Some questions for those pursuing a new Falcons stadium

Gov. Nathan Deal recently said “there’s got to be a little further explanation to the public, and probably to the members of the General Assembly,” as to why tax dollars should be used to replace the Georgia Dome before its 25th birthday. He’s right.

That explanation must come from the Georgia World Congress Authority, the state agency that runs the Dome, and/or the Atlanta Falcons, the loudest voice calling for the Dome’s replacement with a $1 billion, retractable-roof stadium. About $300 million of that cost would be paid by Atlanta hotel/motel tax revenues, but only if legislators and Deal agree to raise the authority’s bonding limit. The Falcons and the NFL would cover the rest.

I’m hardly naive about the ability of powerful people to get what they want, and Falcons owner Arthur Blank no doubt qualifies as just such a person. So does Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who backs the project. And I’m hardly a supporter of ditching the Dome, as I’ve written before.

But if the GWCA and the Falcons decide to heed these admonitions and make their case publicly, here are two questions they might answer.

Why now?

The Dome opened just 20 years ago and has undergone at least one significant renovation. I attended two football games there just last year — and plan to be there again for next month’s Southeastern Conference football championship — and can attest it’s a fine place to watch a football game.

So far, the primary rationale for the proposed timeline of opening a new stadium by 2017 is that’s when the bonds for the Dome will be paid off. Well, that and the fact the Falcons believe they can make more money from a new, more modern stadium, and would like to start doing so ASAP.

But the Falcons’ profitability is of little concern to Atlantans, and we aren’t required to have debt obligations tied to a stadium every year. There are many ways the city could use several million dollars a year even if it the money were freed only temporarily.

(Yes, using the hotel/motel revenues for other purposes would require a change in state law. So would raising the GWCA’s bonding capacity.)

Even if we accept the need for a new stadium at some point, there’s the question of why tax dollars should help fund it. Which leads to: What’s in it for taxpayers?

The economic benefits of stadiums notoriously tend to be exaggerated. And it’s not as if we don’t already have a domed stadium in Atlanta, so the benefits of a newer stadium are even less obvious.

One intriguing aspect of a new stadium, from a fiscal perspective, is the possibility it would host more events. The tentative terms agreed to by the GWCA and the Falcons call for the state to own the building while the Falcons “operate” it.

In theory, this means the Falcons, as a private entity, can take more financial risks than a state agency should in recruiting performers and events. In theory, this means the new stadium would be used more days of the year than the Dome, bringing in more money.

But how many more? Leading to how much more money? How much money could we expect to come from out of town — rather than from locals who would simply spend less elsewhere in our region?

How much business could nearby hotels, restaurants and other establishments expect? And, in turn, how much might this boost city coffers to offset the tax revenue devoted to the new stadium?

Stadium skeptics won’t be satisfied without answers to these kinds of questions. Let’s hear them.

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– By Kyle Wingfield

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193 comments Add your comment

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

November 19th, 2012
10:02 am

There is absolutely no public need for a new stadium.

Aquagirl

November 19th, 2012
10:08 am

Kyle, if you think a state board packed with political appointees will give you any explanation whatsoever, please get your head examined. What are you going to do, un-elect them?

Gov. Deal wants them to massage the PR a little, and that’s what you’re gonna get.

Kyle Wingfield

November 19th, 2012
10:10 am

Aquagirl: That’s why I said “if” they decide to make their case. Maybe they won’t and will get what they want anyway, in which case the public ought to blame the Republican lawmakers who give it to them.

ATL Born and Raised

November 19th, 2012
10:17 am

An article of Kyle’s I can get behind! I don’t see the point of a new stadium whatsoever. If Arthur Blank wants one so bad he can damn well pay for it himself. Roger Goodell will give the city of Atlanta exactly one Super Bowl, it will bring no net gain to the city (just like last time), and then it will be back in New Orleans (with it’s ancient of days dome that seems to have no problem filling up) and Miami again – because hey, those cities are fun! (And walkable.) The city of Atlanta should be more concerned of the convention dollars it will lose if it keeps jacking up hotel-motel taxes to pay for frivolous things like this.

Ben

November 19th, 2012
10:17 am

This is one of those deals where everyone involved in the decision making wants a new stadium. Unfortunately average citizens don’t get a say in the decision making. This is sort of like when there are public sector unions, and they negotiate their pay with politicians who won’t be around in 5 years. No one has any incentive to protect the taxpayer, who is actually paying the bill, and NONE of the decision makers will have to face any kind of reckoning if they turn out to be completely wrong and waste millions (or billions) of our taxpayer dollars.

Mr. Snarky

November 19th, 2012
10:20 am

Kyle, you’re right on this one. If they want to build a new stadium just because they can, then forget about it. If the numbers add up and hold up to scrutiny, then we’ll consider it.

Also, alternate uses of the funds should be consider from an ROI perspective…such as developing the wasteland around Turner Field.

Aquagirl

November 19th, 2012
10:26 am

Maybe they won’t and will get what they want anyway, in which case the public ought to blame the Republican lawmakers who give it to them.

Yeah, not holding my breath on that one. It’s funny to see this political theater though. The Governor acts like the GWC Authority beamed in from Planet X and the legislature (who approved the hotel-motel tax) is running for the hills. They’ve tossed the hot potato to unelected figureheads. Good move.

The political appointees and Arthur Blank will be happy to take the heat for their new stadium. Some angry peons won’t disturb their skybox experience.

iggy

November 19th, 2012
10:29 am

The Falcons are a second rate team in a 3rd rate city and dont deserve a new stadium.

Rafe Hollister, dreading the eventual decline caused by Obamanism

November 19th, 2012
10:31 am

Why should we build something we don’t need, when we need so much? The Dome is an excellent facility. The purpose of the new stadium is plain and simple, more money for the Falcons. Every other group involved doesn’t benefit.

More luxury suites, less seats for the common folk, means Blank need not worry about attracting the casual fan as much. This leads to less fluctuations in attendance, when the team struggles. The extreme fan is going to wait in line for his seat license and his season tickets, so he is not going to casually toss those aside when the team hits the skids, as all teams do for periods of time. Less seats mean a demand for tickets, so Blank can raise his prices every year and if you don’t like it, then those season tickets can go to the next fan clamoring for tickets, on the waiting list.

Politicians selling out their constituents, once again, who is surprised?

Fulton Co Girl

November 19th, 2012
10:32 am

What everyone wants to get around is what I call the Tom Murphy rule when the Dome was built. It limits the revenue that goes back to the Falcons from Dome revenue – ie, the state gets more back than most cities with a NFL team. The Falcons hate it and that is why they are truly pushing for a new stadium – to change the revenue terms with the state.

Glenn

November 19th, 2012
10:43 am

Its silly that our NFL team plays in a dome . Totally dumb with as pleasant as our autumn weather is . That being said we don’t need a state of the art retractable roof stadium . We just need a really good outdoor stadium or a really big chainsaw to use on the dome . It is really incredible that the life span of a stadium costing 100’s of millions has the shelf life of a decade .

JDW

November 19th, 2012
10:44 am

Once upon a time, I had season tickets to the Falcons. Never missed a game rain or shine. Then they build the dome and I have NEVER been back. A domed stadium to play football in Atlanta. It was asinine then and is asinine today.

Personally I would rather see a nice new outdoor stadium a bit further north…think Sanford Stadium on the old GM plant site but apparently such a thing is not in the cards again. Looks like our politically appointed, unaccountable GWC committee will have a nice new retractable top stadium for us…sounds just like the process we just put in place to help run our education system.

I wonder if all those new Charter Schools get new stadiums as well?

Don't Tread

November 19th, 2012
10:47 am

“there’s got to be a little further explanation to the public, and probably to the members of the General Assembly,” as to why tax dollars should be used to replace the Georgia Dome before its 25th birthday.

Here’s my explanation: If Arthur wants a new stadium, then Arthur can pay for it. Arthur will be collecting the ticket money to recover his cost.

There are too many other (read: necessary) projects that should be funded by taxes and are not being completed due to lack of money to pay for them. Replacing a 25 year old stadium in good condition is not a necessity, especially when taxpayer money is being spent.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

November 19th, 2012
10:49 am

If they can play outdoors in Foxborough, New York and Green Bay, there should be no problem playing outdoors in Atlanta.

Andrew

November 19th, 2012
10:50 am

I would only support a new stadium under this deal:
Hotel Motel Tax pays for the $300 plus million upfront, Blank pays the $700 million. Instead of 100% of revenue going to the falcons, 100% of revenue goes to repay the $300 million to the taxpayers + borrowing costs. After the $300+ million is re-payed, Blank can have 100% of the revenue. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Arthur. We should NOT pay 30ish % of the cost and give up all the revenue.

meg

November 19th, 2012
10:53 am

Hey, Art Blank and the NFL-Build your own d(*& stadium with your filthy rich pockets. When the NFL advertises for a week they will broadcast the NE vs IND game and then cuts off coverage the first quarter of the game to watch OT of 2 teams that have losing records, that’s when I say the arrogance of this league is out of control. That, and the fact that the prices charged for everything from a ticket to a soda will go up with a new stadium. Just look at Jerry Jones as your model. Crappy team and ugly stadium that has a TV screen overhead that actually interferes with viewing the game from most seats. Just say NO, NO, NO. Take the taxes collected from tourists to Atlanta and clean up the corrupt PD and get the homeless off the streets. Atlanta is a filthy city, in more ways than one.

Bob Loblaw

November 19th, 2012
11:01 am

For those of you that think the weather is just great for football here, remember September. Its hot. Really hot. Preseason in August? Hot.

That’s the reason for the roof. It’s not to prevent us from enjoying awesome weather like yesterday’s, but to prevent heat stroke in September.

I went to a game at Tennessee one year and it was 102 in the second week of the season. The temperature gauge on the field was pegged at 120.

As for the revenue angle, the State makes money and has quite the marketing tool in the GA Dome. The deal was made in 2010 to finance part of the stadium by taxing visitors. Ever seen the downtown hotels on game weekends? Packed.

All this populist Blank-bashing is cute, TEA party people, but cheesy.

And this team is leading the NFL right now. Second rate? C’mon.

bluecoat

November 19th, 2012
11:01 am

I agree with Andrew on the stadium.-Off subject we should print enough money to buy all the gold,then create a gold backed currency.China not exporting any gold,and they are largest producer.wonder why?Could it be they intend to do same?

East Cobb RINO, Inc. (LLC)

November 19th, 2012
11:02 am

We can afford a new stadium and fancy lights and signs for bridges, but not expansion of medicaid? Mr Deal you got some ’splainin to do.

JDW

November 19th, 2012
11:05 am

@Bob…”For those of you that think the weather is just great for football here, remember September. Its hot. Really hot. Preseason in August? Hot.”

Bob…I go to Sanford Stadium in just those “horrific” conditions regularly…no worries it works great. BTW its hot in Miami, Charlotte, Jacksonville, Nashville and Tampa…outside venues all.

Hillbilly D

November 19th, 2012
11:05 am

An NFL team is a license to print money. With the TV contract, etc., a complete fool could still turn a profit with an NFL team, if they never sold a ticket. In my opinion, no public money should ever be spent on a sports stadium for a privately owned team. That’s mixing public and private, which I’m against.

Talking about this is a waste of time, though, because this is a done deal. The legislature already put this through in 2010, so anything they do now is just about PR, to make it look better.

I don’t care whether Arthur has a new stadium or not, or where he builds it, but he is more than able to pay for it himself. It’s not just people from the lower income brackets who suffer from the entitlement mentality and have their hand in the public pocket (as some folks like to assert). The best way in the world to make money is to get somebody else to pay your bills and ol’ Arthur knows that all to well. Like a lot of folks, Arthur is all about Arthur.

So this is going to happen, even though most of the public is probably against it. It sucks but that’s the way it is. People who have buddies in high places always manage to get what they want.

Dusty

November 19th, 2012
11:05 am

That’s right, KYLE. Please protect us taxpayers if you can..And please, let no one say POOR FALCONS.

Take Kray Biermann.. He has a three year contract for $9,150,000.oo plus the sign on bonus he got for $3,100,000.And he’s just one of ‘em. (I think he still is.)

If there’s money to be spent, Atlanta has enough needed repairs to bankrupt the billionaires. Just filling the pot holes would break the budget.

Another chrome dome? Boooo! Will Atlanta ever learn that spending money you aint got and aint much coming is BAD?

stands for decibels

November 19th, 2012
11:05 am

Pretty good takedown of the stadium argument-for, here.

(the fieldofschemes website is always good to have handy if you’ve forgotten exactly why you hated these larcenous ess-oh-bees in the first place.)

Gerald

November 19th, 2012
11:07 am

What Kyle Wingfield and the other anti-Atlanta folks consistently leave out is that the $300 million for the proposed stadium can’t be used for other purposes. It can’t be used to fund highways, schools, the Savannah port, to fund tax cuts, any of that stuff that you would rather it go to. The hotel/motel tax can only be spent on things related to the GWCC. If you want to use it for any other purpose, you would have to change state law and very possibly defend such a change in a court of law, if the people who actually live in the city where the taxes are collected don’t support the change and don’t benefit from where the money is being redirected to.

So, the people who oppose spending the $300 million on this … what else do you propose spending it on? Again, before you answer, go research the GWCC hotel/motel tax and find out what the law actually allows the money to be spent on first.

Beverly Fraud

November 19th, 2012
11:08 am

Perhaps an 80,000 seat charter school? Could save on teacher costs by using the video screen to provide “an interactive experience” as opposed to merely working with the teacher.

So a teacher would have to take 80,000 papers home a night…shouldn’t teachers stop being so lazy anyway?

Bob Loblaw

November 19th, 2012
11:08 am

@JDW:

I don’t go to games in the heat for that very reason. To each their own, I guess, but the roof is good for competition and fan comfort.

Miami and Tampa are regulars for blackouts, by the way. Wonder why? Both teams are competitive. Just don’t sell.

Andy

November 19th, 2012
11:08 am

If this is such a great idea, Arthur Blank should bankroll it and rent it out himself.

Dusty

November 19th, 2012
11:08 am

That’s right, HILLBILLY

No mixing of private and public money. NONE!

Gerald

November 19th, 2012
11:09 am

The people who are pretending that the money for the stadium is coming from the general fund, or can be spent on transportation, schools or anything like that are nothing but demagogues. This means you, Kyle. If anything, the main failure of Blank, Reed, the GWCC authority etc. is failing to let people know that the hotel/motel tax can’t be spent on anything else. The same sort of laws that restrict how MARTA revenue can be spent also restricts how GWCC revenue can be spent. A better question would be asking questions of who put those laws that restrict what Atlanta can do with its won tax revenue in to begin with. But nope. Better to bash Atlanta and its leadership than do that.

Kyle Wingfield

November 19th, 2012
11:09 am

Gerald @ 11:07: Really? You would have to change state law?

Hmmm…maybe that’s why I wrote this in the OP: “(Yes, using the hotel/motel revenues for other purposes would require a change in state law. So would raising the GWCA’s bonding capacity.)”

massachusetts refugee

November 19th, 2012
11:11 am

and let’s not forget buffalo, pittsburgh, philadelphia, cincinnatti, cleveland, and chicago. all outdoors. if arthur blankity blank blank wants a new stadium, let him pay for it.

Gerald

November 19th, 2012
11:12 am

Dusty:

Public and private money mixes all the time. If you want to end the mixing of public and private money, you would cripple both our private economy and our government. The people who repeat such slogans are generally far removed from the facts and reality.

They BOTH suck

November 19th, 2012
11:13 am

Regardless of the arguments on either side, I would bet that the a new stadium is eventually approved.

Deal is probably just playing political games, but in the end, he and enough of the “right” people will capitulate and the deal will move forward.

Some are probably really against a new stadium while others are just playing the game to say they did their due diligence before they made their decision.

Dirty Dawg

November 19th, 2012
11:13 am

OK, let me ask these again…first, just how much more money do the Falcons need? With the salary cap and current revenue from tickets and TV contracts, they’ve got all the money they need to operate – and then some…Arthur Blank already has all the money he, his kids, his Grandkids and his kids Grandkids would ever be able to spend…the planned increase in the room tax (and the one we already have is just the city, why not the entire metro area) would undoubtedly mean Atlanta’s room tax would be less competitive than many of the cities with which we compete for convention business. How much would that cost us? Finally, that same room tax, currently, doesn’t provide enough for Atlanta to adequately compete with those same cities in the area of promotions and advertising. I mean think about it – you see more and better commercials for Alabama, Mississippi and New Orleans during the Peach Bowl (I don’t believe in sponsor titles on Bowls unless they started that way) than Atlanta itself. If the room tax is gonna go up at all it should be dedicated to that end. No, we don’t need no more stadiums, or Super Bowls either cause all they do is provide another forum for New York sportswriters to complain about how many Peachtree Streets there are in town and that it’s too cold to play golf.

They BOTH suck

November 19th, 2012
11:15 am

HillBilly D @ 11:05

Agreed

carlosgvv

November 19th, 2012
11:18 am

If Atlanta truly was a world class city, it’s leaders would at least take care of all the homeless BEFORE considering a new football statium.

Needless to say, that will never happen.

Gerald

November 19th, 2012
11:20 am

Kyle Wingfield:

If the law is changed to grab Atlanta’s tax revenue in a manner that Atlanta’s duly elected representatives (Kasim Reed et al) oppose, isn’t that taxation without representation? And why stop there? Why not change laws to allow the state to grab taxes that belong to Cobb, Gwinnett, Forsyth, Hall etc. also? Bottom line is that more justification is needed to change this law other than the city of Atlanta choosing to spend it on something that you personally don’t approve of. And I notice that the vast majority of the people who vehemently oppose this measure do not live in the city and likely never set foot in it. They are so opposed to this but yet let Georgia Power do whatever they want without raising a peep. With this and your misrepresenting the $3.3 million raised by a private funds on Atlanta bridges, you are really on a roll. Must be angling for a PR job in the Romney administration (oops!!!)

Will

November 19th, 2012
11:23 am

Hell must have just frozen over! For the first (and very probably the last) time, I agree with Kyle. But even if you put the issues of finances and social priorities aside, has not NFL football become more or less a studio sport in the past decade or so??? Seems so to me. The NFL has put more emphasis on BROADCASTING every nuance and aspect of the game over the cable and “free” TV networks so that the NFL can maximize its profits. A new stadium won’t help that. Even with a new stadium, I predict that we won’t see ticket prices come down one iota. Ticket prices are already so high that you need to be Mitt Romney or some other plutocrat in order to be able to afford to go to the stadium whether its new, old, or otherwise. If Falcons threaten to leave town becasue of lack of new facility…let ‘em leave.

Gerald

November 19th, 2012
11:24 am

carlosgvv:

Atlanta is welcome to try to take care of the homeless, but they can’t do it with the hotel/motel tax. Just like they can’t use it to cut property taxes or to build highways outside I-285 or to deepen the Savannah port (or any of Kyle Wingfield’s other “hey, let’s put the screws to a Democratic city!” right wing fantasies). And here is the rub: GWCC hotel/motel tax is raised precisely so that GWCC can fund projects like this so that they can remain competitive with other cities in bidding for large events. If GWCC falls behind, all the conventions go elsewhere – to Dallas, Tampa, Charlotte etc. – and there is no hotel/motel tax to fight over to begin with. Then again, maybe Kyle and his complaining suburban cohorts want that to happen anyway. Although I have no idea why. It isn’t as if Cobb or Gwinnett is going to start hosting conventions or pro sports teams if the GWCC collapses.

Dusty

November 19th, 2012
11:28 am

Gerald

Please tell us more. I’m not expert on tax configuration. Perhaps you mean that private money builds big things such as museums, libraries, hotels and then they depend on tax money to provide them utilites, [;protection, etc. . So hotel, etc. taxes are designed to be returned only to commercial entertainment to keep the hotels filled with happy guests.. Or something!

“What a web we weave when first we practice to deceive!” Maybe it isn’t deception to allocate tax money to help private business but it is not the picture presented to taxpayers. We have a constitution which aims for the protection of citizens’ rights, not their private business.

Oh well, Maybe you can straighten this out. It sounds crooked at the moment.

Hillbilly D

November 19th, 2012
11:31 am

If Falcons threaten to leave town becasue of lack of new facility…let ‘em leave.

Los Angeles seems to have survived after losing two NFL teams.

Stevereeno

November 19th, 2012
11:33 am

Take the top off it. Now you have the open air stadium a lot cheaper than building a whole new stadium.

soxman

November 19th, 2012
11:41 am

The rich will get richer. That will never change. And there ain’t NUTHIN we can do about it.

carlosgvv

November 19th, 2012
11:42 am

Gerald – 11:24 “but they can’t do it”

And yet, you may be sure they can, and will, find a way to build this new stadium.

Money talks. As for the homeless, let them eat cake.

Jefferson

November 19th, 2012
11:42 am

Is Deal out of debt yet, things like this will make him rich.

Hillbilly D

November 19th, 2012
11:46 am

Is Deal out of debt yet

After he leaves office, Nathan will have his Congressional pension and his state pension, so no need to worry about him, he’ll be fine.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

November 19th, 2012
11:47 am

“Miami and Tampa are regulars for blackouts, by the way. Wonder why? Both teams are competitive. Just don’t sell.”

Miami and Tampa competitive, Bob Loblaw?

In what league? Pop Warner?

yuzeyurbrane

November 19th, 2012
11:52 am

Kyle, I largely agree with you on this one. My main disagreement is I feel that the evidence is already conclusive that this would be a boondoggle, steering scarce tax revenues into the the hands of a very few in a time of more pressing priorities. The only thing that has been missing is any hint (except for the recent sop from Deal) that the power players are paying any attention to that fact, with the implication being that is their favorite part of the deal and explains their effort to get this by under the radar. So I applaud your call to bring this up on the radar screen since I think the electorate will be overwhelming in its disgust. Blank stands to double the value of his investment if the new stadium is built through the fmv of the franchise and just the increased gouging of his ticket holders. I actually have nothing against either so long as he does it on his own dime and not as tax subsidized socialism for the wealthy.

Kyle Wingfield

November 19th, 2012
11:52 am

Gerald @ 11:20: Who said anything about taking the tax revenue outside Atlanta? The city has plenty of other needs for that money. When I’ve mentioned other possible uses for the money in the past, I’ve begun with uses inside the city and then referred to projects outside the city only for comparison’s sake: “Just to get a full grasp of what $400 million will buy,” as I put it once ($400 million was the figure being used at the time I wrote that article).

As for misrepresenting the $3.3 million, I beg to differ. I stopped short of the reference to the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District in the text I quoted from the news article, but I included the $1.7 million figure for DOT’s share and wrote that the ADID would contribute some of the $5 million. In any case, I think it’s fair game to ask why any entity, governmental or quasi-governmental or private, in Atlanta would prefer to spend money for signage on streets rather than improving streets. When the need for congestion relief is as dire as many people believe, I think all available money has to be on the table.

More to the point: When taxpayers see $5 million, from any source but including public money, being spent for this kind of purpose, they naturally bridle when asked to tax themselves more to pay for congestion relief. Like it or not, fair or not, we will not see public approval for raising transportation taxes as long as we see money being spent on transportation-related projects like this one.

Kyle Wingfield

November 19th, 2012
11:53 am

Btw, Gerald: I live in the city of Atlanta, so you’re off-base in thinking I have some sort of vendetta against it. That would be pretty self-defeating on my part.