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UPDATED: Atlanta City Council approves Falcons stadium deal
by Staff Reports
March 18, 2013 09:36 PM | 3143 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print

In a news release, the Atlanta City Council Monday announced it approved by an 11-4 vote an amended resolution authorizing the extension and use of the hotel/motel tax to partially fund a new state-of the-art, retractable-roof sports stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.

Council members Kwanza Hall, Alex Wan, Howard Shook and Felicia Moore dissented. Shook and Moore represent parts of Buckhead.

The new stadium is estimated to cost about $1 billion. The city’s development arm, Invest Atlanta has agreed to issue its revenue bonds in the amount of $200 million as the public’s contribution for the construction of the new stadium. Falcons owner Arthur Blank will contribute the remaining $800 million needed for the public-private partnership. Invest Atlanta was expected to vote on the issue Tuesday but decided not to.

“From the beginning, I championed the need to make this a 360-degree deal that touches on the issues that are important to the community including infrastructure improvements, community investment and inclusion of local businesses during the construction of this new facility,” said council President Ceasar C. Mitchell. “We look forward to our partnership with the Atlanta Falcons to tackle the hard work as we move forward.”

The resolution authorizes the extension of the 39.3 percent hotel/motel tax to 2050, approves a stadium funding agreement with Invest Atlanta and an operation and maintenance agreement with the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. Eighty-six percent of the revenue generated by this tax comes from people living outside of Georgia.

“We are grateful for the council’s vote of support today,” Blank said. “I would like to thank council finance committee chairwoman Moore and council President Mitchell on their leadership in ensuring that this was a transparent process.”

Since February the council has held a series of work sessions and public hearings on the proposal, including an extensive meeting last week with academic, accounting and legal experts on the financial and community impact of a new stadium in downtown Atlanta.

“The agreements approved today represent the fruits of more than two years of collaborative discussions leading to a solution that serves the best interests of all involved, including the neighborhoods surrounding the new stadium. The actions taken today are also a critical step toward the completion of final agreements necessary to move the new stadium forward,” Blank said. “The city of Atlanta and state of Georgia have a history of building strong public-private partnerships in areas that contribute to economic development. This project is no exception. We appreciate the spirit of collaboration demonstrated by the mayor’s office, Atlanta City Council, Invest Atlanta, Georgia World Congress Center Authority and numerous community leaders in advancing a project that will benefit the city, region and state for many years to come.

“The Atlanta Falcons are proud to represent this fine city and state, and we look forward to continuing to work together, as well as being a significant contributor to the new stadium.”

Several amendments were attached to the resolution during Monday’s meeting. An amendment by Councilman C.T. Martin calls for the Falcons to contribute an additional $20 million toward infrastructure cost for a total contribution of $70 million. The Falcons’ infrastructure contribution anticipates the need to reroute Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in order to accommodate the facility on the preferred site south of the Georgia Dome.

Councilwoman Carla Smith amended the resolution to state no general fund dollars will be used to finance the construction of the new stadium project or used for cost overruns, operations, maintenance or all related infrastructure costs.

Councilman Michael Bond’s amendment calls for Invest Atlanta to facilitate development of the community benefits plan/agreement for the surrounding neighborhoods prior to the issuance of bonds. The plan/agreement must be adopted by the council and approved by the mayor.

The plan is to address traffic congestion, environmental impact, public safety and game day activities and economic development.

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has committed $15 million for the purpose of investing in Vine City, English Avenue, Castleberry Hill and other neighborhoods contiguous to the new stadium. The funds, which will be controlled by the Blank Foundation, will be dedicated beginning in 2013 and no later than 2017. All funds will be invested in projects for the communities by December 2020.

Invest Atlanta has also committed $15 million from the Westside Tax Allocation District to co-investments in the targeted neighborhoods. It is anticipated that planned uses of the TAD funds will leverage additional public and private funds.

The Falcons organization plans to spend $20 million for site acquisition and development costs.

To promote full and equal business opportunities in connection with the design and construction of the new stadium, the Falcons and the authority have agreed to develop an equal business opportunity plan that will ensure at least 31 percent participation by women and minority business enterprises. The construction of the stadium is expected to create more than 1,400 full-time equivalent jobs in Atlanta and more than 4,500 full-time equivalent jobs across Georgia over a three-year period, according to a study completed by Georgia State University associate professor Bruce Seaman.

The authority’s board of governors Friday authorized the authority to execute a binding memorandum of understanding between the Falcons and the authority for a new stadium on the center’s campus.

In a statement, Shook explained why he voted against the deal.

“I had earlier voted to send the legislation to committee for proper review, but that motion was defeated 10-5,” he said. “I’m pleased that the Falcons will stay here, and believe that Atlanta is extremely fortunate to count Arthur Blank among its citizens. Given more time to examine documents and ask questions, I might ultimately have voted in favor of the resolution. But I believe [the] council’s unprecedented haste to adopt this complex, multi-party, $1 billion deal strained our ties with the public, and establishes a new political ‘normal’ that may not always serve the greater good.”

In a phone interview Thursday, Shook added, “I’m thankful for all the supportive comments I’ve gotten from people. Given more time, I think the public might have come to understand and even approve this deal. I thought then and continue to think rushing it is not in everyone’s best interest. Now we see it didn’t have to be rushed [so Invest Atlanta could vote on it Tuesday].”

In a phone interview Thursday, Moore said she voted against the deal “because it was introduced on the floor on Monday, and we did not have the benefit of any work sessions, deliberations or public input. That’s it in a nutshell.”

Adrean did not return a call to her cell phone Thursday seeking comment on her vote.

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