Georgia Dome 2008-08-30

Looking to meet the necessary deadlines to keep a fall 2017 opening in play for a new Atlanta Falcons stadium, Georgia World Congress Center Authority and the Falcons organization are moving forward and selecting finalists to design the stadium, but have hit a snag.

The groups now say it will take them longer than expected to pick the finalists who will design the proposed retractable-roof stadium.

The stadium has still not been approved, but GWCCA and the Falcons say that this step in the process, which was supposed to be completed by Wednesday, has been moved back to Jan. 28.

The GWCCA and the Falcons originally planned to select three to five finalists from the 10 architectural firms that applied last month.

“Additional time is needed to review qualifications and references (of the applicants) and to prepare additional program information for finalists,” GWCCA spokeswoman Jennifer LeMaster told the AJC.

The finalists will interview with Falcons and GWCCA officials, including Falcons owner Arthur Blank. The original plan called for hiring a lead architect by March 15.

“We can’t speculate on how this (delay) may affect our March 15 deadline,” LeMaster said.

GWCCA and the Falcons agreed on a non-binding “term sheet,” for an estimated $1 billion stadium would be built with about $300 million from bonds backed by hotel-motel taxes and the other $700 million from the Falcons, the NFL and personal seat license sales (PSLs).

PSLs are to-be-determined fees that fans can pay to reserve the opportunity to buy season tickets before the stadium is built.

The Falcons and the GWCCA continue to negotiate a more definitive agreement called a “memorandum of understanding.” The AJC reports that GWCCA plans to seek approval from the Georgia Legislature to increase its debt limit from $200 million to $300 million.

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