Falcons can have new building — as long as they pay for it

The only thing wrong with this building is it doesn't make Arthur Blank enough money. (AJC photo)

The Georgia Dome is only 20 years old and just fine as a sports venue. (AJC photo)

This is the way it used to work in sports: Build a stadium for a sports team. Decades later, when it grew old and weathered and shingles began to fall from the roof and maybe the rats began to build condominiums, there would be discussion about tearing it down and starting over.

This is the way it works now in sports: Build a stadium for a sports team. A decade or two later (maybe), when the building ceases in its perceived ability to generate enough revenue for the sports owner, then it’s time to build a new one to make him happy.

There is an increasing likelihood that the Georgia Dome, which opened 20 years ago, is going to be torn down, giving way to a retractable roof stadium. The cost of the new palace: $947 million. This assumes it doesn’t go up (which it will) or Groupon doesn’t run a special on stadium seats and drink holders.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank has long ago expressed his desire for a new stadium, and as a general rule when self-made billionaires express an interest in something, they get it. Give the man credit for this: He’s probably going to pull this off without once alienating the public by threatening to move his team to Los Angeles, Toronto or London, or just selling it to Winnipeg. That’s not an easy feat.

As Blank has said to me on a few occasions about the stadium issue, “It’s kind of like making sausage.” In other words, it’s best to just enjoy the finished product rather than focus on the ugly details of how it came to be.

But there’s something wrong with this. There’s something wrong when a perfectly good building is scheduled to be detonated. There’s something wrong when even one taxpayer dollar – let alone $300 million – is used toward somebody’s football stadium. Do we have other economic issues, or is that all just a political smear campaign?

Blank, like any owner, wants to generate more revenue. (AP photo)

Blank, like any owner, wants to generate more revenue. (AP photo)

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against the Falcons having a new stadium. I certainly have nothing against Blank, who has been as strong and beloved of a sports owner as this city ever has had. It’s difficult not to like Blank as a person, a businessman and a sports fan. He is passionate and generous. He is neither a corporate logo nor a buffoon, two things we see far too much of in sports ownership.

It’s also easy to understand Blank’s position on this: He can’t generate enough revenue in the Georgia Dome – enough being relative to the giant ATM-like stadiums that exist in Dallas, Washington and New York. The Georgia Dome doesn’t have enough suites, enough signage, enough martini bars. It’s the reason the Falcons’ overall value pales in comparison to that of other NFL franchises.

But the Georgia Dome is just fine for spectators. It’s just fine for teams. It’s just fine for a Final Four or a monster truck race or a trade show. Nobody is affected by the fact that it doesn’t make a sufficient “cha-ching” sound for the Falcons other than the Falcons’ owner.

New buildings are nice. But the Falcons are a private business, not a post office or a branch of government. I just happen to believe that business owners should pay for the building that houses their business.  I know – such a quaint and novel thought.

It’s true that Blank and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority are going to be partners in this venture. But the fact remains that the GWCC would not be seeking a new building if the Falcons didn’t want one. It shouldn’t matter that the $300 million contribution for the proposed new stadium is coming from a hotel-motel sales tax and therefore not directly coming out of the pockets of most Atlanta residents. I’m just as angry any time I travel to another city and have to pay a tax for a stadium or arena there for the same reason.

Too many stadiums are being built today because cities are held hostage by sports franchises — and I say this somebody who grew up as a sports fan and makes their living covering the teams.

A new stadium would look lovely, yes. But the Georgia Dome isn’t a scar on downtown. Other areas of downtown are the scars. What’s being done about that? Would $300 million help?

The building isn’t crumbling. Our priorities are.

By Jeff Schultz

460 comments Add your comment

Lewis Martin

April 25th, 2012
6:53 pm

You make some good points.

Sluggo

April 25th, 2012
6:54 pm

PSLs are on the way.

Panther Poop

April 25th, 2012
7:07 pm

Is the location still in the air? I remember talk about North Atlanta. Any update?

Get Real

April 25th, 2012
7:08 pm

If Blank needs my money to build a stadium I want it paid back in 10 years.

If I am going to invest in a new stadium I want the best/greatest ever built. Retractable roof? Fine, but not enough, it’s been done. Come up with the first something, the biggest something, the most something. I want Jerry Jones red faced over how yesterday his stadium is now that the Falcons have their new stadium. I want the NFL to beg us to have a Super Bowl in Atlanta. I want people around the world to ask their team principals “why didn’t we do that?”

If Blank just wants a different stadium that he can make more money from, let him build it. If he wants to have the envy of the sporting world, I’m in.

JSS

April 25th, 2012
7:09 pm

Told you so!!! Luckily the State’s contribution is capped at $300 million (it should have never gotten above $175 million). The key is to stay on top of any attempt by the Falcons or the GWCC authority to push for land or infrastructure improvements into line areas of the State agency or the city of Atlanta budgets!

lanier

April 25th, 2012
7:13 pm

a new stadium is just stupid. the fans would end up being blead

Dom

April 25th, 2012
7:14 pm

Couldn’t agree more Jeff. My first thought on hearing the Georgia Dome could be torn down for a new stadium was “Yeah, because that’s the big problem in America today – some people have to make do with 20-year-old stadiums”.

Scott Case

April 25th, 2012
7:17 pm

REBUILD FULTON COUNTY STADIUM!

GStateBen

April 25th, 2012
7:18 pm

Where will my precious Panthers play????

Kane337

April 25th, 2012
7:21 pm

I agree Jeff, but the current stadium was a crummy deal for the Falcons that the Smith’s (Falcon’s previous owners) made. The Falcons constantly rank around 28-30 every year out of 32 teams in generating revenue. I want the Falcons able to compete financially and on the field against other teams in big markets. Sux it hits the tax payers. Glad that I do not stay at hotels in downtown Atlanta.

Festus

April 25th, 2012
7:21 pm

Tell it brother… you are 100% correct on this one.

Ewww

April 25th, 2012
7:23 pm

So will the Stadium be built else where?

"Chef" Tim Dix

April 25th, 2012
7:28 pm

if King Arthur wants to pay for it, I hope it makes Jerry’s palace look like a piss shed.

"Chef" Tim Dix

April 25th, 2012
7:35 pm

BTW, the Dome never looks or sounds better than the SEC Championship Game.

tom

April 25th, 2012
7:41 pm

I think you meant to have a ? on the end of your last sentence, Jeff.

Andy

April 25th, 2012
7:45 pm

Two Jewish guys should not be talking about sausages. The analogy isn’t good and the outcome won’t be either.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

April 25th, 2012
7:45 pm

so hypothetically, lets say they did demolish the dome. construction takes awhile- where do the falcons play their home games?? Athens, Turner Field, GT, Phillips??

62jacket

April 25th, 2012
7:46 pm

Funny thing, when I built a new shed a while back, Home Depot said they didn’t give discounts. If Arthur wants a new building of his own, let him pay for it. He can afford it.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

April 25th, 2012
7:46 pm

improvements to the gulch i hope!!

LDawg

April 25th, 2012
7:47 pm

So how much is Arthur, the self-made billionaire kicking in?

lumiere

April 25th, 2012
7:48 pm

Tax wealthy sportswriters to pay for it.

Bat Masterson

April 25th, 2012
7:49 pm

The NFL is nothing but a bunch of freaking socialists.

Probably caused by the fluoride in the water.

El Bravo

April 25th, 2012
7:51 pm

The stadium will be built within the GWCC grounds, adjacent to the Dome.

El Bravo

April 25th, 2012
7:52 pm

The Dome will not be demolished until the new stadium is built. The Falcons will continue to play at the Dome until then…

bill

April 25th, 2012
7:52 pm

If a penny of tax money goes towards this while Georgia families are struggling through the recession we need to truly consider what “Republican” really means.

KINGDAWG

April 25th, 2012
7:55 pm

Wow Jeff, your previous few articles have been very good and dead spot on….stay off the booze, you write better when you are sober. Just joking…good read.

El Bravo

April 25th, 2012
7:55 pm

Arthur Blank is kicking in the balance (700 million give or take). The negotiations will be over the split of revenues. How much the Falcons get to keep from gates, concessions and parking, and how much goes to the city of Atlanta and the GWCC.

Bat Masterson

April 25th, 2012
7:55 pm

20 years old?

Heck, I have girlfriends older than that.

Larry

April 25th, 2012
7:55 pm

This is one of those moments that crack me up about liberals. They always talk about the corporate conservatives hunger for money while not thinking enough about wealth sharing.

Well, let me let you in on a little secret. 8 of the top 10 and 17 of the top 20 Billionaires in the US are liberal democrats. And those who keep voting for these liberal candidates that are the puppets of these folks are too stupid to realize you are nothing but the prostitutes of the pimps–keeping getting a little free, unearned money to keep them in power so they can manipulate city, state and federal contracts to their pimps–the liberal billionaires that are the true grime of greed.

Why is this relevant? One Arthur Bland is a liberal, and guess who he and the GWCC want to help fund this little deal so pad their pockets even more?

I’ll give you 3 seconds!

Gerald

April 25th, 2012
7:59 pm

Say hello to local blackouts of Falcon games. PSL’s will KILL attendance.

Joe

April 25th, 2012
8:00 pm

I don’t understand why the Georgia Dome would be torn down. If the cost is going to be 8-9 million dollars to tear it down, why not offer it to Georgia State University for that price + real estate costs?

Bat Masterson

April 25th, 2012
8:01 pm

You’re a wierdo, Larry

Spare me

April 25th, 2012
8:03 pm

What a total waste of money! I love football and I love the Falcons but if they can’t make payroll in this town on their own, move the business elsewhere. The city of Atlanta can ill afford to subsidize Arthur Blank. NO TAXPAYER SUBSIDY!!!!

Ewww

April 25th, 2012
8:06 pm

Joe.. Nobody cares about Georgia State… They couldn’t afford the regular maintenance.

david

April 25th, 2012
8:10 pm

Let’s build a new stadium in the same bad section of town people already do not want to go to. No parking, no tailgating, and no really feels safe there. Build the stadium far away from down town Atlanta.

John

April 25th, 2012
8:10 pm

Hey Jeff they mention two possible sites for the new stadium north and south of the G Dome. Do you happen to know what site that is in the south? In the north I believe its the GWC parking area we’ve all likely seen.

RGB

April 25th, 2012
8:11 pm

Maybe we should demand that all houses 20 years old should be torn down so we can put up new ones. And we can, once again, soak taxpayers because, after all, they (you) have unlimited wealth.

TechFan49

April 25th, 2012
8:13 pm

In twenty years we will be talking about tearing down the retractable roof stadium because it is obsolete and can’t match the revenue being generated by new stadiums in New Orleans, Miami or St. Louis. If Mr. Blank can build a stadium on his own, more power to him, but let’s not tear down a perfectly good Georgia Dome that fits the needs of the entire local sporting community – except the Falcons – just fine.

Gumbo

April 25th, 2012
8:14 pm

Agree 100%, Jeff – not right to spend other people’s money, huh? Glad you’ve finally seen the light!

Voice of Reason

April 25th, 2012
8:14 pm

To demolish a perfectly good structure that can produce income, such as being a part of the GWCC to utilize for the convention trade and other events, is ridiculous. There is enough room in the gulch for another stadium. The next thing if this goes through will be the GWCC asking for some form of funds to enlarge their facilities because they are missing out on some conventions. I have owned over ten businesses, and I funded every one of them just as I should have.

gunga din

April 25th, 2012
8:15 pm

total waste of tax dollars. if falcons want a new stadium, let them pay for it 100%. if you think state limit will stay below $300m then you are an idiot. they will expect millions more in infrastructure. let them leave if they don’t want to pay for it !!!

bear

April 25th, 2012
8:15 pm

I couldn’t agree more! NFL Teams are private and there should not be a penny of public money that goes towards a new stadium. Most taxpayers in the Atlanta region could care less about the Falcons, which includes myself.

Larry

April 25th, 2012
8:17 pm

Ms Bat,

Fret not lazy one…your government incentive check not to work and to watch TV and drink your schlitz is due on Tuesday, the 1st of May.

Have you had your bath this week?

Larry..

April 25th, 2012
8:19 pm

Thanks for bringing right vs. left politics into a column about a proposal for a new stadium.
You & your ilk are relentless!
By the way, if you are going to spew your nonsense, which it is (or should I say very possibly a lie?), give us a link here or supporting proof of your assertions. And I don’t mean a link to a knee-jerk right wing nut job propaganda sheet. Otherwise, leave your talking points out of this discussion & save them for a political blog.

Pay UP

April 25th, 2012
8:19 pm

blank’s a billionaire and knows how to use leverage to get deals—the city and state of ga will end up paying for most of this tah majal stadium, while blank pockets 100% of the revenues. Bend over!!

Purple Drank

April 25th, 2012
8:19 pm

Enter your comments here

Gator graduate

April 25th, 2012
8:22 pm

I am sure the GA government will find taxpayer dollars by giving more furlough days to teachers. I love football, but the hypocrisy of the Republicans (cut spending!) and the Democrats (raise taxes!) makes me sick.

Bat Masterson

April 25th, 2012
8:25 pm

Poor, Larry, neither funny nor clever.

Don’t give up though Larry, if you keep trying surely one day you’ll write a sentence worth reading.

Brakeyourself

April 25th, 2012
8:26 pm

for a real stadium folks.

Los Angeles Falcons of Anaheim

April 25th, 2012
8:26 pm

Arthur Blank is a crook, and this scheme of his to rob US, John & Suzie Taxpayer, to pay for his new stadium merely reaffirms that.

Blank, you can take your stadium “proposal,” wrap it up in your orange Home Depot apron, soak it in dishwater, gently turn it sideways and shove it straight your thieving [backside] !!!

Los Angeles needs an NFL team.

Take yours there, Blank.