The Atlanta city council took up the issue yesterday of whether to give about $300 million in hotel tax money to the Falcons ($200 million now, $100 million or so later) for a new stadium, and team CEO Rich McKay wasted no time in spelling out why Atlantans should be quivering in their boots at the consequences of not doing so:
“We would have no choice but to consider pursuing another option in metro Atlanta” if negotiations break down, Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay said. “Please don’t let anybody say that’s a threat. No, that’s just a reality of what we have to do as our lease is about to end.”
Okay, a few things:
- That actually is a threat. Really.
- While it’s certainly convenient for Atlantans to drive downtown to see the Falcons, it’s tough to see how it’s worth $300 million to keep from having to go to, say, Gwinnett to see games. The Falcons bring in about $239 million a year in revenues, much of which is from TV contracts and other non-taxable items; but even if that entire amount were subject to Atlanta’s 1% sales tax, it’d still only mean $2.4 million a year in sales tax revenues being at stake, which isn’t nearly enough to pay off $300 million.
- None of the suburbs are actually offering to build a stadium. Falcons owner Arthur Blank has threatened that he could build his own open-air stadium in the suburbs for the same price as his private cost for a domed stadium in Atlanta, but hasn’t actually proposed any serious plans. (And given everything above, that might be considered not so much a threat as something else.)
Anyway, McKay did manage to get the main media coverage of yesterday’s hearing to focus on “OMG THE FALCONS COULD MOVE TO THE SUBURBS,” so it’s a success in that regard. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that during the public comment period that followed, “several residents said they opposed any use of public money to build a new stadium,” but it didn’t have room to quote any of them, because OMG THE FALCONS COULD MOVE TO THE SUBURBS.