. Also, don’t forget it was the good ole boys at the capital who came up with the great idea of a domed stadium that could be used as a part of the GWCC. Brillant!

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
7:51 am

AintYouYou — I like the concept of retractable roofs, but having been to games in Arizona and Dallas, which have retractable roofs, I can tell you they’re almost always closed because teams like the noise factor of a Dome.

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
7:52 am

Domes Suck — well said.

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
7:54 am

Peachtree Pete — I’ve lived here nearly 21 years. Downtown is miles ahead now of what it used to be, and it started with the arena.

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
7:55 am

The Real Falcon — On average, I’ll attend eight to 10 of their 16 regular season games. Mark Bradley and I generally rotate coverage, sometimes we both go.

John

May 24th, 2010
7:56 am

There’s gotta be a way to improve the current venue that will allow Blank to increase his profits to the obscenely obscene level of his contemporaries without s–t canning the Dome.

Improve the amenities inside the place for the rich and famous and CREATE some amenities outside for the rest of us.

In order to induce the Falcons fan to pass more of his filthy lucre Art’s way, he’s gotta establish a conspicuous line of demarcation between them and the common man. Look at the Liberty Media Braves! The Ted abounds with examples. There’s the Lexus Only lot and the new SunTrust section behind home plate. Hell everybody in the park knows how elite and special those folks are.

The idea here is to create something, make everybody think they gotta have it, then charge ten prices for it so only the wealthy can afford it. Then their money buys not only the tangible good (parking in close proximity to the stadium and behind-home-plate seats) but exclusivity and status – the ultimate flauntable intangibles!

We don’t need another 75,000 seat stadium in Atlanta. The Dome is less than 20 years old! Blank and his brain trust need to get creative.

Blank seems like a good guy. But his toy is a cash cow that can give a helluva lot more milk. If ATL doesn’t knuckle under, somebody else will. We’ll probably have to meet his demands.

They say an NFL team provides an economic stimulus to the home city. Now’s probably not the time to test the veracity of that theory.

It is freaking disgusting though, given our current economic situation.

BigWat

May 24th, 2010
7:56 am

As a season ticket holder, I’m in favor of a new stadium. However I support a dome or a retractable roof. The Falcon fans are already “fair weather” fans. An outdoor stadiuim would be a bad decision from the city and business perspective. We need to keep it downtown.

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
7:57 am

The Real Falcon — I know where you’re going with this, and yes I sit in a booth. In outdoor stadiums, press boxes generally are enclosed. Not advised to type on a laptop in the rain. But if I was a fan, I’d rather sit outside.

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
7:58 am

Gmoney — Me too. But the taxes always get approved locally because it’s “somebody else” who’s going to pay it.

Jeff Schultz

May 24th, 2010
7:59 am

Bugkiller — Why would you assume Atlanta would lose anything with an outdoor stadium?