Arthur Blank, not taxpayers, should fund new stadium

Corporate welfare is a problem in politics, as we’ve seen time and time again. Governments at all levels subsidize any company or industry they deem important to the economy, often using popular phrases like “economic development” or “job creation” to gain favor with the public, leaving taxpayers stuck with the bill. The most egregious examples of this sort of waste come from Washington where Congress often showers special interests with subsidies through farm bills and energy subsidies. This sort of waste may be good for a few well-connected businesses, but it’s not in the best interest of taxpayers.

Charlie has noted recently that the State of Georgia and the City of Atlanta seem prepared to go all in on a different form of corporate welfare; a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.

Admittedly, I don’t watch a lot of professional football anymore. The recent lockout completely turned me off, not to mention the Falcons’ failure to win a playoff game. But this sort of corporate welfare — and yes, that’s exactly what it is — deserves just as much criticism as anything we coming out of Washington.

State and city leaders are trying to use the allure and glamor of a Super Bowl as justification for pursuing a new stadium. The fiscal benefits of a new stadium, assuming that the NFL does indeed award the city a Super Bowl, would be nowhere near the millions of dollars taxpayers will be expected to invest. PolitiFact Georgia noted in 2010 that the last Super Bowl that came to Atlanta had an impact of only $150 million.

Other arguments for taxpayer subsidies for sports teams, such as job creation — though this particular argument has not been, to my knowledge, advanced by backers of the new stadium, never seem to pan out or are greatly exaggerated. The Wall Street Journal debunked this claim sometime ago when reviewing the jobs impact of the Washington Nationals’ new stadium (though the Ravens is mentioned in the excerpt):

Sports economists have long argued that publicly financed stadiums are a waste of taxpayer money. And they have the data to prove it.

Yes, stadiums do create high-paying construction jobs for a year or two. But the vast majority of long-term employment is low-wage concession jobs. A Congressional Research Service study of the Baltimore Ravens stadium found that each job created cost the state $127,000. By comparison, Maryland’s Sunny Day Fund created jobs for about $6,000 each.

“Walk a few blocks away from the stadiums and you’ll see the net economic impact of both the Ravens’ stadium and Camden Yards,” said Neil deMause, author of “Field of Schemes,” a book and Web site devoted to the false promises of publicly financed sports stadiums. “Both have produced a plethora of pawn shops and dollar stores.” A 1998 report by the New York City Independent Budget Office found no “economic rationale for assuming that building any new stadium would itself spur construction of office towers and hotels. Total output resulting from the presence of the teams in the city amounts to less than one tenth of one percent of the economic activity in New York City.”

The folks at Reason TV also noted that sports venues funded never live up to the hype, again using Nationals Stadium as a backdrop.

Unlike some who are taking up this issue, I don’t disparage Arthur Blank because he’s a wealthy man. That doesn’t bother me, and if anything his story and success shows that entrepreneurship is truly a great thing. But what bothers me is that he, given his wealth, is colluding with the City of Atlanta to build a new stadium at taxpayer expense.

It’s not too much to ask that he finance his own stadium for the Falcons, a team he chose to purchase. And if this is indeed to too large a request, perhaps he should take his team elsewhere. I’ll even help them pack, free of charge.


  1. Tenacious G says:

    What? You mean we’re going to throw millions of taxpayer dollars at an under performing private business? That’s almost unhear….oh, wait…

  2. johnl says:

    With this terrible economy, and given the fact that we are already being taxed to death, the idea that I should fund this new stadium in any shape or form is sheer lunacy.

    • Calypso says:

      Actually, the state of the economy should have absolutely no bearing on whether the taxpayers should fund this stadium or not. We should not.

        • Rick Day says:

          By this logic, the GWCC would have never been build in the first place.

          Or Grady Stadium. Or any high school or middle school playing fields.

          “Let them damn kids pay for it themselves, By My God!”

          Jesus Christ on a cracker, you chest beaters ever stop and listen to yourselves?

          When I was a kid, we called folks like you ‘meanies.’ As an adult, the terms are much..more adult.

  3. Max Power says:

    Sadly the desire of billionaires to have public funding of their stadiums is symptomatic of a strain that runs too strong in America. The idea you need to get everything you can from government even if you don’t need it. Witness the michigan lottery winner who continued to collect food stamps.

    • Rick Day says:

      or kids with their damn student loans, or those leeches wanting VA loans for housing or education. Or politicians with matching federal funds! Or the Military! How DARE they! Yeah! Even if you don’t need it!

      sheesh, who broke out the Haterade for grumpy group today?

  4. Charlie says:

    I plan on writing about this again next week. Arthur Blanks PR team, in fact, demands it.

    That said, everyone here needs to understand this simple fact:

    The tax mechanism put in place to fund this stadium was passed quietly in 2010. Various leaders are responding to your concerns with “I will not support any request to fund a new stadium”. They are clearly hoping you don’t understand enough to interpret that properly. They are lying to you, and you like it.

    Action is required by the legislature to stop this stadium. Otherwise, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority already has a hotel-motel tax in place until 2050 that they can use to sell the $400M in bonds in order to give Billionaire Arthur Blank his ego driven handout.

    • saltycracker says:

      “Action is required by the legislature to stop this stadium.”

      Can’t wait to read your idea of how this bunch can deny swirling $400 million dollars of OPM around in their hot air cage.

  5. NoTeabagging says:

    I absolutely so not want any public funding for a new, unnecessary stadium. I recall another perverse fact in the prior posts. It seems a ‘new’ stadium would add $$$ value to the Falcon’s team. Obviously the folks that invest in sports teams have a different measure of value than most of us.
    How can building a stadium add value to a losing team??? More income through higher priced seats and VIP suites?
    Look at the history of the Georgia Dome and the great promises made fro building it. Did it really create a worthwhile economic impact? Can a new stadium meet or exceed the Georgia Dome’s economic impact?

    • Rick Day says:

      Did it really create a worthwhile economic impact?

      yes. Very much so. And you want to give all this potential state revenue instead to the private sector? Do you people really REALIZE what you are saying? This is real infrastructure investment. We don’t need tax revenue drains. The taxes used to build this do not yet exist. They will not come from your pocket unless you stay at a hotel in town or go to an event or THROW an event there.

      Quality of life will be enhanced because such things tend to draw tourists who do nothing but spend money (raising sales tax revenue) with will create more revenue for more infrastructure improvements….think BIG, people!

      Bah. why am I bothering??? The lot of you are so short sighted it is simply mindboggling.

      I’ve got work to do and taxes to raise and pay. If you can’t afford to go to a game then STAY HOME.

      • NoTeabagging says:

        Thanks Rick. I appreciate the link, which also has revenue info on th GWCC for the same time period. I am a bit puzzled by your statements which don’t connect.
        The disturbing last line, “if you can’t afford to go to a game then stay home”. huh?
        Perhaps I can afford to go to a game, but prefer to spend my recreation money on other activities. There are other tourists draws besides sports, although I appreciate the sports that have a positive economic impact.

        The enclosed dome’s proximity to the GWCC makes it more useful for other events. I’ve actually attended trade shows that were on the field of the dome. I can’t see a freestanding football stadium getting more year round use. How many months of the year is Turner field empty?

  6. View from Brookhaven says:

    A long as we’re giving stuff away, can I get a 18,000 seat stadium for an MLS team?

    Thanks in advance!

    • CobbGOPer says:

      We’ve already got one (though I don’t think it’s quite 18K seats) up in Kennesaw, where the Atlanta Beat play. Or played, I guess that women’s pro league is on hiatus or something until they figure out their finances. But that’s a great new facility up there that could easily support an MLS team.

  7. CobbGOPer says:

    Apparently Mr. Blank is all about getting our taxes raised around here. I know there’s a high-dollar fundraiser for one of the pro-T-SPLOST groups at his personal offices next week, the kind where they want $1,000 just to walk in the door.

    Arthur Blank is no friend of the Georgia taxpayer.

    • Three Jack says:

      cobbGOPer, I seldom disagree with you, but saying that Arthur Blank is no friend to the Georgia taxpayers is a bit of a stretch. He did start Home Depot which I am quite sure generates tens of millions in sales/income and other tax revenues. He bought the Falcons and has invested millions more to improve the team, facilities and overall impression of the organization which generates millions more in tax revenues. Blank has probably done more than just about any other Georgian over the past few decades to generate tax revenues due to his successful businesses.

      • saltycracker says:


        Agree, he’s created a tremendous asset for Georgia and made a lot of people a lot of money.
        Can’t really blame him for looking around at the political environment for funding stadiums and testing the waters. The reality of a good deal for local taxpayers is smoke & mirrors.

        The responsibility is on our elected to “just say no” to a swim in a $400 million dollar pool of OPM. Good luck there.

      • CobbGOPer says:

        And he’s received immense tax breaks from our state and local governments to keep their headquarters here, yet they still threaten to leave every few years to scare the pants off legislators and gain even more tax concessions.

        I stand by my statement, though I would add that his business partner – Bernie Marcus – is much more inclined towards smaller government.

        • saltycracker says:

          Betcha you, like me, take every legal tax break we can….the winner/looser legislation game is a sign of a bankrupt culture…….the tax code is a joke….

          • CobbGOPer says:

            Oh I take every tax break I can, but I don’t have legislators writing legislation specifically to exempt me from certain taxes. They do this for Home Depot, and as I said they subtly threaten to move out all the time when they are unhappy with the Gold Dome. I’m not interested in being blackmailed for corporate welfare.

            • saltycracker says:

              Don’t be shocked but legislators write little legislation. Companies or special interests or organizations write it and serve it to them with “condiments”.
              I’m with you just different view.

              • CobbGOPer says:

                Used to be a political consultant, so yeah, I know how the sausage is made. Still not interested in the blackmail.

        • Three Jack says:

          True about the leverage F500 companies hold over local legislators. In this environment, HD could really up the ante if they wanted because there are many other states ready to offer buckoo incentives for a company like HD to move their corporate headquarters.

          The same holds true for the NFL. Unfortunately the owners have tremendous leverage because of so many cities willing to offer anything for a franchise. If Blank suddenly decided to open bidding for the Falcons to relocate, you would have LA, Orlando and Oklahoma City among many others willing to negotiate a deal including a retractable roof stadium.

          It’s easy to oppose taxpayer money being spent on a new stadium in ATL, but the repercussions could be quite costly if the Falcons don’t get what they want.

          • CobbGOPer says:

            Perhaps the repercussions could be costly, but someone’s got to stand up to this blackmail. If they move, so be it. They suck anyway. And Arthur Blank would never be able to show his face in this town again.

            Funny thing is, I see Blank sometimes on the streets around Buckhead, and it takes all my self-control not to shout rude things at him, like ‘Pay for your own G-D stadium!’

    • Rick Day says:

      Arthur Blank is no friend of the Georgia taxpayer.

      Except for the millions in state taxes he personal pays, and his businesses raise.

      And lets just frikkin forget about what the Author Blank Foundation does for charity.


      Has this blog been taken over by the Occupy crowd? Lots of hating on success these days…

      • NoTeabagging says:

        Hey angry clown, The only hate I read is coming from you on this thread. Everyone else is just giving a reality check. There are much better projects to improve infrastructure here for better quality of life for residents and tourists.

  8. TolleyJenkins says:

    Usually one can locate some economist who will agree with any given economic proposition, but one exception is finding an economist who believes that public subsidies to sports franchises are beneficial.

    In fact, according to Greg Mankiw, the 7th most agreed upon economic proposition is: “Local and state governments should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises” with 85% of economists in agreement.

    What’s striking is that Mayor Reed has flatly stated he wouldn’t be the mayor who lost the Falcons. Usually politicians aren’t so explicit about their choosing what’s politically expedient for themselves over the welfare of the electorate.

  9. wicker says:

    Allow me to be the contrarian here. If the libertarians and neoconservatives that predominate the conservative movement now were in power during the 1950s – when Dwight Eisenhower (Republican) was president – tons of the vital public-private projects that transformed our economy and society would have never taken place. Now I lean to the right in general, but as someone who has a STEM degree – and had to study the recent history of my field as part of it – and also did some internships for the guv’ment, allow me to say that this idea that private enterprise does everything of value while the government only gets in the way and screws things up isn’t reality. The truth is that private enterprise often sat around, waited on government research and public works projects to do the heavy lifting, and then came in and made money off whatever was (comparably easily and cheaply) marketable. That’s why stuff like this “The most egregious examples of this sort of waste come from Washington where Congress often showers special interests with subsidies through farm bills and energy subsidies. This sort of waste may be good for a few well-connected businesses, but it’s not in the best interest of taxpayers” simply ignores history. For example, America began to lose its competitive edge in the early 90s when Congress removed the funding for the super conducting super collider project. Now all the cutting edge things that used to be done in America is now being done at CERN (and to a lesser degree in Israel, who has made a lot more progress in alternative energy than we have for national security purposes: they are trying to bankrupt petroleum-funded terror regimes like Iran and Saudi Arabia).

    And as to this new stadium in general, allow me to state that if you don’t believe that the Georgia Dome didn’t play a HUGE role in transforming the image of Atlanta, which in turn aided the 1990s economic boom … well again it requires a fanciful view of history. Before that boom, the population of metro Atlanta was less than 2 million. Atlanta was basically seen as another southern city: except with a big airport. Oh yes, and Six Flags. And Ted Turner. To put it simply: no Georgia Dome, and no Olympics. Now it is fashionable to remember the Olympics only for the mess that Bill Campbell made of it; it is more accurate to recognize that the event put Atlanta on the map as a place to do business in the eyes of the international community (instead of just a layover on your connecting flight to Miami, New York or Los Angeles). Now, Atlanta is hurting, big time with a lot of the companies that made the 80s and 90s happen gone, bought out or struggling. If Blank can make the case that this project is part of a larger plan to get Atlanta moving again, to bring major events here and start a new PR push, then fine. But folks should remember: what was supposed to be the last big thing to keep Atlanta going was the Mall of Georgia, which Jim Wooten predicted would shift the spotlight and power center from Atlanta to Gwinnett and thereby save us all. How’d that work out? Exactly.

    For the past 10 years – or longer – there has been no leadership, no ideas, nothing while things fall apart. It is because the left has abandoned economic development to focus on social welfare and social issues on one hand, and the right’s approach has been to sit around and wait for the tax-cutting and deregulation fairy to wave her wand and spontaneously generate jobs. (To the extent that this might even work, the jobs are heading to Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina, also right to work states, where the tax burden is even lower AND the politicians are more willing to buy off Boeing and BMW plants with incentives than we are.)

    Like it or not guys, Blank seems to be the only mover and shaker left in town. (If you know of anybody left, name him.) And in Kasim Reed, he has a pro-business mayor (former corporate lawyer) who is not anti-region (or anti-suburbs) and is pro-state (see the Savannah port), a clear contrast with some of his predecessors, and especially with the mayors of other similar cities. The folks who want to oppose his leadership (along with Reed) on issues like the stadium and T-SPLOST need to come up with ideas of their own. (Advocating the FairTax because listening to Neal Boortz makes you an economic development expert doesn’t qualify as “ideas.” Now I am not opposed to tax reform that addresses income redistribution on its own merits, just don’t fool yourself into thinking that economic growth is going to result.) So, against the stadium? Against T-SPLOST? Fine. Let’s hear about what you are for. (I am for going ahead and doing the Savannah port ourselves with our own money without waiting for the feds and daring South Carolina to stop us, and then doing the same to build a high quality state road so that the increased tractor-trailer traffic can bypass Atlanta. Because I support, you know, states rights when it is actually helpful in moving us forward.)

    And by the way Jason, it was not a strike. It was a lockout. There was a contract between the owners and players that the owners broke. When the players didn’t agree to the owners’ insane demands (which was to DRASTICALLY CUT THEIR SALARY WITHOUT DEMONSTRATING AN ECONOMIC NEED ON THEIR PART TO DO SO) then the owners locked the players out. Period. It is amazing: athletes generate billions with their abilities, and folks think that they should be treated like serfs and say “yessir boss” and accept whatever treatment the owners give them with no regard to their economic value. And the double standard with Hollywood is appalling. The big time “talent” in Hollywood (actors, directors, musicians etc.) make even more than athletes do despite the fact that most of their projects don’t turn a profit. (Oh yes, and actors, screenwriters etc. go on strike all the time … but no one declares themselves to be fed up with movies and TV as a result. A huge part of the reason why reality TV exploded was because of back to back screenwriters and actors strikes. What did people do? Start watching reality TV. And movies that are styled like reality TV.) That “John Carter” movie? Disney is going to get a $200 million tax writeoff because that disaster has no chance of recouping anywhere near the half-billion dollars that it cost to make and promote. The directors, producers, actors, writers, studio chiefs etc. associated with that huge financial loss that taxpayers will help subsidize will have NO TROUBLE finding more work. And folks complain about athletes getting locked out. Hilarious.

    • Jason says:

      some of your points are valid, though I may not agree with them. The reason I specifically mentioned the farm bill and energy subsidies is because they pick winners and losers; and thus distorting the market. And in many cases, these subsidies do go to well-connected businesses and/or individuals, furthering the culture of cronyism.

      I don’t necessarily have a problem with some of the projects undertaken by Eisenhower. But the whole “corporatism, good; free markets, bad” argument doesn’t fly with me, nor does the idea that “investment,” through taxpayer dollars by government to businesses, is somehow acceptable. It is corporate welfare, like it or not.

      You’re right, however, it was a lockout; not a strike. I knew that, but I posted the wrong draft of the article from my iPad. It has been corrected.

    • Jason says:

      There are two other points, which I didn’t have time to note earlier, that I should make. You say, “If the libertarians and neoconservatives that predominate the conservative movement now were in power during the 1950s – when Dwight Eisenhower (Republican) was president – tons of the vital public-private projects that transformed our economy and society would have never taken place.”

      I take issue with the term “neoconservatives” being lumped arbitrarily here. I actually laughed a little when I saw that because typically neoconservatives have no issues or predisposition with government intervention in the marketplace. For example, George W. Bush and Rick Santorum are nearly perfect examples of big spenders when it comes to domestic programs and initiatives, including expanding Medicare and raising the minimum wage, and the kind of pork and subsidies that you seem so inclined towards, such as the farm and highway bills.

      As far as Kasim Reed, I actually like the guy. I meet him several years ago, he was incredibly nice, and I believe he has a future on the national level. He’s probably the most “conservative” mayor — using the term loosely — that Republicans in the city and state could have hoped for. But being “pro-business,” as you put it, doesn’t necessarily mean “pro-taxpayer.” There is a very distinct difference here that too many center-right types, such as yourself as evidenced above, seem to not understand, or otherwise care about.

      And then there’s this:

      [T]he right’s approach has been to sit around and wait for the tax-cutting and deregulation fairy to wave her wand and spontaneously generate jobs. (To the extent that this might even work, the jobs are heading to Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina, also right to work states, where the tax burden is even lower AND the politicians are more willing to buy off Boeing and BMW plants with incentives than we are.)

      Admittedly, I don’t believe in tax-shifting giveaways just because a certain business or corporation is considering coming to our state. This is, I believe, an indictment of the business climate in Georgia more than anything else. Tennessee has a tax structure that is generally favorable to businesses. Its tax burden is much lower than the Peach State. Alabama has a workforce geared more towards manufacturing, which is a reason the Kia plant was built only three exits inside Georgia on I-85. South Carolina is generally the same.

      Reforming Georgia’s tax code would likely do wonders for the state in terms of attracting business. But that’s an issue for the legislature to take up.

  10. Rick Day says:

    But if this were a new mega church, you guys would be all for it!

    Typical of conservatives to throw the Babby out with the Bathwater.

    Falcons use the Dome exactly 10 times a year, plus at most, 2 playoff games. They don’t own the dome, they are a tenant. So you, Mr. Whiny Taxpayer who ‘owns’ the building, are telling the tenant,”if you want a better place where we can all make more money, then YOU build it yourself. Then we both benefit” when the tenant does not have a ongoing need for a huge venue like Mr. Whiny Taxpayer does with his Kenny Chesney concerts, college football games and Monster Truck™ Brouhahas; he just wants a place to do business a few times a year with a prestige club only 32 other cities have, and 320 more wish they could have. It is the landlord who benefits.



    Make it perfectly clear:

    The State of GA owns the Dome and it generates a ton of revenue for GA. Blank does not own the Dome, he is just the equivalent of an anchor store.

    GoogleSearch™ Revenue, GA Dome terms yields the following study from UGA:

    The fundamental finding of this study is that strategic decisions by state government to invest in the GWCC
    and the Georgia Dome have contributed to substantial economic activity in Georgia. The statewide economic
    impact of the GWCC and the Georgia Dome in FY 2008 includes:
    g $2.8 billion in sales (output);
    g $1.0 billion in labor income (earnings);
    g 31,650 jobs;
    g $123 million in tax revenue for state government;
    g $55 million in sales tax revenue for local governments, and
    g $52 million in bed (hotel/motel) tax revenues for local governments.
    Out of the $2.8 billion output impact, $1.7 billion (60 percent) results from spending by out-of-state attendees, $918 million (32 percent) results from spending by exhibitors, and $215 million (8 percent) results from
    spending by sponsoring organizations.
    The GWCC generates the bulk of the economic impact, but the contribution of the Georgia Dome also is
    considerable. The GWCC accounted for $2.6 billion (90 percent) of the combined economic impact on output.
    In contrast, the Georgia Dome accounted for $286 million (10 percent) of the combined economic impacts

    And that is FY 2008.



    Want to force the Falcons to buy a new dome themselves, or stay put and lose money (relative to the other clubs, ATL is at the bottom in net worth, mostly due to the Dome)?



    Want to forego all that tax money and put it, instead, in the coffers of someone already rich?

    Your Free Market™ says we must fund a stadium, no matter what the boondoggle video says. The issue is the cost overruns and construction/land outlays, not that it is partially taxpayer funded.

    Besides, I pay more in taxes than you do, and this concept is perfectly fine with me, therefore your argument is invalid *smuglook*.

    Full disclosure: I lease 4 Falcon season tickets from the Dome and have options on tix for all Dome events

    • Harry says:


      Pro sports and college sports are about the money. Everything with the economic situation in the Atlanta region is very dicey and not getting better. Due to bad karma or whatever Atlanta has not been host to franchises that can make a decent playoff season – maybe once in 20 years it happens. Of course, there are always individuals at all levels who stand out, but speaking collectively, we are Loserville – sorry. No one has made a strong and convincing case for further depressing what is an already failing hotel and motel industry, by adding more onto their room rates to pay for ego-stroking venues. Various circumstances have come together in recent years to decrease Atlanta’s attractiveness as a meeting and convention destination (the increased time hassle of the new car rental facility at the airport is one huge factor), but it would be nice to imagine that Atlanta could at least offer competitive room rates. Anyway, I’m happy that you enjoy buying season tickets and I wish the Falcons better luck in their upcoming season.

    • saltycracker says:

      FY2008 is history. As we read the media the contract split is Blank’s issue. The Falcons want a bigger piece of the pie (ALL revenues) in a new stadium including control of the private suites and club seats.

      Monster bond debt, less revenue cut for the debtor…….Will the numbers crunch ?

      The devil is in the details.

  11. NoTeabagging says:

    You really aren’t making sense anymore here. Please up your meds and try again. I’d really like to understand what you are attempting to say.

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