Falcons stadium cost hits $1.5B, everybody acts like this is totally normal and sane

Speaking of stadiums replacing other stadiums that weren’t even of legal drinking age, the price tag of the Atlanta Falcons‘ new stadium is now $1.5 billion, which is up from $1 billion less than two years ago. The reason? “Financing costs,” which you’d have thought Falcons owner Arthur Blank would have worked out long ago since he already started construction on the place, but I guess this is just how rich guys who own NFL owners roll: Sometimes you need to cut another $100 million check to the bankers, whatcha gonna do?

Anyway, this does not increase the amount of money that Georgia taxpayers will be putting in, which is a good thing, since that’s already almost $600 million. It does make you wonder if building modern NFL buildings is really worth these insane price tags — are owners like Blank just chasing the increased franchise values that come with new stadiums, more so than actual revenues? Is this all a giant bubble that will collapse once the NFL concussion cascade collapse hits? Is the Falcons’ crazy sphincter roof really a clever homage to tulipomania? If not for that $600 million in public funds, these would all be fun questions to ask and kibitz on.

Georgia top court dismisses Falcons bond challenge, Braves challenge next up

The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled on the challenge to the Atlanta Falcons stadium bonds, and it did not buy the argument that using the hotel-motel tax that funded the Georgia Dome to now fund its replacement violated the state constitution:

“[T]here is nothing arbitrary or unreasonable about allowing the same taxing entities that already have experience paying for a multipurpose domed stadium facility through the collection of a 7 percent hotel-motel tax…to collect such a tax in the future to fund a different stadium after the first tax has expired,” Justice Harold Melton wrote in the court’s opinion.

That was the last round of appeals for the Falcons suit, so we can stick a fork in it. The Braves bond lawsuit, meanwhile, which rests on whether a baseball stadium is a “public purpose” and which got one of the craziest legal responses ever from the Braves’ crack legal team, is still proceeding, having had a supreme court hearing last month and with a ruling expected in July. I’m not holding my breath or anything, given that courts are usually hesitant about injecting themselves into this kind of development policy even when the law might imply it’s their job to, but it’s still something to keep an eye on.

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.


Falcons stadium subsidy nearing $600m thanks to state-funded parking garage

Did I forget to mention, back when it was first reported last March, that on top of giving the Atlanta Falcons $554 million toward construction costs for their new stadium, the state of Georgia is spending an additional $17 million on expanding a parking garage for the team? That’s okay, because now it’s $40 million, according to the 2015 state budget.

All it’ll take is another $6 million, then, for the public cost to reach exactly triple the $200 million that it was originally announced as. You really gotta watch the fine print on these things.

Falcons’ iris-roofed stadium now to be second-priciest NFL stadium ever

The Atlanta Falcons stadium’s projected cost has risen again, this time to $1.4 billion, which would make it the second most expensive NFL stadium in history, after the $1.6 billion stadium shared by the New York Giants and Jets. No real word on why the inflated price tag, though the Atlanta Business Chronicle cited Falcons CFO Greg Beadles as indicating that “more detailed design plans allowed the team to more accurately budget the cost of the stadium” (i.e., “we guessed wrong”) and saying that “construction costs across the board continue to increase as the economy improves and demand grows” (i.e., “we have to compete for steel with stuff like the new Braves stadium now”).

The Falcons will cover the increased costs, though you have to wonder if they’ll take some of it out of that “waterfall fund” that the state set up for them out of any hotel tax revenues that aren’t needed to pay the initial stadium debt. Though the team’s owners were going to avail themselves of that money one way or another, no doubt, so it shouldn’t matter much to state taxpayers what in particular the team uses it on. Anyway, crazy roof, people! Who can put a price on that?

Falcons stadium bond hearing starts, follow @katieleslienews for live updates

Excellent: The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s City Hall reporter Katie Leslie is livetweeting today’s hearing of the citizen challenge to the Atlanta Falcons stadium bond sale, starting like 15 minutes ago. Among the highlights so far:

Follow along yourself!

Georgia Supreme Court to hear appeals of Falcons, Braves bond sales

The Georgia Supreme Court has set oral argument dates for the lawsuits against the stadium deals for the Atlanta Falcons (Monday) and Braves (next February). And … that’s about all I can tell you, because the Atlanta Journal Constitution story is behind a paywall, but if you’re an AJC subscriber, you can no doubt read more.

Okay, I can give you a little background: The two suits are actually appeals of the bond issuance for the stadiums, which means the bonds can’t be sold until they’ve been cleared.

None of this appears to have stopped construction from moving ahead — check out the Falcons’ construction photos, with all those, um, whatever they are already having been built — presumably because the teams have enough cash on hand to start things off with the bond money. But if either appeal is successful, then we’re entering uncharted waters, to say the least.

Falcons owner to Beckham: Sharing digs with an NFL team can be fun and rewarding!

And finally, Atlanta Falcons and as-yet-unnamed Atlanta MLS expansion team owner Arthur Blank thinks that David Beckham’s MLS expansion team should share a stadium with the Miami Dolphins:

Here’s what Blank had to say when asked if Beckham’s team should stadium share with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami’s American Football team.

“Yes,” Blank told reporters. “It’s a challenge Beckham has to overcome. It’s important he finds a balance between the commercial side and the special, emotional atmosphere you want for a soccer stadium.”

Is Blank actually telling Beckham that he should throw in the towel on a new stadium and move into the Dolphins’ old place once it’s finished being renovated? Does he think maybe the Dolphins still want to build a new stadium, and could share with soccer? Has he completely forgotten that the Dolphins are doing renovations, and just assumes that every NFL owner is in the middle of building a new stadium, or will be soon? This is the guy who runs an organization that thinks London is in Spain, so anything is possible.

End-of-year lists: The lazy journalist’s way to earn a paycheck while sucking down eggnog

It’s the Christmas-to-New Year’s interregnum, which means it can be time for only one thing: end-of-year lists! (Okay, really for two things: end-of-year lists and waiting impatiently for post-Christmas technical glitches to get resolved.) And already we have the clear front-runner for most outrageous end-of-year-list lede, courtesy of our old friend, the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Rich Kirchen:

The year 2013 may be remembered as the launching pad for Milwaukee’s new downtown arena.

I say that despite the fact that metro-area leaders are nowhere near reaching a decision on whether building a new arena or upgrading the existing BMO Harris Bradley Center would be best. Weighing heavily on those decisions, of course, is how to pay for any arena project.

Right, so no one knows where or whether to build a Bucks arena, or how to pay for it, but … the local chamber of commerce organized a task force! Which “didn’t do much at the first confab, but the fact that nearly all 48 members participated shows they are serious.” That’s perfect attendance, people! What more can you ask for?

In addition, Kirchen notes that incoming NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Bucks sponsors in September that “the league views the BMO Harris Bradley Center as unfit for the league’s current standards,” which is practically in the commissioner job description, but which Kirchen made a big deal of at the time, so I suppose it’s not surprising that he’s making a big deal of it again now. Sure, it might have been nice if he’d mentioned how Milwaukee-area counties are lining up to refuse to contribute to arena costs, but that wouldn’t do much to help create the air of inevitability that Kirchen is going for, now would it?

Meanwhile, PolitiFact Georgia marks Boxing Day by celebrating its top Atlanta Falcons and Braves fact-checks of the year, from how Georgia appraises stadium property to the economic impact of a new stadium. Sadly, PolitiFact doesn’t actually fact-check its own fact-checks, but given the project’s propensity for finding partial truths on both sides on just about every issue — its four stadium rulings were one True, two Mostly Trues, and one Mostly False, though in the last case this seems to indicate that claims of job creation used real numbers, it just lied about what they mean — I feel comfortable grading PolitiFact’s work this year as Mostly Truthy.