Atlanta Falcons: Should They Answer Los Angeles' Call?
The Atlanta Falcons and Arthur Blank could have the state-of-the-art stadium they desperately seek. Just not in Atlanta. Morse Diggs of Atlanta's FOX 5 revealed that Los Angeles businessmen were perusing the Falcons' franchise.
The move is doubtful. Arthur Blank has striven to give his adopted hometown's football franchise credibility. The founder of Atlanta-based Home Depot has spent over a decade rejuvenating a franchise that was a veritable laughing stock around the league.
With the team at the height of unprecedented success, it would be hard to believe he would pull up stakes now.
But should he?
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The seats at the Georgia Dome have filled and emptied like the waves of Blank's stormy tenure as owner. Blank arrived as the tide was just starting to roll in. Michael Vick caused the fanbase to swell after the playoff win in 2002. But there were plenty of empty seats in 2003 when Vick went down with an injury.
In 2007, the Georgia Dome was a virtual ghost town as Blank and the Falcons suffered through the Bobby Petrino debacle.
In fact, Falcons fans resemble the least popular guy in the locker room. Last to arrive and first to leave. Earlier this month, the then 13-2 Falcons faced off against the division-rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Georgia Dome was sold out, but players were met by a sea of empty red seats.
Atlanta's fickle fan base has been a staple of Atlanta sports radio for years. The franchise's history and Atlanta's transient nature are the most cited theories.
In fact, Atlanta's newest sports talk station, 92.9 The Game, is banking on it. The majority of personalities are openly unfamiliar with Atlanta. From the Morning Drive's Minnesota Vikings fan Rick Kamla to former Pittsburgh Steeler Kordell Stewart in the afternoon to New England Patriots fan Jim Murray.
If the Falcons players were concerned about a lack of respect in the national media, they might be shocked to find that the hometown media just got a little less friendly.
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Arthur Blank stepped into a bad situation on day one. The Falcons' long-term lease with the Georgia Dome was very one-sided. The state retained the majority of profits and control of the venue. In 2004, then-GM Rich McKay apologized during a "state of the franchise" gathering of season ticket holders. After repeated questions about parking, food choices and merchandise, McKay explained the Falcons had no control over these things.
In fact, the Falcons spent $30 million to upgrade the Georgia Dome. Blank turned the Georgia Dome from a peach and green eyesore into a more Falcon-friendly red, white and black. Seating and giant LED screens were upgraded on the Falcons' dime as well.
With the NFL behind him, Blank has sought a new stadium. The Falcons' owner has offered to pay for 70 percent of costs and cover any over-run. The state of Georgia has been less than supportive.
Governor Nathan Deal has constantly straddled the fence on the issue. In his latest statement, Deal essentially says the Falcons are right but they will have to do it without his support. He said, "The Falcons have a strong case in favor of a new stadium, and I think it's incumbent on them to educate the public on all the facts."
It would appear that Deal feels no need for his office to help educate the public on the facts.
Los Angeles Falcons?
Would the Falcons be better off in Los Angeles?
The city of Los Angeles seems desperate for an NFL franchise. Despite not having a team, they have already approved a top-notch stadium. Now, the city has to find a team to play in it. The Falcons would make a great choice.
The Falcons do not have a storied history in Atlanta. This would not be the Baltimore Colts escaping in the middle of the night. This does not mean the city of Atlanta would be dismissive of losing the Falcons, but the national opinion of the team would not be damaged.
Los Angeles has a huge market and media-machine behind it. If the Falcons were searching for more recognition than in 2012, it would not be hard to imagine Los Angeles being able to create it.
The Minnesota Lakers and Brooklyn Dodgers thrived in the city after moving. The Falcons could do the same. The Falcons would not be bringing a struggling franchise looking to rebuild in a new city. Instead, the Falcons would take five years of success to a bigger, hungrier market.
In the end, Blank and the Falcons might have too many ties to Atlanta to even consider leaving for greener pastures. Atlanta will be stuck with the Falcons. Whether the city and fans appreciate that remains to be seen.
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