Momentum appears to be swinging against the Atlanta Falcons stadium plans, at least for the moment. Common Cause Georgia and State Senator Vincent Fort showed up outside yesterday’s playoff game with picket signs, declaring that the costs to the public — $300 million in hotel tax money, plus an untold amount for city infrastructure costs — would be too great. And state leaders say the plan is going to be a tough sell in the state legislature, with some legislators saying they may not take up the issue this session, and even Gov. Nathan Deal, generally a stadium supporter, admitting, “It’s hard to get lawmakers to vote for something that’s polling 70-to-30 no.” (Though Deal added that it’s public opinion he wants changed, not the Falcons’ stadium demands: “They need to directly communicate with the public. Either way the public attitude has to be significantly changed from where it is now.”)
So why is anyone still even talking about this project? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says it’s out of fear that if Atlanta doesn’t build it, someone in the suburbs will. Or Falcons owner Arthur Blank might even build it himself, saving $300 million by building an open-air stadium instead of one with a retractable roof. And then Atlanta would be left with an empty stadium that would lose money instead of bringing in money — though the latest audit indicates that right now the state is barely breaking even on the stadium. And reportedly in a new stadium the Falcons would share even less in revenues with the state. And, of course, the suburbs are still in the same state, so it’s hard to see why Georgia should be negotiating against itself about where the Falcons should play.
The argument, then, seems to come down to: The state wants a retractable-roofed downtown stadium to use for conventions, but the Falcons just want a new stadium somewhere, so let’s spend maybe $400 million in order to make them build a sliding roof. Because that’s totally worth it, in order to get all the conventions that … don’t actually seem to want to use domed stadiums all that much. Good luck on that changing public attitudes thing, guys.