In a “significant shift in the discussions about a proposed new home for the Atlanta Falcons, the team and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority are trying to work out a deal that would result in building a retractable-roof stadium downtown and demolishing the Georgia Dome,” according to Tucker & Stafford of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. A study conducted by K.C.-based architectural firm Populous was released yesterday and “put the cost of a new retractable-roof stadium at $947.7 million, up from the $700 million estimated last year for an open-air stadium.” GWCC Authority Exec Dir Frank Poe, whose agency operates the Dome, said that under either plan the public-sector contribution “would be an estimated $300 million from an extension of the hotel-motel occupancy tax, passed by the Georgia Legislature in 2010.” Poe and Falcons President & CEO Rich McKay, who “jointly revealed the new direction in negotiations Wednesday, said substantial progress has been made toward a deal but that much work remains to be done.” Poe said that in addition to “a previously disclosed site one-half mile north of the Georgia Dome,” another site just south of the Dome “is under examination.” Tucker & Stafford write the “turn in talks toward a retractable-roof stadium means the Falcons’ original preference of an open-air facility … is off the table.” McKay was asked if Falcons Owner Arthur Blank is “prepared to cover the roughly $650 million difference between the estimated hotel-motel tax contribution and the new cost estimate.” McKay: “I think we have negotiated enough to understand what we think the financing plan would look like, and I think we would be prepared to make a deal on those terms.” The study found that “redeveloping the Dome with a retractable roof would cost $859.3 million, $88.4 million less than the $947.7 million cost of building new on a nearby site.” The Falcons’ lease commitment to the Dome “expires when the bonds that funded the building’s construction are paid off later this decade.” If a deal is reached, the Falcons “hope construction will begin in 2014 and that they will play in the new stadium in 2017” (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 4/26).
GONE SO SOON? In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz wrote, “This is the way it works now in sports: Build a stadium for a sports team. A decade or two later (maybe), when the building ceases in its perceived ability to generate enough revenue for the sports owner, then it’s time to build a new one to make him happy.” But Blank should get “credit for this: He’s probably going to pull this off without once alienating the public by threatening to move his team to Los Angeles, Toronto or London, or just selling it to Winnipeg.” Still, there is “something wrong with this,” and there is “something wrong when a perfectly good building is scheduled to be detonated.” It is “easy to understand Blank’s position on this: He can’t generate enough revenue in the Georgia Dome,” which “doesn’t have enough suites, enough signage, enough martini bars.” It is the “reason the Falcons’ overall value pales in comparison to that of other NFL franchises” (AJC.com, 4/25).