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Post New stadium great for Blank, awful for Atlanta

Wednesday February 23, 2011

A bad idea took another step forward on Tuesday as the Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority agreed to a memorandum of understanding to build a new open-air stadium for the Falcons just up the road from the Georgia Dome.

Why this is a bad idea makes a lot more sense if you put on your Gary Stokan hat and stop thinking about the Dome as simply the place where the Falcons play. If you can remember the Atlanta sports scene prior to 1990, the biggest national sports events were limited to the Omni. And even the Omni didn’t host much of significance after the 1970s. The Dome transformed Atlanta from a city that couldn’t host much more than the 1993 Women’s Final Four into a contender for any world-class sporting event. Without the Dome, there was no Olympics. Without the Dome, there was no Super Bowl. Without the Dome, the SEC Championship game is in New Orleans. You can keep going – the Final Four and NCAA Regionals, ACC and SEC basketball tournaments…dozens of modern national and regional sporting events the city just wasn’t able to handle prior to the Dome’s constructions.

OK, so what? We’ll still have the Dome, right? No one is proposing to tear it down. I’ll go back to a post I made last spring when this first came up:

A new stadium wouldn’t necessarily mean the end of the Dome, but the management of two large facilities could reasonably strain resources. A Georgia Dome in disrepair might not remain the ideal location for the SEC Championship, and everyone from the Superdome to open-air facilities across the Southeast would be lining up to host the game….Falcons officials might or might not care about the future of events like the SEC title game, but anyone involved with Atlanta government or sports management should.

Tony Barnhart said pretty much the same thing. If public money is going to be involved, and it clearly will be, then public interests have as much place at the table as Arthur Blank. If the need for a new stadium can be established, and even that’s suspect, it must be done in a way that will maintain, if not increase, Atlanta’s position in the market for sporting events. Yes, that means a retractable roof at the least. Otherwise, the GWCCA is just lining the pockets of its NFL owner while cutting the legs out from under a vibrant Atlanta sports industry.

3 Responses to 'New stadium great for Blank, awful for Atlanta'

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  • Couple things to point out about this:
    1. You don’t necessarily loose the SEC basketball tournament. It isn’t played in Atlanta every season already and the years it is it could be played in Phillips Arena. The Acc, which draws way more fans for its tournament, rarely plays their tournament in a Dome.
    2. Who says you loose the SEC championship game? Sure the Super Dome would want it, but they already do. The 1st weekend in December is not at all to cold to play a game outside in Atlanta. The Big 12 plays theirs outside in Kansas City some years. If anything the SEC would be more willing to keep it in Atlanta in a brand new sparkling stadium.
    3. Finally its not like the Olympics are coming back to Atlanta in the next 200 years, so the only real event you loose is the Final Four and maybe a super bowl. But Atlanta is right on the cusp of the weather temperature cutt off for the super bowl already. And the NFL just proved by selecting NY as a super bowl host and Dallas, that they want to play the Super Bowl in new stadiums.

    Bottom line: you dont loose nearly as much as you just listed and having a new open air stadium in atlanta would be great. Sure a retractable roof on it would be ideal, but think about how nice it would be to attend outdoor games in september, october, and november.

  • The reason why the Georgia Dome has hosted every SEC Championship game since 1994 is because of the dome. If Atlanta replaced the Dome with that open air stadium, the SEC could start looking into rotating the game between Jacksonville, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Tampa.

    I can almost guarantee you that game will not stay in Atlanta on a permanent basis.

  • I covered the extension of the Atlanta sales tax to fund this thing a bit last year at the state legislature. It was pretty clear that Blank has the powers that be in state and local government convinced that he’s willing to move the team to the suburbs if they don’t build him another stadium.