The office of Mayor Kasim Reed announced that he will be making a joint statement with Falcons owner Arthur Blank Thursday at City Hall. While the mayor’s office did not explicitly say what the announcement would be, it is largely expected that the announcement will be a new deal to build a stadium in downtown Atlanta.
Reed has been lobbying hard for the city to approve the new stadium deal and Falcons President Rich McKay told the Atlanta City Council chamber in February that Atlanta is the team’s first choice, but the team would relocate to a nearby suburb if the terms of a $1 billion new retractable roof stadium cannot be agreed to in time.
The city has held only one public hearing on the issue, on Feb. 27, at which time former Atlanta mayor and UN Ambassador Andrew Young endorsed the idea, calling it “another opportunity that gives us a chance to shape the future.”
“The Dome is sort of like the Olympics, and we said if we won the Olympics, the day we won it, the future of Atlanta would change,” Young said.
According to published reports in January that cited high-ranking sources involved in the new stadium negotiations, the Falcons have agreed to pay more than $800 million for the new facility and would possibly pay off the remaining debt on the existing Georgia Dome, which would be demolished. The city is on the hook for the rest of the bill, which is estimated to be around $200 million.
Sources familiar with the negotiations told WSB that $200 million in bonds issued through the City of Atlanta, not the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, would still be paid by through the city’s hotel/motel tax.
The deal was made without a vote from the Georgia State Legislature. Under the terms of a revised deal for the stadium no congressional approval is necessary to increase the bonding capacity of Georgia World Congress Center.
That allows the $200 million bond package to continue to be backed by the existing hotel-motel taxes that are collected in the City of Atlanta with no need for a vote from state legislators.
The Falcons and the National Football League would cover the remaining estimated $800 billion of the stadium’s cost. There was no word on whether or not the a deal would include financing for proposed downtown infrastructure renovations that have been backed by Reed. The mayor estimated that project would push the cost from $946 million to $1.2 billion.
According to the most recent poll, Atlantans are overwhelmingly opposed to the prospect of using public funds to build the new stadium, and Reed admitted that a new stadium in Atlanta was highly unlikely without public financing.
A recent statewide poll conducted by the AJC showed 72 percent of respondents either opposed or strongly opposed to using hotel/motel tax collections in Atlanta and unincorporated Fulton County to help finance construction.
That number was a nonstarter for many in the Georgia legislature.
“It’s hard to get lawmakers to vote for something that’s polling 70-to-30 no,” Gov. Nathan Deal told the paper. “They need to directly communicate with the public. Either way the public attitude has to be significantly changed from where it is now.”
Opposition has been voiced strongly by Common Cause Georgia, a political advocacy group, and State Senator Vince Fort, of Atlanta.
“I don’t believe that taxpayer money, that is $300 million, should be used to pay for a billionaire’s playground,” Fort told the Daily World. “We are furloughing teachers in this state, we are cutting pre-K, cutting the Hope Scholarship, so I believe that there are more important priorities than creating a playground for Arthur Blank. Tell Arthur Blank to pay for it himself.”
The mayor is expected to release his statement at 2:30 p.m. EST.