Yes, We Have It Straight. Atlanta Does Need a New Stadium for the Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons do need a new stadium. But more than that, the city of Atlanta needs a new venue for the Falcons and future events.
Our own Josh Zerkle ranted about how he thought the Atlanta Falcons didn't need a new stadium in his first "Let Me Get This Straight" article.
Sorry, Josh. I understand where you are trying to come from, but you just give the exact same three excuses we've all heard for the past few years as to why the Falcons don't need a new stadium. Each one of them is more tired than the last.
Yes, it's just 20 years old.
But by the time the new stadium is built it will be 25. And when stadiums get past a certain age, they need to have massive improvements to stay both easy to maintain and innovative enough to keep people coming to them.
On top of that, they need to not have the dark and dreary feeling that the inside of the Georgia Dome has always had. Not to mention when the Dome was first built, the outside of it was pink and green. PINK AND GREEN. Not red and black like it should have been. But I digress til later.
Yes, it's hosted a pair of Super Bowls.
But the last time Atlanta had one was over a decade ago, and it was considered a terrible stadium and city experience. Even the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl could use an improved venue compared to the dark dome.
Atlanta couldn't even lure back a Super Bowl despite Falcons owner Arthur Blank trying to improve the stadium with $150 million of his own money because of the freak ice storms that happened (h/t Atlanta Business Chronicle's Mary Jane Credeur and Jacques Couret).
And no, it's not going to be an open air stadium.
They want a retractable roof. This way they can keep hosting Final Fours. They can keep hosting WrestleManias. They can even start hosting things like the World Cup. And who knows? Maybe Atlanta can get another Olympics! But these things won't happen without the new stadium.
As a writer—and this may sound a bit self serving— the Dome doesn't give great photo quality for pictures to use in articles or in features due to the lack of light in the building. As a whole, it's a very dark venue inside and isn't very welcoming—for fans or for teams.
And that's not the personality that Blank has. He's a business man, but he's also someone who wants to leave his mark on the city, not just the Atlanta Falcons. What better way to do that than the new stadium?
Oh, and the biggest argument against the stadium of the team wanting the city and state to foot most of the bill?
That was proven wrong when the Falcons received just $200 million of the projected $1 billion cost of the stadium from the same tax that they have already used to build the Georgia Dome. That's 20 percent... but in actuality, it will be less.
Let's take a look at the different impacts the new stadium would have and in there, we'll explore how the Georgia Dome doesn't help, but actually hinders each issue:
Engineering Impact For a New Stadium
Don't give me the excuse that the Georgia Dome is "too young to be replaced."
It's the 11th oldest stadium in the NFL right now despite "not being old enough to drink" as Josh puts it. The 10 stadiums that are older than the Georgia Dome:
Chicago's Soldier Field opened in 1924. It's undergone multiple massive renovations and was completely re-built in 2003 at the same site.
Green Bay's Lambeau Field opened in 1957. This is another stadium that has undergone multiple large renovations with the most recent expected to be completed in 2015.
San Francisco's Candlestick Park opened in 1960, but it's in it's final year as the 49ers' home stadium. They will be moving to one in Santa Clara. The final game for the stadium will be the Falcons versus the 49ers on Monday Night Football this season.
Oakland's O.co Coliseum opened in 1966. But it underwent renovation in 1995-1996 to bring it to standards at the time and is in line for another renovation. The Raiders are currently trying to get a new stadium and/or relocate to Los Angeles.
San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium opened in 1967. Now that it is 46 years old, the Chargers have said that they just want a new stadium. They have been out of a lease for five years now. A projected design for the stadium includes a glass dome.
Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium opened in 1972. However, it underwent a massive renovation from 2007 to 2010 that completely modernized it. That renovation cost $375 million.
New Orleans' Mercedes-Benz Superdome opened in 1975. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, it forced upgrades to the stadium that weren't finished until 2011. These renovations and repairs costed over $300 million in that span.
Minnesota's Mall of America Field—also known as the Metrodome—opened in 1982. The Vikings are currently in the process of building a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis that should be finished by the 2016 NFL season.
Miami's Sun Life Stadium opened in 1987. Currently the Dolphins are trying to get renovations for the stadium. However, they have been rejected by the City of Miami. A new stadium could very easily be on the horizon for them.
Notice how every stadium has either been replaced, is going to be replaced or experienced massive amounts of renovations.
In breaking down the arguments the Georgia Dome is just 20 years old and will be just 25 when the Falcons finally finish their new stadium, it's the notion that just 25 years isn't long enough for a stadium to break down.
Unfortunately, this assumption is 100 percent wrong.
Every building has a ton of wear and tear it endures over the course of time. Just think of your house or apartment. How much maintenance did you have to do when it was brand new?
But as time progresses, the air conditioning breaks. The fans start wobbling a bit. The stove starts to look a bit old and rusted. The refrigerator needs to be replaced. The roof has some issues and needs to be replaced. Small issues, yes. But they add up after a while.
And normally for a house, that's around the 20-25 year mark. A stadium is no different. In fact, a stadium will deteriorate much faster than a standard house due to the sheer size and weight of the building.
So do the Falcons need a new stadium?
So while the original costs to maintain the dome would have been relatively low, the current costs are starting to escalate. Not only that, but they will continue to escalate without additional renovations at a minimum.
The renovations would have cost around $150 million in 2005 when Blank first proposed them as part of a plan to produce more revenue from the dome. Instead, the Georgia World Congress Center chose to go with $30 million worth of improvements that primarily included upgraded luxury suites.
The proposed renovations would have included improvements to make the lease to the Georgia Dome longer and increase the revenue for the team so that in the future, they wouldn't need the Georgia World Congress Center to help with funding.
The new stadium won't have any of these issues. The Falcons will be able to build in the maintenance improvements into their stadium plan for later dates. They will be able to build a stadium that should be an icon in the state of Georgia and city of Atlanta for years to come.
The idea behind replacing the Georgia Dome isn't just to build a stadium. That's what the Dome was when it replaced Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. The new stadium is supposed to be Atlanta's own Lambeau Field, Soldier Field, or even Arrowhead Stadium.
And with the new design options that have come about, it should be iconic for both the city of Atlanta and the Falcons.
Cultural Impact, Economic Impact and Design
When talking about a stadium icon, the first thought is how it will impact future stadium designs. Then you look at how the building would fit into the architecture around it. After that, it's "How many cool features can we put into one coliseum?"
The completed new dome will have a ton of impact on both the new age architecture that the Georgia World Congress Center will be going for with future buildings.
As it sits right now, the Falcons have two excellent designs that will be ideal for the downtown area.
One is a conservative approach that looks like a giant barn and is designed to have a pair of configurations that will allow the Falcons a combination of Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium and Seattle's CenturyLink Field. This has been dubbed the "Solarium."
However, the one that looks like it will be the front runner is designed somewhat like a pin-wheel that opens at the top similar to a digital camera lens and has the crowd covered like Cowboys stadium always has. This one has been deemed the "Pantheon."
When it comes to fitting into the downtown Atlanta area and the current architecture, the Solarium design fits in better. But the future of the city will look better with the Pantheon design as the guide of the future buildings at the Georgia World Congress Center.
The biggest part of the Pantheon design is all the cool features, and SBNation's Jason Kirk gives a great run-down of those. Some of those design features will likely cross over into other stadiums. Things like the 100-yard bar, the adaptable suites and taste of the city are prime candidates.
Those bring out the culture of not just football, but the city of Atlanta. Ideally, the Falcons are going to be able to bring in local chefs and have more than just Taco Mac wings, Papa John's Pizza and the standard stadium fare in the new locale with their "Taste of Atlanta" idea.
But more than that, the Falcons should be able to bring in a ton of events to increase the city's profile with this new stadium. More than the standard Final Fours that the stadium already brings, there is the goal of hosting a World Cup soccer final and future Super Bowls.
And that's something that could be more realistic than anyone is giving credit for. Atlanta has hosted an Olympics and multiple huge events so bringing in the World Cup should not be as tough as people would believe.
The World Cup would bring the same kind of new cultures to Atlanta that the Olympics did, and the overall economic impact will help the areas surrounding the Georgia World Congress Center campus.
As you can tell, the biggest thing driving the new stadium is the economics of the whole ordeal. Arthur Blank has been able to coerce the city into giving the team the maximum funding they allow for new stadiums of $200 million.
However, this isn't going to be more than 20% of the total cost of the stadium—a projected $1 billion cost. Add in the $200 million that the NFL is providing and the Falcons owner is looking at over $600 million out of the team's coffers.
When the Falcons build their new stadium, do you want an open-air stadium, dome or retractable roof?
The old Georgia Dome was purchased completely with funds from the state, and therefore, the Falcons were entitled to very little of the revenues from the events and games throughout the years until they paid the bonds off—which is projected to happen just after the new stadium is built.
They are also forced to play in the Dome until then. Under the new agreement, Arthur Blank could change the agreement from what it currently is to the Falcons receiving upwards of 80% of the revenues from any events at the new stadium.
If the Falcons stay in the Georgia Dome, they won't receive the increased revenues. They won't receive a better financial future, and the city of Atlanta will not be in the running for a ton of future events like Super Bowls or the World Cup.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus's Premium Stats, ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy Spotrac. All recruiting rankings come from 247Sports.com.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.
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