Morgan mentioned her interest in the stadium toward the end of a two-hour town hall meeting Saturday at the South Cobb Community Center. After the meeting, she said she initially made the comment “in jest,” but sounded serious when discussing the potential impact the stadium could have on the struggling area.
“Quite frankly, if the deal doesn’t work out at the state level and they are looking for somewhere to house their stadium, I would love to have it come to the Six Flags area,” Morgan said. “We would appreciate the economic development opportunity.”
Morgan appeared to be willing to give the Falcons every opportunity to complete a deal to build a stadium near the site of the current Georgia Dome. A proposal being discussed involves using between $200 million and $300 million of Atlanta hotel and motel tax revenue to fund the retractable roof stadium, which is expected to cost up to $1 billion. The Falcons are expected to pick up the remainder of the money.
“Certainly as a state legislator I know how important this is to the state and to the economy, and I will be participating fully in the discussions to try to figure out what is in the best interest of the state.”
It is unclear whether the stadium, which has fared poorly in public polling, would need approval from the Legislature.
Initially, the audience at the town hall meeting seemed resistant to using public money to build a stadium in Atlanta. While the discussion was focused on finding ways to reduce school violence and bullying, Arthur Henderson of Mableton drew applause when he turned the conversation toward the stadium.
“All of these programs that you’re talking about cost money,” he said, referring to school programs. “The county has none, the schools have none. Gov. (Nathan) Deal is cutting the state budget again, but, somehow miraculously, we have $300 million that we can give to (Falcons owner) Arthur Blank to build a stadium that is not needed. We have needs and that’s just a want that he has.”
After Morgan explained that the stadiums funds would come from a source that couldn’t be used for education, some in the audience changed their minds. She said the state is basically taking out a $300 million bond for the stadium, which it would pay back with hotel-motel tax money. She then asked for a show of hands, with the majority saying they would favor building the stadium.
The idea of building an NFL stadium in a suburban area near a theme park isn’t new. When it was built in the early 1960s, Six Flags over Texas, west of Dallas, was the first piece of a sports and entertainment district that now includes the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium. Since it opened in 2009, the stadium has been awarded events like the Super Bowl, NBA All-Star Game and NCAA basketball Final Four.
Hosting the Super Bowl, and the money it brings into the area, is one reason new Falcons stadium advocates give for the need to replace the 21-year old Georgia Dome.
The stadium talk comes at the same time as discussions of redeveloping the Six Flags area, located 11 miles west of the Georgia Dome. Purchasing and demolishing run-down apartments on Six Flags Drive has been one of the priorities of the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority, which Cobb County recently reactivated. The redevelopment board would then hold onto the property until a suitable developer comes along to take it over.