Team owner Arthur Blank says they do. The Georgia World Congress Center Authority which owns the existing Georgia Dome agrees, voting unanimously in favor of a new $1 billion retractable roof stadium to open in 2017. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is on board.
And now none other than former Gov. Zell Miller has weighed in with a ringing endorsement of the proposed stadium. In an op-ed in this newspaper Tuesday, Miller pointed to the success of the Dome — two Super Bowls, the annual SEC football championship game, the Chick-fil-A Bowl, two basketball Final Fours with the third slated next April, numerous other events, and of course, the 1996 Olympics. “The Dome was a missing piece of the puzzle that enabled us to land the Olympics,” he wrote.
Miller knows his subject. He was governor when the Dome opened in 1992. It was only through the cooperation of the state under his leadership and the city of Atlanta with crucial help from the late House Speaker Tom Murphy that the stadium ever became reality, thanks in large measure to a one-cent hotel-motel tax increase for the Dome.
The total economic impact of the Georgia Dome since opening is $10 billion from “an investment of a little more than $200 million,” Miller wrote. Now, he said, “we have a better deal on the table.” Private investment will provide about $700 million, or about two-thirds of the total cost, and the Falcons will assume the risks of construction cost overruns, stadium operations and capital expenditure risks — currently borne by the state. It’s all “worth a $300 million investment for a $1 billion asset” owned by the state and funded by the hotel-motel tax paid mostly by tourists, the former governor said.
If the new stadium is built — and the chances are it will be — the marvelous Dome will be demolished, a humongous project that along with building the new facility will generate a boom in construction jobs here. The 71,250-seat Dome contains 8,300 tons of reinforced steel, more than the Eiffel Tower, covers nearly nine acres with 1.6 million square feet on seven levels. Its roof support cables total 11 miles and the structure rises as high as a 27-story building. The Dome is the largest cable-supported domed stadium in the world, according to the Georgia World Congress Center.
The new stadium is not being sold as simply a new playing field for the Atlanta Falcons. The selling point is that a new stadium is needed to keep Atlanta in the competition for the biggest and best sports events — think Super Bowl — and major conventions. Chairman Tim Lowe of the Congress Center Authority said in announcing the pro-stadium vote that it will give Atlanta the opportunity to “compete nationally for prominent events of the next 30-plus years.” It will, he said, open the way for Atlanta “to remain a premier sports and entertainment complex.”
That’s the bottom line.