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

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April 26th, 2012
11:12 am

Timbo, the students pay for it by a financial increase in their Tuition. Special things called Fees. You charge a $1,000 “athletic” fee to a university with 13,000 students and your looking at $13 million in one year. Add in some boosters. Essentially the same as a tax to the population

Agree

April 26th, 2012
11:18 am

Sports stadiums have come in all sizes. But in the past, even the big ones were pretty modest affairs. You went to a stadium to watch a game.

Not today. Now stadiums are mini amusement parks. Part museum, part theme park. In some of these places, it seems like the game is an after thought.

A billion dollars for a stadium? I see where this is headed. Real NFL football will soon be replaced by online versions of John Madden football.

It would be a lot cheaper.

Dr. Warren

April 26th, 2012
11:20 am

Tear down Atlantic Station and put the stadium there. That would make more sense, fiscally as well as convenience-wise.

Richard

April 26th, 2012
11:25 am

I don’t blame Blank. He’s watching other owners force taxpayers to foot the bill and he’s thinking he can do the same thing. It’s smart. It makes perfect sense for Blank to give it a shot.

As the tax payers, we should be screaming about this, and telling him to get lost. LA doesn’t have a team mainly because they wont foot the bill, and noone there minds.

Agree

April 26th, 2012
11:30 am

Have you seen the new Madden video games? They look pretty good. You can play when you want AND they don’t cost a billion dollars.

Snake Doc

April 26th, 2012
11:30 am

Larry Sorry, we seem to have two Larry’s here, One is you the other is this guy:

Larry..

Notice the two peeriods in his posting name. Larry (No Periods), I definitely wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to Larry.. (with two periods) and I missed the two periods.

Its great to know that we two are on the same page.

My apologies for the confusion.

Delbert D.

April 26th, 2012
11:33 am

If I were interested in creating an enterprise that cost $947 million, I’d look for investors. Sell shares of stock. Share the cost, share in the profit. (Now, those potential investors might be more interested in building an asteroid-mining company, which would entail more risk but return more bang for the buck.) Come on, Arthur Blank, weren’t you once the uber capitalist? Are you morphing into a money grubbing socialist?

Sid

April 26th, 2012
11:40 am

Delbert D.

April 25th, 2012
10:18 pm
While we are discussing the wonders of downtown, we mustn’t forget the Richard B. Russell Federal Building. I went there on a dark, rainy morning in February, and the parking entrance to that place gave me flashbacks to scenes in “Blade Runner.”
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No wonder, that’s where it was filmed……………….!!

myside

April 26th, 2012
11:49 am

A stadium is a place to play games, football, baseball, soccer, basketball, etc. The Dome fills that football need, Turner Field fills that baseball need, and nobody in Georgia cares enough about pro soccer and pro basketball to cause a need there.
Since the stadiums already in place fill those needs why tear them down to build a palace just to replace them.
Demanding that already over taxed citizens of Atlanta and the state who can’t afford their medical and mortgage bills should help pay for a new stadium they can’t afford to go to is totally absurd.
As for more suites, There is plenty of seldom, or never, used seats at the Dome to make space for more rich folks who don’t want to lower themselves to use seats where the less rich folks sit. Their suites have to be higher than the regular seats so they can look down on the folks sitting there, and they don’t care about the cost because it satisfies their ego and is a tax write off for them.
If the locker rooms are not nice enough for the highly paid players and coaches, let them pay for upgrading them.
Arthur Blank is a highly respected owner but if these plans go through he will find himself losing a lot of that respect, whether he is guilty of the waste or not.
The Dome needs more and better police protection from the city so it does not make fans too scared to go there.

Sid

April 26th, 2012
12:05 pm

GaStBen April 26th, 2012 10:40 am

FACT: The Superbowl won’t come back to Atlanta until a new stadium is built. It’s outdated.
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You are right about one thing…………..Atlanta will not get another Superbowl untl they get a new stadium……….PERIOD. They have been told that directly. But the GA Dome being outdated…………yeah, right, that sucker is gonna collapse durng a game one of these days……just fall down like it was imploded. What an eyesore! Can we not get some resuscitation for this dilapidated old building, my God, what an embarrassment to the city. It has outserved it’s usefulness, it’s flatlined. You step in and it smells just like Bourbon St and there’s not enough worldwide bleach supply to get that stench out.

Larry,,,

April 26th, 2012
12:06 pm

…………and this is his other brother Larry.

Double Zero Eight

April 26th, 2012
12:08 pm

The Super Dome in New Orleans is a dump compared to the GA Dome.
It was built in the 70″s, and they don’t have any problem getting Super Bowls.
Let the Falcons and Arthur Blank pay for it as many have said.

PreyDawg

April 26th, 2012
12:10 pm

As a huge life long Falcon’s Fan, I agree with Schultzie 100% on this one. Well said Jeff.

Indydawg

April 26th, 2012
12:14 pm

Be careful folks. Indianapolis is a cautionary tale…

Reid in EAV

April 26th, 2012
12:15 pm

Public funding of sports venues is never a good deal. Read Field of Schemes. http://www.fieldofschemes.com/

So yes, I agree with this 100%. My position: pay for it your own d@mn self. If you want tax dollars, then seriously, talk to the finger and get the F out of town. Go find another, more naive, jurisdiction to anally rape for your own profit.

Email Profiling Is Wrong

April 26th, 2012
12:17 pm

“The building isn’t crumbling. Our priorities are.”

Amen Schultz.

The irony of ’state of the art’ facilities is their inevitable obsolescence. Build Artie’s palace now and count to 20 (years). Rest assured, within that time, one of his fellow owners will create for themselves a plaything with cutting edge technology and shameless amenities that will make Blank’s billion dollar venue look like a high school stadium.

Is there any doubt that Blank (or his heirs) will demand a comparable facility?

There are few things better than being an owner of an NFL franchise. There’s always somebody willing to meet their demands.

5150 UOAD

April 26th, 2012
12:17 pm

Getting the Superbowl will not make the money ATL gets from the Chick-fil- A Kickoff Classic, Bowl. and the SEC CG game. The SEC CG and Bowl are in Late Nov & Dec the weather could be bad and people want to ENJOY thise games not HATE the weather. WE NEED THE DOME. Screw a Superbowl.

Biff Gaut

April 26th, 2012
12:20 pm

If there is a potential $300MM of revenue from a hotel tax, then pass the tax and use it for the general fund. I would hope it would alleviate other tax pressure, but it will probably just be spent on more programs, but still not on a private business.

With $300MM in tax credits to lure businesses to town, think how many jobs could be created – better jobs then selling beer 8 times a year or running a parking lot.

Sid

April 26th, 2012
12:24 pm

I don’t think we need a new stadium but face the facts, Arthur is gonna get one. Not that that hotel/motel tax couldn’t go to other needs.

Why not put it at the old GM site in Doraville? You don’t need hotels on site when you have a Marta rail station that abuts the property and a little revenue in Marta’s pocket doesn’t hurt. And in case you forgot that Marta line runs all the way to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

I support an open-air stadium (if they build one) and that would necessitate keeping the perfectly good GA Dome. But how many teams build a stadium with a retractable roof then close it on a perfectly beautiful day so as to increase 12th man crowd noise for home team advantage.

I fondly remember Falcons fooball in the elements at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, well, some seasons were better than others.

Sid

April 26th, 2012
12:28 pm

5150 UOAD

April 26th, 2012
12:17 pm
Getting the Superbowl will not make the money ATL gets from the Chick-fil- A Kickoff Classic, Bowl. and the SEC CG game. The SEC CG and Bowl are in Late Nov & Dec the weather could be bad and people want to ENJOY thise games not HATE the weather. WE NEED THE DOME. Screw a Superbowl.
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Man, come up with some stats on that statement. I gurantee a hotel room costs twice for a Superbowl as it does the games you mentioned. It’s a world wide stage my man.

Kyle

April 26th, 2012
12:43 pm

Something like this wouldn’t be so bad if we were talking about a team that had two or three Super Bowl trophies on the shelf but we are talking about one that has been around since ‘66 with nothing to show for it and of course you have New Orleans with one and Tampa Bay (who is 10 years younger than the Falcons) with one. I would say both teams past were worse than the Falcons but they managed to have the right upper management, coaches, and players to get over the top. You should give the city a Championship before you start asking for them to help with a new stadium.

Damage Inc.

April 26th, 2012
12:47 pm

What people don’t understand is that Atlanta will get a share of the revenue from a new stadium for YEARS to come. Do you know how much money that could be? It would not only be 8 times a year for the Falcons but for every other event as well.

goldenglove002

April 26th, 2012
12:48 pm

Okay, chances are we can complain all we want but the city will still end up paying for part of the stadium. What I don’t get is why they want to additionally tear down the Dome. That building is amazing for doing so many things, and having the ability to do more than one event at a time could be spectacular for this city.

Think about this: The Chick-Fil-A Kickoff could consist of 8 teams. Two games could be played on each field over the course of kickoff weekend. Add Georgia Tech into the mix and you would have 10 college football fan bases invading the city. An event like that would be bigger in terms of money coming into the city than the Super Bowl. Imagine having an event larger than the super bowl EVERY YEAR. Atlanta can easily be the capital of college football, and two stadiums could help accommodate some amazing things.

And I’m not buying into the land being redeveloped where the Dome is currently. It’s not like we have a problem finding real-estate in Atlanta.

Y'all=Crazy

April 26th, 2012
12:51 pm

Um, people talking about moving the Falcons to LA instead of getting a new stadium here need to pass what they are smoking, because it must be some good sh*t…any Falcons fan would rather say goodbye to that sorry Dome and get a respectable field for our team to play on than move the team because of it. We will get another Super Bowl, probably multiple more Super Bowls if we get a new stadium, which will generate a ton of revenue for the city.

king dawg

April 26th, 2012
12:54 pm

Sid…no one wants to ride MATRA! Get it? Besides, it isn’t the stadium keeping Super Bowls out of Atlanta..it’s downtown Atlanta keeping Super Bowls away. Ride MARTA! Really? Decent people with a choice won’t.

j

April 26th, 2012
12:55 pm

This Stinks there goes my affordable season tickets. I guess I will be watching the games from home in a couple of years.

5150 UOAD

April 26th, 2012
12:58 pm

SID we could build a 100k seat stadium and the SEC CG will still want more tickets. Yes New Years Eve Chick-fil-A and the SEC CG game Sell MORE Hotel rooms because it happens EVERY YEAR. the Super Bowl is 1 time and maybe a second time 6 years later unless you are the Ghetto of New Orleans.

The Producer

April 26th, 2012
12:59 pm

In this so call Conservative State, where the majority proclaims lowering the taxes is main reason they laid off teachers at the expense of our children future. Now the majority will fight for the wealthy minority to get a new toy stadium. I guarantee once Mr. Blank gets his new stadium, courtesy of tax payers, he will raise ticket prices too. (Double Tax Whammy)
PS. Whatever happen to spending that kind of money on the horrible transportation situation here. Stupid is, stupid does.

5150 UOAD

April 26th, 2012
1:01 pm

SID and DragonCon is the Labor-day Weekend same as the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.
The Superbowl can’t bring in the MONEY these events already produce.

alpharetta alice

April 26th, 2012
1:03 pm

the Falcons can go. Take the Hawks and uga with them. They are an all loser version of “the three amigos”.

5150 UOAD

April 26th, 2012
1:04 pm

king dWag you sir are a Moron. MARTA is the best way to do the Game. $5 ride or $20 parking? Want to come to a game from out of town? Fly into ATL hope on the train get off at the Dome watch the game get on the train back to the ATL and fly Delta back home.

king dawg

April 26th, 2012
1:09 pm

MARTA is for life’s underacheivers and undesireables. Sounds like you have a super fan card from MARTA. I won’t ride with lowlifes.

Richard Morgan

April 26th, 2012
1:10 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jeff, for finally having the … to speak the truth and not just go with the flow toward an irresponsible use of taxpayer funds. I am fine with the current stadium, but if Mr Blank would like a new one to increase the value of this team, then he is a businessman and can run the numbers on this investment as well as anyone. No need for the taxpayers to pay one dollar toward this calculation other than them being the willing purchasers of the products and services that Mr Blank will be selling.

megamicro

April 26th, 2012
1:11 pm

i love the smell of open air

April 26th, 2012
1:16 pm

This new stadium is a great idea and much needed. The Dome is not awesome. I’m not worried about the tax dollars like so many other “fans” commenting here, at least these tax dollars will go to build something that will support the city unlike so many other projects the city has wasted money on in recent history. Blank is a philanthropist and does plenty of good with the money he has earned, the least we can do is support him as well.

5150 UOAD

April 26th, 2012
1:17 pm

Hahahah KING DWAG don’t you spend your Saturdays with 82,000 of “life’s underacheivers and undesireables” in Sanford Stadium?

and it is” Undesirables” you idiot.

Here is a link to how well UGa spell but I guess you will not even notice it.
http://leatherhelmetblog.com/2012-articles/april/uga-misspells-new-weight-room-motto.html

MARTA Rida

April 26th, 2012
1:17 pm

@kingdawg
You learn to spell at that joke of a college called UGA. I would learn to spell 5-letter acronyms before ripping mass transit. There are plenty of decent people, me being one, that rides MARTA everyday and to sporting events. 5150 UOAD is right, MARTA is the best way of getting to any sporting event downtown. $5 to delivery people to the front door of the venues. MARTA is very safe, more likely to die driving home from the games than being mugged on MARTA.

shoe glue

April 26th, 2012
1:18 pm

The Dome is not awesome.

Neither are the Falcons.

5150 UOAD

April 26th, 2012
1:24 pm

MARTA will have to go to ANY stadium built. the Workers will have to get there too and most need MARTA.

Spot On

April 26th, 2012
1:26 pm

Great job Jeff, one of your best ever.

Andrew

April 26th, 2012
1:29 pm

How does the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta justify spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a new stadium (particularly when the Georgia Dome is only 20 years old) when the education system has seen such drastic cutbacks? It seems many of our politicians are more concerned with lining their pockets than actually assisting the people of Georgia.

P B Orr

April 26th, 2012
1:31 pm

Jeff, while I certainly appreciate your position, you cannot analyze it this way. In fact a modern stadium would reflect on the city itself in a very positive way that would pay for itself in many hidden ways that cannot be directly calculated, much as the Apollo moon program led to unexpected benefits in terms of techniques of systems engineering that were applicable in many disciplines not directly related to space travel. You cannot reduce everything to a simple bottom line. And building a stadium need not be done “instead” of building schools and improving the sewers, not to say hiring cops and teachers. It’s cheapness and lack of vision that leads to the collapse of an economy. Ask Birmingham how they feel about being cheap and regressive in the early 20th century, when they were the natural candidate for the South’s leading city.

5150 UOAD

April 26th, 2012
1:31 pm

ANDREW check this link and laugh about the EDUCATION in Georgia and at UGa Hahaha

http://leatherhelmetblog.com/2012-articles/april/uga-misspells-new-weight-room-motto.html

Raaaaaaaandy

April 26th, 2012
1:34 pm

..the city doesn’t benefit at all from having 70,000 people come in to town 30 times a year

southern hope

April 26th, 2012
1:43 pm

For what it’s worth, my family and i attended one Falcons game….it was our first but we’ve attended other games in cities around the country & have loved it..we’ll never go back…it was incredibly depressing, incredibly non-football, hard to see, yuck (and the Falcons won that day). I would imagine that there are thousands of folks who would see a game here if the facility weren’t so darn awful.

k483

April 26th, 2012
1:50 pm

If I’m going to pony up for Mr. Blank’s new stadium, I want something that will favor my home team. Perhaps it can be designed where blinding sunlight is focused into the eyes of an opposing quarterback, regardless of the quarter. Or maybe some engineering that tilts the playing field where the opposition is having to march up a 12 degree incline in order to score. Hey, maybe even a retracting field where those pesky fourth and short tries become even shorter. Now that’s a stadium I’d gladly pay for!

Jason

April 26th, 2012
1:52 pm

How many people have been in a retractable roof stadium, especially one built recently? Even when the roof is open it isn’t anywhere near the feel of a true open air stadium. it’s like comparing a convertable to a car with a sunroof. It’s not even close to being the best of both worlds.

Jim G

April 26th, 2012
1:52 pm

If a single penny of tax payer money is used to pay for the stadium, I will cancel my season tickets and never watch or attend another Falcon game. I will just support my Dawgs… I’m getting to the point where I’m disgusted with professional sports. There is no reason why the tax payers should foot any of the cost to help Arthur Blank make more money.

Urb

April 26th, 2012
1:58 pm

Put it in The Gulch. It would transform Downtown’s biggest eyesore into huge attraction. It also has great connections to Downtown transit and other attractions.

Jeff

April 26th, 2012
1:59 pm

Since I do not live in GA I don’t care how this new dome is paid for I just want one :)
Build it now.