Arthur Blank Hoping for New Stadium in Atlanta

By: Ted Williams Email
By: Ted Williams Email

ATLANTA (AP) -- Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank will watch his team host an NFC championship game for the first time Sunday, and if he gets his way, he'll soon be sitting in the owner's box of a $1 billion retractable-roof stadium downtown.

But Blank isn't getting a lot of help from Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and other politicians. Deal supports using $300 million in revenue from an existing hotel tax to partner with Blank on a new complex to replace the 21-year-old Georgia Dome, but he says the owner must do the heavy lifting.

Jockeying between major sports franchises and governments over the financing of new stadiums is nothing new, but the chilly reception the Atlanta proposal has gotten from the public and many state lawmakers is surprising some in this business-friendly state. Though the team is red-hot, the Georgia Dome is in good shape and nearly two decades younger than Louisiana's Superdome. And the state is coming off several years of painful budget cuts.

Similar dynamics are playing out in Miami and Birmingham, Ala., as fans and taxpayers appear to be more circumspect about spending public money on stadiums used primarily by privately owned teams.

Statewide polls in Georgia show that less than a third of residents support a new stadium, even if Blank covers most of the construction cost. So the politicians' message to Blank: If he wants it, he has to sell it.

"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," Deal said in a statement Friday.


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