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Volume 24 No. 112
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NFL Owners Approve Falcons' Stadium Funding; Team Granted Maximum $200M

NFL owners this morning at their spring meetings in Boston approved the Falcons for $200M in G-4 financing toward construction of a new stadium. The Falcons are the third team, following the 49ers and Vikings, to tap into the full amount that is available to teams through the league's current stadium-funding program, which was put into place in '11. The money is part loan, part grant. The Falcons' stadium is set to be completed by '17 and cost $1B, with $200M coming from public funds. The remainder would come from the team, meaning that after the NFL stadium money, the Falcons would still be responsible for $600M plus any cost overruns (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer). In Atlanta, Tim Tucker noted the NFL's stadium-funding program is "unique in U.S. sports because of the degree to which it makes the league an economic participant in building stadiums." It is "symptomatic of a league built on financial partnership and revenue sharing among franchises." The program "grew out of the collective bargaining agreement" negotiated with the NFLPA to end the '11 lockout. The labor deal "ostensibly gives the players" 47% of league revenue, which reached $9.5B last year, but "allows the league to deduct" 1.5% of revenue for stadium expenses before determining the players’ portion. NYU Tisch Center sports business professor Robert Boland said "the beauty" of the program for teams is the stadium loan can be repaid "on enormously favorable terms," largely from money that otherwise would go to the league anyway. NFL funding among other conditions "cannot exceed the team contribution to building the stadium." The Falcons to qualify for the maximum $200M "must put up at least a matching amount; their contribution will far exceed that." The team can "recoup its investment over time through various revenue streams, including sales of naming rights and other sponsorships" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 5/20).

DEVELOPING AROUND STADIUM: In Atlanta, Sams & Wenk note developers have “begun scouting sites for new retail and residential projects" around the planned $1B Falcons stadium. Various groups are “floating ideas that could spur economic development … in a way the Georgia Dome never did.” Sources said that landowners near the proposed stadium are “fielding offers for an average of about $600,000 an acre, with some approaching" $1.3M per acre. The sources said that prices on some parcels have “nearly doubled in the past few months” (ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE, 5/17 issue).

: NFL owners said that in-stadium Wi-Fi “will be a major topic” at today’s meeting. Jets Owner Woody Johnson said, “That's a technological challenge, to get that many people streaming video in a stadium. ... They say they can do it, but let's see them do it.” Ravens President Dick Cass said that 85% of the fans at M&T Bank Stadium will soon "have full 4G capability,” but that Wi-Fi is "at least a year away in Baltimore.” Cass: “It's what our fans want. They want the ability to take out their tablet, send a Facebook picture and check the fantasy football scores, so we have to provide that” (USA TODAY, 5/21).