- Created on 19 March 2013
The biggest major hurdle has been cleared on the path to a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons as the Atlanta City Council voted late Monday night to approve a funding plan for the new $1 billion retractable roof stadium.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank called it ''a win-win'' and earlier promised that the new stadium will help the city continue to compete for all major events, including the Super Bowl. ''That's the only secret ballot in the NFL,'' he said. ''We'll have to earn it. But this public support is an important piece.''
Mayor Kasim Reed called the arrangement ''a great public-private partnership'' that will benefit the city and the state.
The council voted 11-4 in favor of using city hotel-motel taxes to pay an estimated $200 million toward construction costs and potentially several times that toward costs of financing, maintaining and operating the stadium through 2050.
All things considered, the cost to the public could actually end up being closer to $900 million. Through principal and interest payments, the hotel-motel tax could be as much as $450 million over 30 years and, according to projections cited by the AJC, another $450 million could go to the stadium over the years for operations and expenses through a "waterfall" fund.
The $200 million number is a conservative estimate of the cost. The money going toward the stadium comes from the 39.3 percent of Atlanta's 7-cents-per-dollar hotel-motel tax that is mandated by state law to go to the GWCCA or a stadium project.
In light of those numbers, council member Aaron Watson said he would no longer characterize the public contribution to the project as only the $200 million toward upfront construction.
"I, for one, haven't heard much discussion of what the entire amount is going to be over the next 30 years," Watson said. He added he "had taken some comfort" in the $200 million figure but "had been nervous the number was actually more."
The contract to build the stadium is based on the framework of a deal announced on March 7 at City Hall, which came after months of private negotiations - and several years of planning and studies - involving the governor's office, the World Congress Center Authority and the mayor's office, among others.
After last week's stadium deal announcement City Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell said he was encouraged and promised public hearings in the near future.
Those meeting never happened and the City Council held only one open public forum about the project, at which former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young voiced support for it, saying the stadium was "another opportunity that gives [Atlanta] a chance to shape the future."
Common Cause Georgia, a government accountability and advocacy group, however, claims that the entire project has been put together behind closed doors and the public has been misled.
"You're left very clearly with the negotiating parties excluding the public while including the public's money," Common Cause board member Wyc Orr has said in earlier statements.
Maria Sporta of Saporta Report wrote early in February that the amount taxpayers would contribute to the project had been determined long before the project was even announced to the public.
"The amount of hotel-motel taxes that would be invested in the project was determined nearly three years ago when the General Assembly agreed to extend the hotel-motel tax collected in the City of Atlanta and in unincorporated Fulton County," she wrote.
Further, money from the hotel-motel tax will go to the stadium for the next 30 years regardless of how much it is.
"Now here is where it gets interesting," writes Saporta. "Under the GWCCA-Falcons agreement, if the hotel-motel tax generated more than the estimated $300 million, the excess taxes would go into a 'waterfall' fund that would go to pay for other debt on the project, or go into a refurbishment and maintenance reserve account, or go into a fund for capital improvements.
"So whether the state provides $200 million or $300 million in bonding capacity, the amount of hotel-motel taxes collected remains the same...All surplus hotel-motel taxes would still be invested in the stadium development."
The vote by the City Council came three days after the Georgia World Congress Center Authority approved the deal and left just a vote by Invest Atlanta, the city's economic development agency, for the stadium project to move forward. The board of Invest Atlanta, which would issue the bonds to fund the public portion of the construction cost, is expected to vote Tuesday.
The Falcons expect to be playing in the new retractable roof venue in 2017, while their current home, the Georgia Dome, would be demolished. By August, the city and the GWCCA will try to work out a deal to buy Friendshp and Mount Vernon Baptist churches on the preferred site south of the Dome.
- Created on 19 March 2013
Atlanta Hawks cheerleader Kristen was seen last night by physicians at Atlanta Medical Center and released following examination, according to a release from the Atlanta Hawks.
Earlier in the evening, she suffered a fall, landing on her head and neck during a performance between the third and fourth quarter of the Hawks' game against the Dallas Mavericks.
Kristen, whose last name was not provided by the team, was removed from the court on a stretcher after falling.
Hawks coach Larry Drew said that she was doing better.
Check the homepage of the Atlanta Daily World for a video of how Kristen sustained the injury.
- Created on 18 March 2013
The Atlanta City Council is scheduled to meet Monday afternoon and could vote to move forward with plans of a new Falcons stadium.
Although the stadium is not on the agenda of topics to be discussed during Monday's session, the subject matter may still be brought up.
If agreed upon by the council, the city would embark upon a plan to put down $200 million in hotel-motel tax revenue in order to build the $1 billion retractable roof facility.
"This will be one of the best stadium deals of its type in the country, bar none. And we're actually getting more out of the deal than we would if we were to renovate the existing dome," Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond told WAGA.
Some believe the stadium deal is being rushed and are hesitant about moving forward.
"We are talking about a proposal that was put on the city council halfway through this week that's an inch thick. And there's no way that they could possibly read through it, retain it, understand everything in it and vote on it as quickly as this thing is moving forward," William Perry of Common Cause, a watchdog group, said.
The proposal was announced 11 days ago and has already been approved by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. The only potential road blocks after the City Council's approval would be Friendship and Mount Vernon Baptist Churches, two places of worship that would have to be bought out and moved.
"Once we do have a proposal from the city, that will be something we will bring forward to the congregation to review, discuss and then vote," Lloyd Hawk of Friendship Baptist Church said.
If the churches refuse to be bought out, the city may possibly look into an alternate location north of the Georgia World Congress Center.
- Created on 18 March 2013
The Atlanta Dream recently announced the team has signed Sydney Carter to a training camp contract.
Carter, a 5-6 guard, was a standout at Texas A&M, helping the Aggies win the 2011 NCAA National Championship while being named the Most Oustanding Player at the Dallas Regionals that season. A three-time co-captain for Texas A&M, Carter was twice named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team.
Carter averaged 11.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists as a senior, earning All-Big 12 Second Team honors. She was honorable mention All-Big 12 as both a junior and sophomore, and was a member of the Big 12 All-Freshman Team. She most recently played in one game as a rookie with the Chicago Sky in 2012.
"Sydney is an excellent ball-handler and scorer," said Dream Head Coach and General Manager Fred Williams. "Her speed and quickness enable her to get to the rim, score or pass. She will be a good addition to our squad."
The two-time Eastern Conference Champion Atlanta Dream will tip off its sixth season in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) on May 25 at Philips Arena.
Photo courtesy of Big12sports.com
- Created on 18 March 2013
Hometown favorites, the Morehouse Maroon Tigers, fell to the Benedict College Tigers in the finals of the 80th Annual SIAC Men's Basketball Championship.
In a dog fight that kept hostile fans in the Frank L. Forbes Arena on edge throughout the evening, Morehouse's missed opportunities on free throws and sloppy play with turnovers led to their demise as Benedict captured their second consecutive SIAC Basketball Championship, 68-60.
"It was a battle," Benedict Coach Fred Watson said. "Morehouse is a physical team, well coached and ran a lot of good stuff. They schemed us out of what we wanted to do. It took us a little while as a team to figure out what we needed to do.
The loss by the Maroon Tigers may mean the end of a season, but also recaps one of the most successful seasons in school history, thanks to newly named SIAC Coach of the Year, Grady Brewer.
Brewer and his team were predicted to finish sixth in the east division during the preseason after wrapping up the 2011-2012 season at 8-19, with a loss in the first round at last year's conference tournament. Going into the new year, Morehouse began living up to low expectation by starting the season 1-5.
Out of nowhere, the Maroon Tigers went on a school record-tying 14-game winning streak and posted a 15-2 conference record, earning them a share of the SIAC East Division regular season title with Benedict.
"Any time you win 19 out of 22 ball games, you've done a great job," Brewer said. "We just hope that the NCAA Division II selection committee will allow us the opportunity to play."
The 2012-13 basketball season was Brewer's thirteenth as head coach at Morehouse, after serving 13 seasons as an assistant to the legendary Arthur McAfee, who coached 35 seasons at Morehouse, compiling more than 450 wins.
Players named to the All-Tournament team from Morehouse were center Andrae Nelson, who had 20 points, and guard Darrius Williams scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the championship game.
"It was a good run, felt good being back on court," Williams said. "My team played hard. We have a lot of guys coming back next year, so we're just going to take this loss right here and we're going to be ready to respond for next time."
By winning the conference tournament, Benedict automatically receives a bid to play in the NCAA Division II National Basketball Tournament. Morehouse, who was ranked sixth in the South region, did not receive an at-large bid by the tournament committee and ended its season on the sour note of losing in the championship game. But Brewer doesn't see it as a defeat.
"Great players make great coaches at any level," Brewer said reflecting on this season's accomplishments. "It's a sweet victory for the people in Forbes Arena because it's nice to see them able to come to a playoff game and for a championship game because in the past we haven't been past the first round. I love these guys. I love them all. They're going to get their chance."