If Georgia-funded parking deck isn’t for Falcons, don’t expect conventions to make it worthwhile

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported recently on a $23 million proposal “tucked into Gov. Nathan Deal’s budget” for an expanded parking deck at the new Falcons stadium. “You wouldn’t build something like this parking deck for just eight games, Frank Poe, head of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (owner of the World Congress Center, the Georgia Dome, and the new stadium) told the paper. “You build it because it’s sustainable for all the other businesses we have on our campus.” Maybe what Poe meant was “You build it and hope somebody actually turns up.”

Unfortunately for Atlanta, they haven’t been turning up much. For fiscal year 2014, the World Congress Center saw just 390,870 convention and trade show attendees. That’s down 17 percent from the previous year, and less than half the 807,000 attendees the center saw in 2007. It’s even far less convention business than the 601,000 attendees the center saw in 1989 — and that was two expansions ago. And if anyone thinks a big new parking garage is going to lure thousands to downtown Atlanta, the World Congress Center Authority has another trick to lure all that new business: a big new hotel.

The Authority just issued a Request for Proposals for a new 800- to 1,200-room hotel next door to the GWCC. According to the RFP, “The Authority envisions a new Hotel, if developed, to be an immediate enhancement to financial viability and dynamism of surrounding facilities, GWCC convention business, and to the City of Atlanta and the State of Georgia in general.” That would of course be the dynamism of a failing convention venue and a brand new $1.1 billion stadium, along with the booming convention business.

Add a P.S. on the work of the consultants: PriceWaterhouseCoopers produced a “market analysis” in October 1996 that forecast that after the latest center expansion, completed in 2002, the World Congress Center would see 1.4 to 1.5 million convention and tradeshow attendees a year. Didn’t quite work out that way.


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5 comments on “If Georgia-funded parking deck isn’t for Falcons, don’t expect conventions to make it worthwhile

  1. Careful. Your bias is showing again. Your article is sorely lacking in a true understanding of downtown Atlanta tourism and activity. Suggesting the parking lot (or the stadium, for that matter) is simply for the benefit of the Falcons or convention business is shortsighted at best – intentional bias at worst. Downtown Atlanta added two new venues just in the last year – the College Football Hall of Fame, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. We also connected that portion of downtown to a newly established street car route. All of this adding to the growing numbers who arrive at this destination area for the CNN Center, Centennial Olympic Park, SkyView Atlanta, Phillips Arena, World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium. To say nothing of the nonstop line of events like the Final Four concert, Fourth of July, summer concert series, etc.

    If you want to take aim at public financing, that’s fine. Make your best case and let the people and elected officials decide. But do try to paint the whole picture with your facts. Not just the selective ones that suit your immediate needs. After all, isn’t that the very sin about which you’re wailing and gnashing teeth?

  2. From the linked article’s quote of the guy who’s actually building the parking garage:

    “Poe said about 5 percent of the time it would be used for the NFL team, which will play about eight to 10 games at the stadium once it opens in 2017, and the rest will be devoted to conventions, trade shows and other events at the stadium.”

    This isn’t being built so that people have a place to park when they go to the aquarium. It’s intended for new stadium visitors, and there is zero evidence that there will be significant numbers of those.

  3. I live in Atlanta. There is absolutely no shortage of parking in downtown Atlanta during conventions, football games, or any other type of events. There are simply lots and decks at which you can pay to park all over the place. However, many of them are not controlled by the Falcons or the World Congress Center. This deck is a pointless giveaway to the Falcons.

  4. Agree with Mark. Atl is a driving city and there is still no shortage of parking decks for all of the new centennial park attractions. Not to mention all the lots scattered around downtown.

    Current parking was fine for the GA Dome. Why won’t it be enough for Home Depot Memorial Stadium

  5. I agree with Mark and ChiGuy. I have live in Atlanta for a year now, attended a Falcons game, and there is no shortage of existing parking around the Stadium, Convention Center, or Centennial Park. Also note that the new stadium will have fewer seats which likely means they need fewer parking spaces, not more.

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