Atlanta Falcons: Will Fans Warm Up to New Stadium Talk?
Christmas is right around the corner, and Atlanta Falcons fans could be getting news of a pretty expensive gift for the near future. The problem is, many fans would seemingly rather take the receipt and return the item.
Leon Stafford and Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported yesterday that the Atlanta Falcons and Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) authorities will meet on Monday to "vote on the framework of a possible deal."
That "deal" would give Atlanta a brand-new, retractable-roof stadium within a mile, or on the site of, the existing Georgia Dome, which has housed the Falcons and multiple premiere sporting events for 20 years.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank opened discussion of a new home stadium for the team in 2006, and since then, talks between the team's ownership/management and the Georgia World Congress Center have heated up. A new stadium, if the deal continues to materialize, would hopefully go up by 2017.
While the novelty of a state-of-the-art facility sounds amusing, fans have not taken to the new-stadium talks. In fact, according to a poll run by the AJC in July, 67 percent of Atlanta residents are opposed to the new stadium plan.
Here is where ESPN's Rob Parker finds another excuse to write an uninformed article on why Atlanta doesn't support its sports teams.
The reality is, fans have a realistic gripe.
The Georgia Dome has been owned and operated by the state under the GWCC since its opening in 1992. The mantra of a state-run entity not meeting and exceeding standards rears its ugly head here, but there's no reason to think the Georgia Dome is a tired venue.
Blank simply is stuck in the mindset of wanting the bigger, better toy, and the state and Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed have jumped on board.
The resulting framework?
Blank might actually go out-of-pocket to fund a huge chunk of the $900 million-plus it will take to successfully erect a new facility, but the remaining funds, as of now, are expected to come out of patrons' pockets.
Specifically, it has been reported since talks of the new stadium began that anywhere from $200 million to $400 million of the budget will come from tax dollars raised through the hotel-motel tax, which was passed for continuation in 2010. The hotel-motel tax is designed to create revenue through tourism to enhance tourist-specific areas in the city.
So, really, Atlantans won't be taking the bulk of the load there, but they might want to see that revenue go toward improving the parts of downtown and the surrounding area that need improvement that will, in turn, improve the tourism experience.
Seems like a valid argument; $300 million could go a long way in improving the area. Others within the community are just as concerned with the fact that a new stadium would be considered a priority of state-fund talk when the school systems are suffocating.
The other portion of public money that is expected to come through in this deal is from actual seat-licensing. Seat-licensing is a concept that has been used with major stadium projects in the past, most notably with the the Jets and Giants' new stadium, and Jerry Jones' spaceship in Arlington.
This process would require fans to pay fees, which could cost upwards of $1,000, to reserve their priority seating. Season ticket holders aren't happy about the prospect of game attendance becoming even more expensive in these economic times.
That's especially egregious considering the fact that most fans, despite Blank's insecurity, don't think the Georgia Dome is such a bad venue.
Makes sense, considering the Atlanta Falcons do fine at home. So far this season, the Falcons have not lost a game at home. They have two more games against the Giants and Buccaneers remaining in the venue.
The Falcons are 32-6 in the dome since 2008. It's considered one of the loudest venues in the NFL, thanks to its bowl-shaped, indoor configuration.
Also, Atlanta fans filled the Georgia Dome in 2011 better than Giants and Jets fans did in their fancy new stadium, despite more aimless claims from ESPN's Parker.
According to ESPN statistics, the Falcons have filled 98.3 percent of the Georgia Dome in home games this season. The Giants are at 97.3, while the Jets are at 95.9.
Sure, you can argue a fancy new stadium will create more fan interest that could send Atlanta to new attendance levels, but not if fans are having to take the brunt of the cost by paying what are essentially extra fees.
The Georgia Dome is proving to be a solid venue, and it's only 20 years old. I will say, as a Falcons fan myself, my latest experience at the Georgia Dome last Thursday against the Saints only reinforced my own opinion that the Dome has plenty of life left in it.
Most Falcons fans, to this point, have agreed the "Dome-Field Advantage" of the past five seasons has been remarkably positive.
If the functionality of the Georgia Dome is proving substantial, what perks do Blank and the city envision?
It's true that a new stadium will definitely make Atlanta's pitch for a future Super Bowl much brighter, but the big game would only bring a temporary burst in financial stimulation to the city.
Other than that, could it really be any more than dumbfounding to think a new stadium would create an exponentially better moneymaker for the city, especially when the Georgia Dome is doing just fine at that?
Essentially, the new stadium talks here in Atlanta have only served as a microcosm of the more-is-more, less-is-ignored blueprint of economics that is truly an issue, not only on the sports front, but obviously from a national standpoint.
Aside from an aesthetic difference, a new stadium wouldn't serve the community much.
Fans have taken notice, though it has been hard for them to actually voice their concerns because of the novelty of the concept.
In other words, most fans will likely be fundamentally against the process, but excited enough to see it through. That's how powerful sports can be in our society.
But the truth of the matter is that Atlanta needs anything but a $1 billion venue. Fans could see some easing in prices, and the community would rather see a heap of tax revenue go into other projects.
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