Do the Falcons Need a New Publicly-Funded Stadium?

In today’s AJC, Jeff Schultz lays a real egg in making the case for a new publicly-funded stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.

We obviously have more important needs in Atlanta than a new football stadium. The Georgia Dome is not falling apart. But if Blank wants to fund this project by himself, nobody should have a problem with that. If taxpayers are willing to pass an initiative for a special hotel-motel tax to help partially fund the project, nobody should have a problem with that, either. Yes, it would be wonderful if voters could be moved to vote for a hotel tax to help raise money for education and prevent 1,500 teachers from losing jobs. But realistically, that’s not going to happen.

We need other stuff that is more justified but, oh well, it’s going to happen anyway? Wow, how’s that for complacent apathy. Schultz is usually better than this. My guess is that a popular vote between schools and a new stadium would yield drastically different results. As of this moment, 78% of participants in an online AJC poll oppose a new stadium.

Luckily, his fellow columnist Mark Bradley picks him up with some help from the former head of the Georgia Dome Khalil Johnson.

“I love football and I love the Falcons,” Johnson said. “If they need and desire a new stadium, let the owner build it himself. In this current situation, to use tax dollars isn’t viable.”

Also this: “They’re having discussions of whether [an open-air stadium would cost] less than half a billion or more than half a billion. At the same time we’re closing schools, we’ve got transportation issues and we need to figure out Grady [Hospital] … It’s not a sports question. It’s an economic issue. There are a lot more pressing needs.”

Arthur Blank bought the Falcons in 2002, a decade after the Dome opened, and has been persistent in his desire that the building be updated. Johnson worked to placate the owner but knew the day would come when Blank would want a new building.

Said Johnson, who now works out of Douglasville as a consultant regarding events and venues: “What’s the pressing need? More money for the ownership. I don’t know how that lines up with what the public wants … I just question whether the public needs to give more when most of the benefits will go to a private owner.”

While many readers may be unfamiliar with Johnson, he is a big player in Atlanta sports. Kudos to Khalil, whom I had the pleasure to meet a few years ago, for standing up to politicians who are all too willing to dole out welfare to a billionaire.

Also, if you have been following the issue lately, have you noticed the new “open air” ruse being used to justify a new stadium? “Oh, we can’t use the Georgia Dome, we need something different.” I hope the people of Atlanta won’t fall for this.

6 Responses “Do the Falcons Need a New Publicly-Funded Stadium?”

  1. Peter says:

    Schultz is usually better than this.

    Eh, not in my experience. I think he’s a hack.

  2. Dr. Dman says:

    Somebody tell me if this is TOO logical, or just am I just out to lunch? GA Tech seems to be on a serious up-swing, and hopefully will be for years to come… their football stadium is old and out-dated. Why not have GT, Mr. Blank/Falcons and the State share the cost of new open/retractable roof stadium. Isn’t this what Arizona State U. & the Phoenix Cardinals are doing…???

  3. Marc Schneider says:

    Why should the state spend ANY money on a new stadium? I wasn’t aware that the state of Georgia was flush with cash.

    In a way, though, I understand Schultz’s point. It’s like the moon landing program. People complained about all the money spent on the space program that could have been spend on earth. But, given the political realities, that money wasn’t going to be available for the kinds of programs that people were advocating. It wasn’t an either-or-choice. I think that’s the point Schultz is making; it’s not a choice between a stadium or schools, it’s a choice between a stadium or nothing.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily complacency; it is what he considers a realistic, if cynical, view of the world. But he’s wrong that no one should have a problem with that. People should be upset if voters are more willing to pay for a new stadium than for schools (if that’s true).

  4. Donald A. Coffin says:

    In answer to your headline question: No.

    In Indianapolis, the Pacers got a new basketball facility in 1999. The old facility–Market Square Arena–lasted about 25 years. Now they are asking to be relieved of the burden of paying rent.

    The Colts got a new stadium in 2008, replacing the RCA (Hoosier) Dome, which was only 25 years old when it was vacated.

    So this is an ongoing concern for state and local governments, and the pressure never lets us.

  5. Yaramah says:

    I can only hope so. But its the same dynamic everywhere. In Australia, state governments seem to love building more sport stadiums instead of improving state services, so its not like this is a soley US phenomenon.


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