This morning on my weekly KUCI radio spot, host Heather McCoy asked me why it is that stadiums keep getting more and more ridiculously expensive to build. I replied that it has less to do with the price of raw materials or anything than the increasingly grandiose designs — like, just look at the new Atlanta Falcons stadium, which will cost $1 billion thanks to giant video screens and seats that vibrate when players make tackles and a roof that will close like an iris camera shutter.
And right on cue comes word that the cost of this monstrosity work of destination architecture will actually be $1.2 billion, because octagonal sliding iris roofs don’t come cheap. But not to worry, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reassures us, the public won’t be on the hook for the extra $200 million: “As specified in the deal struck early this year, bonds backed by Atlanta’s hotel-motel tax will cover $200 million of the cost of building the stadium. The rest will come from the Falcons, the NFL and personal seat license sales.”
Of course, the Falcons will also have about another $300 million in future tax kickbacks with which to defray their costs. But that’s not something that daily newspapers like to mention in polite company.
Still, this is undeniably $200 million more than Falcons owner Arthur Blank was expecting to spend, which makes you wonder: When told that he needs to write an extra $200 million in checks, does a guy like Blank really go, “Sure, what the heck, it’s only money”? Or does he figure that he’ll make it back on fans who’ll shell out more for tickets if only they can sit in vibrating seats? As usual, I’m not sure whether to assume that sports team owners have a secret plan for making money or are just as short-sighted as the rest of us. Not that it would matter, if they weren’t spending our money on their wacky dreams.