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

ozzfest

April 26th, 2012
4:50 pm

Art….cut the crap!
We are going to carve your soul into tiny little pieces if you do not crawl back up to Flowery Branch and KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT.

8 home games per year for a BILLION fn DOLLARS? Prepare to have your head handed to you by the tax paying public.

THE DOME IS ONE OF THE FINEST VENUES IN AMERICA. YOU CAN NOT SELL THE “LUXURY SUITES” YOU ALREADY HAVE…SO YOU WANT MORE??

MORE….MORE…MORE……..INSANE.

Taxi Smith

April 26th, 2012
5:20 pm

It is criminal to tear down the Georgia Dome after only twenty years. I attended several games last fall (mostly collegiate) and I just cannot understand why the state would allow this to happen. It is a waste of tax dollars, wherever they come from! Sorry Mr. Blank; this stinks.

Troy Goodwin

April 26th, 2012
5:21 pm

You haven’t been to other NFL stadiums have you??

Well Pure Evil, I’ve been 5 NFL stadiums in my lifetime; Reliant Stadium, The Astrodome, The Superdome,(Home to your Natural Born Rivals-The Saints) Texas Stadium, and The Georgia Dome.

JSS

April 26th, 2012
5:39 pm

There were 3 representatives from the GA DOT at the City of Doraville meeting that were held on October 19, 2009. The Doraville plant was the no. 5 releaser of TRI chemicals before it closed down. Do you (try using common sense here) not think once they finally start breaking ground to do the environmental feasibility studies what the outcome is going to be? Go to Flint, River Rouge, or even a fairly modern plant like Smyrna, TN and see what happened?

Here’s the root problem with your argument and I mean I’m done with this with you…. Doraville does not want it, no stadium in a suburban setting has spurred real growth in that area except possibly where the Patroits play. Pontiac is a ghost town.Those places have a 20 year shelf life. Doraville doesn’t want to go out that way. They want something sustainable for hopefully the next half century or more… Let it go, they have!
From then to now…
http://www.championnewspaper.com/news/articles/112doraville-says-no-to-falcons-stadium-at-former-gm-plant-112.html

RailD

April 26th, 2012
6:04 pm

Best commuter rail systems I’ve used:

San Francisco, Wash DC, Boston

Worst: Atlanta, LA

New Taxes!

April 26th, 2012
6:08 pm

I don’t live in atlanta or fulton county, so it doesn’t matter if they jack up taxes sky high to pay for a new $1 billion dome!!! I would like to go to games in that new palace, as long as ticket prices don’t go up. If they do PSLs, I will not go. This is not new york, it’s lowly atlanta.

Jeff E.

April 26th, 2012
7:04 pm

Now you know what us in Minnesota have been dealing with. They cried about 10 years after the dome opened that it was out of date and needed to be torn down. Now they want us to pay almost 1 billion dollars to build a new stadium. The NFL commisioner even threatened us if we didn’t build the stadium there would be “serious consequences.” Now our legislature will probably approve the stadium. Look out Atlanta the commisioner will probably threaten you also.

JSS

April 26th, 2012
7:42 pm

Jeff E. too late, he already played that card…

JSS

April 26th, 2012
8:14 pm

Hey Jeff Schultz, you use to work the 49ers beat; what are your feelings about the whole Santa Clara stadium deal? I’ve been meaning to ask for quite a while…

atlanta to Seattle2016

April 26th, 2012
8:54 pm

absolutly nothing wrong with the ga dome…WORST DOME??SUPER DOME IN NASTY STINKIN NEW ORLEANS ITS 40 YRS OLD!!yet it gets super bowls why???BEST FOOTBALL STADIUM??CENTURY LINK FIELD ,SEATTLE,WA..AND ABSOLUTLY LOUD(CALLED THE 12TH MAN) AND INTIMADATING TO OTHER TEAMS..WITH A BEAUTIFUL VIEW OF SEATTLE..AND HAS YET TO HOST A SUPER BOWL..

Let's Be Real

April 26th, 2012
9:41 pm

Why are so many Falcons fans concerned about hosting another Super Bowl? It certainly has an economic impact, but it’s nearly always overestimated. And unless you own a hotel or restaurant near the new stadium you won’t be economically impacted in any way.

The idea of building a new stadium to host one or two Super Bowls is frivolous.

yuzeyurbrane

April 26th, 2012
11:45 pm

Who wants to bet that Deal’s daughter or other family member or close friend gets a contract to do PR or fly airplanes or something else (does it really matter what the title is?) for the Falcons after the big deal has been signed? I can count on the fingers of my 2 hands the number of commentators I have ever read favoring this corrupt deal. Yet it continues as if the people don’t count. When are Georgians going to have enough rage to throw these bums out of office? Not to mention, where is our savior Attorney General Sam Olens re investigating this pile of poo? It just stinks to high heaven.

Mike

April 27th, 2012
7:22 am

Atlantans should research similar headlines in Kansas City in the 60’s. Taxpayers were promised a stadium with a retractable roof. Take a look at Arrowhead Stadium today….no roof.

Howard H

April 27th, 2012
7:42 am

They need a new place to hold all the championship banners!
Let’s see new stadiums for falcons, braves, hawks… Carry the one, looks like sum total of championships in new stadiums is…zero?

[...] in tax revenue so the Falcons can enjoy a new, more profitable home offends the crap out of me.  Jeff Schultz is right – it’s not that Arthur Blank is a villain or merely even a lousy owner – the [...]

Georgia on my mind..

April 27th, 2012
7:55 am

The money should be spent on educating our children. If the owner wants a new stadium, let him pay for it himself. Look at what happened in New Orleans. Their Superdome survived Hurricane Katrina and the Saints still won a Super Bowl! Building a new stadium would be a waste of tax payer money!!

DealMe

April 27th, 2012
8:11 am

the deal with get forced through with muscle from blank’s people and connected friends in the city govt and state legislature, who will make millions from related contracts—the typical mode of business in atlanta. Fans and taxpayers—bend over!

barneyfife

April 27th, 2012
8:13 am

Agreed…..winners or losers, taxpayers should NEVER have to bear the financial albatross of financing a sports venue. With teachers, cops, firefighters furloughed & losing jobs, we are retarded for even discussing the possibility of paying for this. The arrogance of any team owner/management for even asking for public funds for this.

John

April 27th, 2012
8:34 am

I have no interest in sports and have never been to a single sporting event, nor do I plan to. I do NOT want my money spent on a stadium. If Arthur wants a new stadium, he should pay for it all!

Tucker

April 27th, 2012
9:02 am

To cut costs, why don’t they keep the Dome roof and use it as a tarp when it rains? Maybe dye it blue to match the ones they sell at Home Depot.

jus'sayin'

April 27th, 2012
9:03 am

Funny how our state lawmakers love to criticize so-called irresponsible liberal spending when it goes towards programs that benefit regular people in the community, yet they practically fall over themselves to give $300 million to a billionaire during a financial crisis. Go figure! I’m not opposed to public money going into football stadiums per se, because I understand how they creates jobs and benefit the community, but we already have one! The only one who benefits from a new one is Blank himself. And one more thing Blank, you want a world class stadium like they have in New York and Dallas, but they have something you haven’t got: championships. Bring home a Lombardi trophy and stadium talk will be much more palatable.

P

April 27th, 2012
9:05 am

I am totally against ANY tax money being used for Billionaire’s hobbies. Study after study shows that the only beneficiary is the TEAM OWNER, NOT THE TAX PAYER OR CITY.

I like watching the NFL, but If the Falcons want to move, that is fine with me.

david

April 27th, 2012
9:18 am

I agree on the GSU comment. I bet GSU would buy it for the $ 8.3 million for the cost of the tear down.

Deep V

April 27th, 2012
9:30 am

EXACTLY how I feel, and I’m not even some rabid tea party guy. I’m actually pretty far left on most issues, and this just feels wrong. I LOVE the Falcons and I go to a ton of games. Would I like a pretty new stadium and open air football? Yes. Would I rather spend $300 million to address other problems in the city? You bet.

kb

April 27th, 2012
9:33 am

To all the fools who don’t want help the Falcons get a new stadium, you really need to join the 21st century. If Blank pays for it, then the state nor the city can get any of the tax money from it. That means Blank gets all of the money from all of the events that goes in there too: concerts, monster truck events, bmx rides (the Mountain Dew tour and the like), and the like. This city is always claiming that they don’t have any money for stuff, but somehow find money for some of the dumbest stuff around.

Also, if Blank builds it, he is going to move it up to Flowery Branch where they are less security risk for his customers(no one bumming money from you). That would take a lot of restaurant and tourist money away from downtown. Then they would be crying about loss money.

So all of you people who don’t want to pitch and help Blank build this thing, please don’t cry about the ticket prices going up to it and the city losing it charm to it.

kb

April 27th, 2012
9:37 am

One other thought: have anyone been inside the dome lately? There are rats in there big as small cats in there!!! Some of the men’s bathrooms are in shoddy condition. The food courts is terrible. Any many of you still think the Dome is ok???

kb

April 27th, 2012
9:41 am

Sorry for the earlier typos….

PMC

April 27th, 2012
9:51 am

jus sayin, this has nothing to do with the state. This is Atlanta money. That money is about keeping the stadium downtown so people coming into town will stay in Atlanta hotels and eat in Atlanta restaurants.

If the State lawmakers were in charge they’d build it in freaking Unadilla and put a fishing museum next door.

PMC

April 27th, 2012
9:54 am

Southern Hope, pretty much agree with you on Marta, I just wish it was more like the London Underground. Fast, Efficient, Reliable and it goes everywhere.

Mr. Mustartd

April 27th, 2012
9:55 am

Larry, you’re an idiot.

PMC

April 27th, 2012
9:56 am

The Doraville site just made so much sense because there is a Marta stop already there. Oh well.

John Tackett

April 27th, 2012
10:07 am

One of my biggest issues with a new stadium is the location they are considering.. the marshaling yards to the north of the dome. The traffic plan they have proposed is a poor one. If you have ever driven on Ivan Allen when there is a large event downtown you know what I mean. And it will now be a 1/2 mile walk from MARTA station at the Dome. The new stadium, if built, needs to be somewhere that has easy access to and from the interstate or easy access to transit.

ATL Observer

April 27th, 2012
11:03 am

I’d sell off the Dome to GA State or someone else for a penny-bargain price rather than just tear it down. Is it the best NFL stadium in the country? Not even close. Is it a worthless unit to be completely destroyed, leaving a huge gap between the Congress Center and CNN? Not that either.

$300 mill from the state works out to something like $30-31 dollars per person. The question is: where does the state make money off of this? If they see an increase in out-of-state tax revenue of $5 million a year and we get it in relief….then fine, this pays for itself in six years. But the state shouldn’t go a dime above that.

NoleRick

April 27th, 2012
11:04 am

Jeff
You are starting to sound like a conservative Republican!
Congrats

Alfred Jenkins

April 27th, 2012
11:57 am

Thank god they are getting a new stadium.

football outdoors is great and they can close it if they need to.

Also the Georgia Dome is a dump by modern NFL standards.

jokerswild

April 27th, 2012
2:09 pm

If A.B. wants a new stadium..let him pay for the WHOLE thing from start to finish..that way he shares NO revenue with anyone!!! It makes absolutely NO sense for the GWCC to get involved in this B/S at all..unless they are trying to grease their own slimy palms..which we all know is the case..why in the hell would they want to tear down a perfectly good structure?

Arthur's Palace

April 27th, 2012
3:06 pm

If Arthur wants a taxpayer paid stadium–he will get one. He’s a billionaire and knows how to give lots of money to the right people to get it done. Pay up–Arthur wants more money like Jerry Jones!

Michael

April 27th, 2012
3:51 pm

The Dome MAKES MONEY for the state. It is the revenue driver for the GWCC. All money from non-Falcon events goes to state. I think the state currently makes more money on Falcon tickets sales than Blank does. The Falcon have a crappy deal left over from the Smith era. Arthur wants a better deal and a new place for 2020 for his $700 million. The state wants to keep earning money from an indoor stadium. The negotiations are about how much money each gets to make. The $300 million TAX MONEY is from an extension of current hotel guest fees. If the hotel owners have issue with this, then we might have a real issue. Otherwise, let’s all enjoy the idea of a snazzy new stadium in 7-8 years.

hbcuclassics

April 27th, 2012
5:33 pm

The public interest advocate in me says…

The Georgia Dome isnt even paid off yet…
And the Falcons want a new stadium already???…
Yet, have not won a playoff game in 7 years!!!
Nor sniffed a Super Bowl appearance since…

The realist in me says…

First class cities have shining new coliseums…
Recent visit to DC witnesseth Nats…nice, very nice…

And talk about community re-development…whoa
Now that’s a double-edged sword…WDC is shining!…
But the natives sent on Trail of Tears…

Technically a stadium can anchor community renewal…
But it’s a topographic transformation only…
The current residents “will not” be the beneficiaries…

Mr. Blank will get his stadium…and we’ll pay for it…
The city will say look at us, we’re competitive…we’re hot…
New urban strips, condos, bars, eats, etc. will sprout…
And the poor will be pushed further out into the hinterlands…

There may be some incidental benefits to city stadiums…
But those patrons are in/out so fast…is it worth it?….
Living off Northside Drive corridor, I live the traffic nightmare!!!

Wouldn’t mind if North Fulton got some of that…wouldnt even miss it…
Turner Field is awesome, but it didn’t trigger any corporate expansion…
A small hotel, gas station, couple chicken joints…that’s about it…

Drexel Gal

April 28th, 2012
4:09 am

It is surprisingly refreshing (or is that “refreshingly surprising”?) to hear a liberal such as Mr. Schultz expound on the virtues of private funding. Oh … that’s right … this is NOT socialized medicine.

Chub Rock

April 28th, 2012
4:28 am

I think it’s safe to say Thomas Dimitroff walks to the beat of a different drum. Every year he either drafts a guy that he could get as an UDFA or he drafts a guy 2 or 3 rds higher than he is projected. It’s almost like he’s afraid to succeed at the draft. A solid pick falls in his lap in Konz then he feels the need to go off into his Beautiful Mind BS with the Holmes pick. Lamar Holmes is a good draft pick but you do not have to use the 91st pick on Lamar Holmes. Dimitroff clearly falls in love with guys he scouts, there is no other way to justify such a pick at this position in the draft. For godsake man draft Lamar Holmes if you must but in the 5th RD. Heck you’ve got 2 picks there. I just don’t get it. The guy thinks he’s smarter than everybody else and it’s just not true. I don’t care if Lamar Holmes turns out to be a Hall of Fame LT, you could still get him in the 5th rd on present day earth. If Dimitroff is taking 6th rounders in the 3rd I’m afraid to watch the draft tomorrow. I guarantee he takes at least one guy tomorrow that does not project to even be drafted at all….probably in the 5th rd. Then in the 6th and 7th he’ll compensate for that by drafting guys who have fallen in the draft.

Santa Clara Taxpayer

April 28th, 2012
10:38 am

In Santa Clara the people were told that the 49ers/NFL/stadium revenues would pay for 88% to 92% of the stadium. The mayor of Santa Clara said on the news that the 49ers would pay 92%. We had a stadium ballot measure that was essentially cheerleading for the stadium without cost disclosure (there is no legal requirement in CA for cost disclosure on city-wide ballot measures-there is for state and county-wide ballot measures.) They poured $5 million into a campaign for a city of 117,000 people (and 1/2 of our school children get free or reduced priced lunch – we are not a wealthy community despite being in Silicon Valley.) People voted yes because they were sold on the idea that Santa Clara would get a stadium essentially for free.
Fast forward 18 months later after 100 closed door sessions between our city council and parties for the 49ers, and a city agency the Stadium Authority is taking on $850 million in debt (construction loans) for the stadium. 3 months later the loans are up to $950 million. The loans come due at the end of construction, and there is no clear way to pay off the loans. The people collected signatures to demand the right to vote on the new stadium deal because it does not resemble what we voted on, but the people were sued by the city council/Stadium Authority and the 49ers Stadium Company to deny us the right to vote on the loans. A judge agreed to take away our right to vote. Note that many of our pro-stadium city council members received large campaign contributions from the 49ers owners/their contractors/building and trades unions/others who stand to make money off of the stadium.
So now our little city’s agency will take on $950 million in loans. What will happen when those loans come due in 2 years? How will those loans be re-financed? We’re told that because it is an ‘agency’ of the city and not the city itself taking on the loans that we are insulated from the debt. Uh-huh. If there was no risk to the loans, then why were the loans not disclosed on the ballot measure?
Oh-the ballot measure language was written by a citizen’s front group funded by the 49ers (reads like it was written by a high-priced attorney). The whole thing was not written to be objective. It was written to sound like an advertisement for a stadium.
Atlanta – if you want to see what you’re in for, see the santaclaraplaysfair dot org website. Look at the timeline of how we were treated and lied to. At least in Atlanta it seems that you have one reporter who will tell the truth. We don’t have any here, nor any newspapers willing to report on what’s really happened here with the stadium issue.

tripledart

April 28th, 2012
10:42 am

Hell no we don”t need a a new stadium.If the Jew wants one let his chicken soup eating ass pay for it.
I have a lot of Jewish friends and they all say that he gives them all a bad name.Any Mayor Reed backing it what the helL WE ARE STILL PAYING FOR 80 MILLION DOLLARS WORTH OF SNOW PLOWS FROM YEAR BEFORE LAST BLIZZARDS JUST BECAUSE MARTA COULD NOT RUN.
By the way crime was at a all low that week.

YELLOW BRITCHES

April 28th, 2012
4:56 pm

Look, I am no socialist but it is crap like this that results in the 1% owning 35% of the wealth in this country. The City of Atlanta is using its taxing power to enrich a private citizen. I don’t care how much of a Falcons fan Mayor Reed is, this stuff is wrong and should be stopped.

bob

April 29th, 2012
1:54 am

Wasnt the dome built for the olympic bids in mind with the falcons an afterthought? Doesnt surprise me the building is less than perfect for the team since the deals the Smiths made were completely idiotic.

Mike Franklin

April 29th, 2012
7:44 am

Wanna build a new stadium and make it fun to go to? Move it out of downtown. Go west… like to someplace around Douglasville or even Villa Rica. Lots of space for new hotels and tailgating… less crime, less congestion. King Arthur might even tempt some new fans for the Falcs by making it closer to Birmingham. Them folks will probably never get an NFL franchise.

savannadawg

April 29th, 2012
10:13 am

I haven’t read all of these posts and someone has probably already mentioned this. SELL BONDS, with a guaranteed (minimum 4% payback) at the end of 10 years. Its a win win situation. Damn I’m brilliant.

savannadawg

April 29th, 2012
11:11 am

Wait. Lets re-examine this whole concept. Retractible “roof” really. BS. One, that is a waste of money. The stadium should be an open air venue. To save money it should start off as a “bowl” stadium. Dig out the bowl deep enough to at least accommodate the first 50,000 patrons and then go up from there ending up with an 85,000 seat beautiful palace that would be very stable and suitable for many venues. This type of stadium could also be added on too later to increase capacity or other entertainment needs. Now. what this thing needs is an outside the box thinker such as myself to get it done. My thought is it could be built for about 3/4 the cost projected now. Hell. People are crying for jobs. Right now is the time to take advantage of the weak market. Get the contracts sighned now at a cost that is more than affordable and make the contractors stick to that price. If it costs them more money sorry. Thats on them.

savannadawg

April 29th, 2012
11:24 am

Oh, by the way, my personal feeling. Football is an outdoor sport so therefore it should not be played indoors. period. Specifically in the south. Football indoors, what a joke!!!

John

April 29th, 2012
11:28 am

While not surprised at the ‘why does a billionaire not pay for his/her own stadium’ – the lack of actual knowledge regarding the business that is the NFL -and business in general – reveals the complete lack of awareness of the typical fan – and the ironic sense of entitlement felt by most fans about their teams.

-All states/cities/municipalities provide incentive packages for business in the form of tax cuts, agreed upon improvements etc.. recently, see Kia, Caterpillar (Athens), and Baxter.

This is done for 3 primary reasons:
1 – To provide an appealing operating environment for the business.
2 – To build a job base – which increases the general tax basis for the city/state etc..
3 – To provide a civic identity and build a market for other (generally small) businesses which leads to an increased willingness for fans/citizens to spend money – impacting the sales tax revenue.

You can argue the amount that should be contributed all day long. You can argue that they ‘already have a perfectly good building – ignoring the fact you foregoing revenue is a business cost. Don’t think LA would love to have the Falcons as a franchise? You don’t think that’s a more lucrative opportunity?? Trying to make the argument of -take your stadium and shove it, taxpayers shouldn’t pay one red-cent?? Just demonstrates a silly naivete about the economic reality of today’s sports.

Think not – ask those vendors and Phillips stadium workers who have seen their income impacted by the Thrashers leaving. And I’m sure Minneapolis-St.Paul will be a lot better off without the Vikings.