Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s “give us $300 million or we’ll move to the suburbs” campaign isn’t exactly off to a rollicking good start:
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz appears ready to call Blank’s bluff, asking, “Would it be the worst thing in the world if the Falcons moved to the suburbs?” and answering: not hardly. “This is about increasing the value of a football team and the coffers of its owner, not making Atlanta a better place to live. … The Falcons moving from Atlanta to the suburbs for 10 out of 365 days a year (not including playoffs) won’t destroy anything.” And his AJC colleague Kyle Wingfield notes that the Georgia Dome would be one of the youngest NFL stadiums to face replacement, which isn’t helping Blank’s argument.
- The AJC also notes that still nobody knows who’d pay for roads, utility lines, and other infrastructure to support a new downtown stadium. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who’d previously said that city taxpayers would cover at least part of this cost, now says, “we’re not going to be the ones to pay for it.” Which leaves a budget hole of up to $50 million, according to state documents, to be covered by these guys.
- The Atlanta city council has a hearing scheduled for tomorrow on the Falcons stadium plan, and councilmembers say they have lots of questions for the team, particularly around the financing scheme in which the hotel/motel tax that’s currently paying off the Georgia Dome would be extended from 2020 to 2050 to pay off a new stadium. Which, if the Falcons’ attitude toward the Georgia Dome is any precedent, would itself be facing replacement by about 2040.
Tomorrow’s meeting is supposed to be webcast on the Atlanta council site, though I don’t see a direct link just yet. If nothing else, it should give us our first clear picture of how intently the council plans on questioning the Falcons’ plan — and whether anybody there is actually shaken by the suburb-move threat.