Uh-oh. New Falcons stadium will ‘very likely’ require state Capitol approval

Atlanta Falcon fans begin to fill the parking lot tailgating on Northside Drive across from the Georgia Dome before the NFC divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers last January. Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com.

Atlanta Falcon fans begin to fill the parking lot tailgating on Northside Drive across from the Georgia Dome before the NFC divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers last January. Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com.

Note to Matt Ryan: No pressure, and thanks for the 6-0 start. But you and your teammates would be doing your boss a great service if the Falcons were still in the Super Bowl hunt come January.

Arthur Blank will need every advantage he can muster in the state Capitol this winter if he wants that new $1 billion stadium with the retractable roof.

After the quiet 2010 passage of legislation necessary to partially fund the enterprise — by extending Fulton County’s hotel-motel tax until 2050 — the idea was to keep the project away from lawmakers.

The problem? The hotel-motel tax is expected to contribute $300 million to the new stadium. But the bonding capacity for the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which operates the Georgia Dome and would oversee the new facility, is capped at $200 million.

To raise that cap, and allow the GWCCA to issue bonds on the entire $300 million, would require an act of the Legislature, topped off by the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal.

“We’re kind of in a wait-and-see mode until the World Congress Center and the Falcons complete their negotiations,” said Edward Lindsey, the House majority whip and the highest-ranking Atlanta lawmaker in the General Assembly. “Until we know what the deal looks like, it’s hard for us to speculate as to what we may be doing.”

But Lindsey admits it is “very likely” that the GWCCA bonding cap will have to be raised.

And that means 236 state lawmakers will be asked to pass judgment on the merits of any funding package agreed to by the Falcons, the GWCCA and the city of Atlanta.

The prospect already has many state lawmakers running for cover. And it will surely test the strength of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s remarkable relationship with the Capitol’s Republican leadership.

There are political arguments to be made in favor of the enterprise. A hotel-motel tax is paid primarily by tourists who don’t vote, and the money raised from the levy can’t be shifted to any other purpose — education, for instance. Further, through the World Congress Center, the state has a 35-year history of supporting — some would say underwriting — Atlanta’s convention-entertainment industry and, for the past 20 years in the Georgia Dome, the Falcons.

Construction of a new stadium would almost certainly generate much-needed jobs among metro Atlanta’s hardhats.

And yet the optics are difficult.

Dedicating public monies of any sort to a home for gladiators is a hard argument to make when teachers and state troopers are being laid off. It is especially difficult for a Republican-dominated Legislature that has given up on Keynesian economics and believes in austerity as strongly as it believes in salvation through baptism. (With scriptural exceptions for certain automotive and biotech plants, of course. And the Port of Savannah.)

Comparisons are already being drawn to this summer’s failed transportation sales tax vote, which most Republicans came to view as radioactive — leaving the mayor of Atlanta as the campaign’s primary spokesman, shouldering much of the risk.

Like the T-SPLOST, a state Capitol fight over a Falcons stadium could also unite right and left. This summer, state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, paired with tea party conservatives to oppose the sales tax. The Falcons stadium could provide an opportunity for a reunion.

“I’m not convinced that stadiums bring the economic development that their advocates say they do,” Fort said recently.

Late this summer, Invest Atlanta — the city’s economic development arm — began soliciting ideas for the development of 55 acres north of Turner Field. “Mixed-use proposals should be designed to provide 10,000 parking spaces, enhance the fan experience, support the creation of a vibrant urban neighborhood and support the Atlanta Braves’ business enterprise,” the request declared.

The project has the timely advantage of meeting Fort’s objections and persuading the Braves that they’re not being ignored.

Actually, the vast majority of lawmakers in the Capitol are on record in support of an increase of the lending cap for the GWCCA — and thus the construction of the new Falcons stadium.

The language was snuck into Senate Bill 140, which passed in the final hours of last year’s legislative session. The governor vetoed the bill, citing the sneakiness of the tactic.

We’re told that Deal will not stand in the way of legislation for a new Falcons stadium next year — but will also have to be convinced that it will not add to the state’s debt burden.

After we chatted last week, Lindsey — the House Republican whip — emailed a written list of his concerns that would have to be met in order for a new Falcons stadium to win his support. One of the most important was that the state would assume no financial obligations, directly or indirectly.

“Looking back,” he wrote, “I believe the governor was right two years ago to veto the original bond authorization without seeing a final deal in place. In these difficult economic times, we need to make doubly sure that any project is economically sound.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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88 comments Add your comment

SBinF

October 27th, 2012
10:39 am

More corporate welfare. Someone please explain to me the reasoning behind taxpayers funding the stadium. How do taxpayers benefit by contributing 300 million dollars toward a stadium they will never visit? What’s wrong with the current stadium? Is it really necessary for the Falcons to receive a new stadium every two decades?

Cowboy Bob

October 27th, 2012
10:40 am

Cowboy Bob

October 27th, 2012
10:40 am

Oops. Spoke too soon. :-\

fatfingers

October 27th, 2012
10:42 am

“And that means 536 state lawmakers will be asked to pass judgment on the merits of any funding package agreed to by the Falcons, the GWCCA and the city of Atlanta.”

———————————–

I think you meant 236.

DebbieDoRight

October 27th, 2012
10:47 am

Oh yes, please let DO give Arthur Blank a new, bigger, better stadium. But let’s not put one DIME into the school system, (government waste), the big potholes in the roads (government waste), more police/fire fighers on the street, (government waste) and lets give some teachers a little extra pay, (super duper government waste).

But let’s PLEASE give a mega billionaire a tax payer government financed new dome.

He NEEDS this dome in order to show off to his other mega rich friends; he doesn’t give a damn about schools and police/fireman — he probably lives in another state anyway. :roll:

Dirty Dawg

October 27th, 2012
10:47 am

Why do we, or the Falcons, or the City of Atlanta, or the State of Georgia need a new stadium that they can’t get, or aren’t already getting, from the existing one? I mean why does Arthur Blank personally, and/or the Falcons organization, need more money? With existing TV contracts and revenue streams, and given that there is a ‘hard’ salary cap that limits how much money you need to compete, what are they gonna do, leave it to his kids…or build bigger practice fields…or be able to say your ‘franchise’ is worth more money that Jerry Jones’? And as for the City and State, just how any more Super Bowls or NCAA football championship games do you have to get to offset the cost – at a time when we’re already underwater revenue-wise? The only way this thing would work for me is if all the ‘profits’ – and defining what constitutes profit is another discussion – would accrue to the primary funder(s), and that’s us.

Phil

October 27th, 2012
10:48 am

Yes… I think he means 180 House members plus 56 State Senate members.

who cares,,,,,,,

October 27th, 2012
10:49 am

Who cares who the “Mayor” is dating per some website – what an idiot to get a staff of lawyers to sue – I want my money back that pays a part of his salary – what an ego waste of time………

Phil

October 27th, 2012
10:49 am

At the state house we have 180 members and the state senate we have 56 members.

Phil

October 27th, 2012
10:52 am

Sorry for the duplication in posts. Something was up with the AJC site and it didn’t look like it posted. It told me I had a duplication the very first time I entered text.

who cares,,,,,,,

October 27th, 2012
10:52 am

Oh – no where else to share this point – thanks for an open forum Jim G. – Back to the stadium

fatfingers

October 27th, 2012
10:53 am

Thanks. The idea of 536 state legislators terrifies me. 236 can do enough damage.

honested

October 27th, 2012
11:02 am

How do you think the most corrupt elective body in the United States will handle this request?

Follow up, which is more important a new stadium or:
Adequate funding for education?
Modification of the fuel tax for adequate funding of transportation maintenance and improvement?
A cogent watershed policy for the entire state (especially the ACF basin)?
An adequate budget for the EPD so they can do more than sanction fish kills?

I thought so. It is important for mr. blank to be able to boast about his accomplishments in the General Assembly.

Jeff A. Taylor

October 27th, 2012
11:03 am

Tell me what happens with plans for LA’s billion dollar stadium and I’ll tell you what happens here. The billion dollar NFL stadium is fast becoming the floor owners are demanding. As soon as there is an empty billion dollar NFL stadium at there, the pols will give their owners whatever they want.

Pale Rider

October 27th, 2012
11:23 am

Art- take your Falcons up north. Georgia is college football country and they don’t milk taxpayers to support their egos.

jgalloway

October 27th, 2012
11:24 am

Phil et al:

You’re right, it’s 236. Many thanks for the catch. The check for your editing services is in the mail.

Josh McKoon

October 27th, 2012
11:29 am

Furious Styles

October 27th, 2012
11:31 am

Deal helped out his buddy in Hall County with that land deal, he’ll likely help out Blank as well. For a small fee of course. : )

Angus

October 27th, 2012
11:34 am

No one thought this would be a problem?

It would seem to me that the politically expedient thing to do here is to get the GWCCA’s obligation down to $200mil.

Look before I leap...

October 27th, 2012
11:35 am

If Governor Deal can find a way to personally profit from it, I am certain that he find a way to sway the legislature.

I like the Falcons, I like Arthur Blank. I don’t like the idea of fleecing visitors for the next 40 years to build a new stadium.

honested

October 27th, 2012
11:39 am

Angus,
Good point.
Our majority ’so called conserrrrrrrvative’ Congressional delegation dang near killed the country arguing over a debt ceiling that was necessary for everything the country needs to do business.
Maybe these same guys should speak publicly to their boys back home and remind them what a ‘conserrrrrrrrrrvative’ government would do when considering an increase in a debt limit for an expense that the much vaunted ‘private sector’ should be doing in the first place!!!

Rafe Hollister

October 27th, 2012
11:53 am

I am glad to know that we are actually going to have a democratic discussion on this project. It appeared that the “connected” were just going to do it, regardless of the massive opposition. It may get done yet, with the pols, figuring out a creative way to ignore the taxpayers, kinda like Obamacare, just govern against the will of the people.

We do not need this palace. How many luxury suites do they have at Lambeau Field or Soldier Field. The Packers and Bears seem to be doing quite well. We have no responsibility to line the pockets of Arthur Blank, just because that is what he wants. Let him build his own stadium, or move the Birds to some other city, that will lay down and be suckers.

Georgia

October 27th, 2012
12:06 pm

If we let Blank build the stadium, and Obama ain’t around to see it being built, then did he build it?

Big Hat

October 27th, 2012
12:14 pm

God made rich people special. We should worship the rich and the dirt they think that we are.

Michael

October 27th, 2012
12:26 pm

Don’t we need to solve our transportation woes before giving money to a Stadium that some want even use.

Jerryskids

October 27th, 2012
12:36 pm

I am glad to see all the people disgusted by the corporate welfare here – but I wanted to add that the headline is misleading. The stadium itself does not need state approval, it’s the putting the taxpayers on the hook for paying for it that takes state approval. Arthur Blank is perfectly free to build whatever sort of stadium he wants with his own money; he wants the government to force everyone else to pay for it.

Jason

October 27th, 2012
12:56 pm

Win a Superbowl Atlanta…. Please don’t move the Falcons to L.A. Worry about one game at a time. If the birds can become actual contenders, Blank would have an easier sell! Arthur does have a house in Hilton Head…. I know because i’m from there. I grew up a Falcons fan. Don’t see myself liking another team, even if this team moves!!!!

MrLiberty

October 27th, 2012
1:02 pm

Paid off politicians screwing Georgia citizens. Sounds like every day at the state capitol. Expect another government boondoggle (is there any other kind?).

BIG Z

October 27th, 2012
1:13 pm

I personally think that it would be ok. Well for one thing people who visit the state of Georgia and stay at our hotel/motels will be paying for the tax. Second the taxes that are raised can only be spent on things such as a new staduim/dome, so WHY NOT? I think that a new dome will help Atlanta keep up with other cities and bring alot of convention business back to the city as well. They are only asking for a 1/3 of the cost to build the staduim from taxes. I work for the government; TRUST ME they are going to WASTE IT ON SOMETHING!!!!

honested

October 27th, 2012
1:35 pm

big z,
“the taxes that are raised can only be spent on things such as a new stadium/dome”.

A little misleading, don’t you think?

The hotel/motel tax can be used for numerous other USEFUL infrastructure improvements that will benefit both the CITIZENS and visitors.

Ask the people in Phoenix how they feel now about the ice hockey stadium they are on the hook for (with no hockey team).

catlady

October 27th, 2012
1:55 pm

No problem getting the legislature to pony up permission and any money needed from our taxes. Their palms will be well-greased.

Kris

October 27th, 2012
2:04 pm

Be it divided by 536 state legislators or 236 That’s a lot of payola and palm grease…I can barley afford to go to a falcons or braves game every 2 years or so….Why should pay for any this nonsense with my tax money?

President OBAMA 2012

Angry Voter

October 27th, 2012
2:20 pm

Put it on the ballot. Let the citizens decide. No doubt, it will go down harder than T-Splost. Nobody supports the stadium, but for some fat cats who learned this summer, by way of the transportation vote, that they are very out of touch and do NOT lead the area. We don’t need a stadium. We cannot afford a stadium. We don’t want a stadium. If that means we don’t get the Super Bowl, who cares? The last time it was here it was a bust. Why are we even thinking about spending billions to host a one-time party that most of us don’t want? It’s lunacy.

Angry Voter

October 27th, 2012
2:23 pm

By the way, Jim, if you want to advocate for construction jobs, why not advocate for road building/repairing ,school building or parks improvements? Why not advocate for something we need, rather than something unnecessary. Trying to rationalize a new stadium under the guise of job creation is the same as advocating hot fudge sundaes, sodas and fast food as nutrition for school cafeterias.

Frank Mix

October 27th, 2012
2:27 pm

Let the Falcons build their own stadium. No corporate welfare tax dollars for millionaires and billionaires. Those hotel tax dollars could be put to good use for the public instead of just a few rich folks. If the Falcons don’t get a new stadium and decide move then that is their right and so be it. We don’t need them anyway because all the games are on TV. Let some other city and state be foolish but in Atlanta GA we don’t have extra money to waste.

Angry Voter

October 27th, 2012
2:29 pm

BIGZ – One of the things that makes Vegas an attractive option for meeting planners is the lack of hotel and rental car taxes. Adding taxes to what visitors pay makes us less attractive to those who decide where these groups will stay. We kill that business when we ask our visitors to pay our bills. It’s not as thought the people who are being asked to pay the tax are coming to Atlanta to see Mr. Blank’s for-profit entertainment venture.

For example: A meeting for 2,000 employees requires 2,000 rooms for three nights at $200/room. A 20% hotel tax – not unheard of – will cost that business would pay $240k in taxes, above the room rate. Why would any meeting planner in his right mind elect to have a meeting here?

blazingsaddleman

October 27th, 2012
2:42 pm

And let’s not gloss over the obvious fact that the NFL is a not-for-profit organization – the NFL has 501(c)(6) status. WOW what suckers the working people are. Thank you republicans. Lower the taxes on the rich to nothing, that makes you happy.

Real Listic

October 27th, 2012
2:45 pm

New advertising space, pocket lining-not creating jobs just shifting
taxpayer money to a new fund. What’s wrong with playing on grass
and in the mud like it was played before “plastic grass” and I would
like to see Atlanta put money into infrastructure so people can
not worry about their water and crumbling streets.
One more ride a winner program.

Kris

October 27th, 2012
2:46 pm

Angry Voter “Put it on the ballot. Let the citizens decide. No doubt, it will go down harder than T-Splost”

Put it on the ballot Written in plain ENGLISH/Spanish/ (For Natie and Reed ) use simple words…

Vote NO in Charter SCAM (should be written in simple words)…

@AJC please remove spyware Meebo!

OTP

October 27th, 2012
2:53 pm

Make Blank pay for it all. No public funding should go for this.

Kris

October 27th, 2012
2:56 pm

Amen OTP…they profit they pay! Pay to play NO tax money used.

Recall Reed
Impeach DEAL (shady that is).

Diehard

October 27th, 2012
3:02 pm

How about this for a public private partnership – Help Arthur pay for the stadium because it will help him make money on the team when he sells it — but then make sure the state gets a share of his profit since we are all contributing to it.

Non-Partisan

October 27th, 2012
3:14 pm

“Construction of a new stadium would almost certainly generate much-needed jobs among metro Atlanta’s hardhats.”
AND… after the white elephant is finished, what happens to the “Atlanta hardhats?”
I live OTP so what is and where is my or any benefit?

cc

October 27th, 2012
4:20 pm

I never thought they needed to replace the old Atlanta Stadium with Turner Field, and I certainly don’t favor the taxpayers bearing the burden of a new facility.

GT 2011

October 27th, 2012
4:47 pm

CC,

Turner Field was funded by Olympic sponsors for the ‘96 Games. AFCS was getting old and was truly outdated at the time is was demolished.

Mac Daddy

October 27th, 2012
5:07 pm

Stop kidding yourself dude, the Rich always get what they want! Ask Romney, nobody gives a D what the fans think,

Mac Daddy

October 27th, 2012
5:07 pm

Stop kidding yourself dude, the Rich always get what they want! Ask Romney, nobody gives a D what the fans think,

Skip

October 27th, 2012
5:23 pm

The Obama economy is booming and business just want’s their share.

Falcons fan

October 27th, 2012
5:38 pm

If you live outside the perimeter, you’re dead to us anyway. Enjoy your sprawing parking lots and Applebee’s. Come downtown if you want to see pro sports. Oh wait, downtown is DANGEROUS. Ooooooh, scary!

honested

October 27th, 2012
5:49 pm

While we are on a roll, stop all taxpayer (read other than student) funding for ALL college football.
End all school system (taxpayer) funding for high school football.
Football causes concussions and early death.
Why should the public be required to fund it at any level?