Ever since a New Jersey court ruled that the New York Red Bulls had to pay property taxes on their new stadium even though it was city-owned, because it was a private use, a small subset of people — okay, probably just me and Geoffrey Propheter — have been wondering when some other jurisdiction, or its residents, would try a similar gambit. And some Atlanta residents are doing just that with the Falcons‘ publicly-owned-and-subsidized, privately controlled stadium:
For a year and a half, some residents have argued that the stadium — which has been exempted from property taxes since it was built — should be paying into city, school and county tax funds. A lawsuit the group filed in 2017 estimates its tax bill at $26 million a year under June 2018 tax rates…
Over the life of a 30-year agreement the Falcons have to use the stadium, it might generate more than $700 million in property taxes, according to estimates by attorney Wayne Kendall, who is representing the residents who filed the suit.
This suit has been kicking around since 2017, and already got bounced by Fulton County Superior Court, but was revived by a state appeals court last month and kicked back to county court for reconsideration. The key argument for the Falcons having to pay property taxes is that, unlike in its previous deal at the Georgia Dome where it just rented the place 20 days a year, the new stadium is fully controlled by the team: “The Falcons manage the stadium year-round, and receive the revenue from all events held in the building, not only ticket revenue. Kendall argues that under the new agreement, the Falcons are a long-term leaseholder, and long-term leases are taxable under state law.”
College of the Holy Cross economist Victor Matheson tells the Atlanta Journal Constitution that this would be “a real game changer nationwide” if the Atlanta suit prevails, and while Matheson is almost always right, the Harrison case hasn’t been a game changer yet, so it’s possible this wouldn’t be either. Though for Atlanta residents looking to get back some of the $700 million they’re spending on Megatron’s Butthole, it would be a huge deal indeed.