The Falcons now play in the Georgia Dome, which is owned by the Georgia World Congress Authority. It seems only yesterday that the Dome opened, but actually it has been 20 years. And remarkably, the Dome is now the 10th-oldest of the National Football League’s 32 stadiums.
The GWCA on Monday approved a framework arrangement for construction of a replacement stadium near the Dome. Its estimated $1 billion cost would be split 70/30 between the Falcons and the public, with the public’s share consisting of Atlanta and Fulton County hotel-motel tax revenues. Mayor Kasim Reed is a strong backer of the proposal.
The Authority would own the new stadium, which would be managed by the Falcons. The team would keep the revenues generated from parking and concessions, and pay rent to the Authority, which is a state agency.
The Falcons also would agree not to relocate to another city or the suburbs, although neither of those is seen as an attractive option to the team at this point.
The new stadium would have a capacity of between 66,000 and 72,000 and feature a retractable roof.
“I think this stadium should be iconic unto itself and should put Atlanta in a position where we can attract any event that we desire to attract,” said Rich McKay, president and CEO of the Falcons.
One of the rationales for building a stadium is that the league typically awards a Super Bowl to that city shortly afterward, as it did Atlanta in 1994 (and later in 2000). But that likely would not be the case if the stadium was not domed or lacked a retractable roof, due to weather considerations.
The current stadium would be torn down once the new one is complete in 2017.
There are obvious pros and cons to the stadium proposal.
On the “pro” side, there are the excitement of having a new stadium and hosting additional Super Bowls and similar high-profile events. The Dome, though just two decades old, is sterile and stodgy compared to the newer stadiums and often can seem cavernous and gloomy.
On the “con” side, there is the huge cost of building a new stadium, especially in light of the fact that the existing stadium is still so new. Will we now be building the team a stadium every couple decades? That’s a daunting prospect.
But it’s important to remember that although football is a game, pro football is a business. And like any other business, it’s vital to remain competitive — and not just on the field.
If the process of building a new stadium were to be compared to a team, it would be accurate to say that the Falcons’ proposal looks great in the pre-season and is a favorite to win the Super Bowl. And we doubt the game will come down to “sudden death overtime.”