If you haven’t yet read Jeff Schultz’s column today about whether it would be “the worst thing in the world if the Falcons moved to the suburbs,” I recommend it. Spoiler alert: Schultz thinks it would not be the worst thing in the world if that were to happen.
Although I think downtown is ultimately far preferable to the suburbs for the Falcons’ home games, Schultz makes a number of good arguments. But this is the part to which I want to draw your attention (with emphasis added):
The [San Francisco] 49ers couldn’t get a downtown stadium deal done, so they’re moving to Santa Clara, 30 to 45 minutes away. … By the way, Candlestick Park is 53 years old.
The [New York] Giants left the old Meadowlands stadium, which was 34 years old. The [Miami] Dolphins left the Orange Bowl, which was built in 1939. The [Dallas] Cowboys and [New England] Patriots left stadiums that were opened in 1971. The [Washington] Redskins left RFK Stadium, built in 1961.
The Georgia Dome opened in 1992.
For me, much of what’s disquieting about the drive to ditch the Dome is the timing. In 2017, by which time the Falcons insist they’ll be in a new stadium, the Dome will be a mere 25 years old.
The stadium the 49ers are leaving is twice as old (53) as the Georgia Dome will be in 2017. The same goes for the Dolphins’ old stadium (48) when their new stadium opened in 1987.
The stadium the Giants and New York Jets replaced was about as old (34) as most Georgians probably believed the Dome would be when it was replaced. Ditto for the old stadiums of the Cowboys (38), Patriots (29) and Redskins (36).
I think it’s fair to assume most Atlanta residents recognize that the Dome will have to be replaced at some point in time. I think it’s also fair to assume most of us wonder why that point in time is coming so soon after the Dome was built.
Of course, the Dome will need money for repairs if it stays open. As the AJC has reported, professional estimates of those costs run from $115 million by 2020 (when the Dome would hit 28 years of age) to $401 million by approximately 2035 (when it would be 43 years old).
So, it seems questionable to most people outside the Falcons organization that the Dome has to be replaced so soon. If we having this discussion five to 10 years from now, it would be going a lot differently.
– By Kyle Wingfield