Most of Atlanta Opposes Arthur Blank’s Stadium Dreams

August 24, 2012 12:20 pm

by Ed · 31 comments

From today’s AJC, we receive word that most of Atlanta is opposed to Arthur Blank’s plans for a new tax-payer funded soon-to-be-boondoggle  Falcons stadium, just a few yards from the 20-year old Georgia Dome.

Rep. Mike Dudgeon spoke to the paper today predicting voters would oppose and that he may file legislation that “could halt state support for the project, including blocking efforts to raise the GWCCA’s borrowing ceiling, which is now at $200 million. That would prevent the GWCCA from raising the money through the bond market and paying it back with hotel-motel tax revenue.”

“If you put the stadium to a [public] vote, I think it would go down in larger numbers than the T-SPLOST,” said Dudgeon, who thinks he could get strong legislative support because almost half of the rank-and-file membership in the next General Assembly wasn’t in the Legislature when it first approved the stadium proposal.

A July poll conducted for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution helps support Dudgeon’s statement, showing that 67 percent of metro residents oppose using the hotel tax for a new stadium.

Bold prediction–the legislature cowers in fear of Arthur Blank and supports his plan.

wicker August 24, 2012 at 12:38 pm

The opinions of metro Atlanta are irrelevant. Only the opinions of the CITY OF ATLANTA matter. Who cares if folks in Cobb, Gwinnett, Forsyth, Cherokee etc. who never set foot inside the city of Atlanta oppose it? Why should their opinion have any influence on how the city spends its tax dollars? Or should the city of Atlanta have a say in how those cities and counties spend their tax money?

Charlie August 24, 2012 at 12:39 pm

You can scream that all you like, but it reflects neither a financial or a political reality.

wicker August 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm

It is a financial and political reality that needs to be changed as soon as possible. Even if this stadium is a bad idea, the city of Atlanta shouldn’t have its purse strings controlled by a group of people that are hostile to its existence, and who represent voters that are even more hostile.

Bob Loblaw August 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Just loving watching all these folks that screamed “local control” trying to tell a county how their local legislation should read.

bgsmallz August 27, 2012 at 11:39 am

“Most of Atlanta” …I love the selective use of “Atlanta” when it suits someone’s agenda.

When Gwinnett is trying to attract companies and show it is a good place for business, it is part of “Atlanta.” When it comes to actually contributing tax dollars to regional issues…huh?…we are Gwi-knee-tians…we don’t live in Atlanta!

Also, calling it a ‘boondoggle’ is so funny considering that the Georgia Dome and improvements to it have been financed in the same manner. Word vomit.

http://saportareport.com/blog/2012/08/south-site-gains-favor-for-new-atlanta-falcons-stadium/

Just as a reminder, it isn’t just fear that Arthur Blank and the NFL is putting in front of the legislature. It is an offer of roughly $700M in private financing for a new stadium that would be utilized by the GWCCA…not to mention that the biggest source of revenue for the GWCCA is the Atlanta Falcons…

Three questions…and these are real questions…

1) Is financing $300M for 30 years through a motel tax in exchange for $700M in private funding a bad deal?

2) If the state halts support for the project and the Falcons leave town after their lease expires, will the state pledge to cover the millions of $$ in operating losses of the GWCCA and the repairs needed to keep the Dome viable in the future?

3) Final question…even if the state blocks the GWCCA from borrowing past the $200M limit, they can’t tell the City of Atlanta what to do with their hotel/motel tax…would that really have any affect on the ability to float bonds?

Charlie August 27, 2012 at 11:49 am

My favorite argument is this one:

2) If the state halts support for the project and the Falcons leave town after their lease expires, will the state pledge to cover the millions of $$ in operating losses of the GWCCA and the repairs needed to keep the Dome viable in the future?

Mainly because the Falcons were more than willing to leave the GWCC with this operating problem when they were asking for a separate, open aired stadium. Now that it proved politically and economically stupid, the Falcons want to use this as a reason why they must have plan B.

As an aside, the fact that the Falcons had a plan B for a new stadium but the city/state didn’t for T-SPLOST continues to illustrate how absolutely screwed up the priorities are here. “Economic disaster” if T-SPLOST fails, but no planning, even to pass plan A. But please don’t look too closely at the money we’re giving to the Falcons please, and we’ll continue to develop alternative plans until we can sneak on through.

bgsmallz August 27, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Charlie-

If I’m not mistaken(and I’m not very often :)) I pointed out in March that the open air idea was stoopid and probably just a negotiating tactic. Just like the threat of moving to Doraville.

Interesting hypothetical…if the Falcons were in discussions to build their new stadium in North Fulton/South Forsyth, would we be having this conversation at all?

That’s all for me today.

Self_Made August 27, 2012 at 9:41 pm

++++++1

Charlie August 28, 2012 at 9:23 am

I have no idea how North Fulton/South Forsyth would be coming up with $400 Million +/-, so no, I doubt we would be having this discussion because I doubt they would be trying to give so much of their tax revenue base to a pro sports team.

bgsmallz August 28, 2012 at 11:58 am

Well…that’s true even if it does side step the point. Kudos.

…I guess you don’t need the local tax revenue as long as you have enterprising state representatives content on controlling someone else’s. :)

Interesting though that you seem to think that the locals in North Fulton/South Forsyth should be the ones making the decision on how to spend their own local funds in that hypothetical while in the real life version, it isn’t about local control as much as it is about regional politics.

Which gets back to the point I was making…it’s all about local control until the City of Atlanta is the one making the decision. That’s when the Dunwoody Journal Crapstitution pulls out their articles on how someone in Douglasville feels about the street car or how a representative in Forsyth is pushing back against the city of Atlanta’s chosen use of hotel/motel taxes.

Anyway, like I’ve said, I don’t disagree with asking the question, but I just think the real question should be ‘how do you plan on paying for the other things you need/how does this stadium fit into the overall vision’ vs. ‘why are you such an idiot for choosing a stadium over paying for a hypothetical transit solution that suburban republicans would most certainly also try to block?’

View from Brookhaven August 24, 2012 at 12:44 pm

“Bold prediction–the legislature cowers in fear of Arthur Blank and supports his plan.”

Probably, but after T-SPLOST, I think I’d almost prefer it to another referendum. My TV watching has been so much more enjoyable this month.

Rick Day August 24, 2012 at 2:10 pm

I propose the the team fans finance it. Specifically, 60,000 season ticket holders. One seat in the stadium can be yours in perpetuity for a one time $10,000 bond, maturing in 10 years. Some people like me have 4 season tickets in prime areas, so we would pay more, of course. But people like us may be more liquid in our assets than others.

There is $600 million right there. The downside, of course, is for the rich who are banking in a significant percentage of the revenue as a POI. They have to share more of the pie to the other investors.

If the reader of this does not wish to participate in such plans, then by all means step aside and STFU. Better us users pay for it than taxpayers in general.

Rick Day August 24, 2012 at 2:11 pm

ROI not POI

Self_Made August 24, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I thought hotel/motel tax was paid by…well, people who stay in hotels and motels. You know…visitors.

I think they’ll have legislation to kill it, though. Such will be Atlanta and DeKalb’s life under the Tyranny of the Northern Arc.

Harry August 24, 2012 at 2:28 pm

1) It’s fairly certain the state is not going to raise the GWCCA borrowing capacity in the next session.
2) Arthur should talk to Bernie about how good it feels to put his skin in the game.
3) As a Falcons fan assuming they are decent, I don’t see the need for a new stadium. The Dome underwent a major renovation in recent years and is not a bad venue. However, if the Falcons are a success in the playoffs every year or so, they’ll develop sufficient respect to get a new stadium.

John Konop August 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Arthur has a record of investing into Metro Atanta and not just football. He has run this football organization better than any owner of this team. He is competing in a league with teams that not only have a better franchise history, but also have better facilities. If the hotels are willing to pass on the tax to fund this project, it must be because they think it is good business idea for everyone. At the end if the local business community has no problem why should we?

Mike Dudgeon August 24, 2012 at 5:17 pm

The hotel motel tax authority for the stadium was granted to Atlanta in 2010 before I was in the General Assembly. That would be very tough to “revoke”, and some argument (I dont totally agree) can be made that the hotel tax is Atlanta’s concern only. However, any additional state funds or taxpayer funded bonds for the GWCC would be 100% the concern of all of Georgia’s taxpayers. I also am leading a charge on this because I think it goes to trust issues. When the government says times are tough, we have budget cuts to education and other areas, we need more tax $ (TSPLOST), but at the same time we have enough money to finance a stadium. I believe many voters just don’t buy it.

Daddy Got A Gun August 24, 2012 at 11:42 pm

I very much agree. Its very hard to reconcile how we don’t have enough money for our necessities but enough money to tear down a usable stadium and build a new one.

In a sense, using the Hotel Tax to fund the stadium is the government picking winners (arthur blank) and losers (other tourism linked businesses and the people paying the bill that never set foot inside the stadium).

The hotel tax makes visiting and hosting events in Atlanta 8% more expensive. When times are tight, visitors will go where the dollars go further. I know my company looks closely the the total cost of our hotel stays and directs us to hotel properties that are cost efficient.

John Konop August 25, 2012 at 9:12 am

If the hotels think it is smart idea, why do you think you know more than the owners who invested their own money? I am not sure if it is or not, but I do trust that if businesses on a macro would understand the value proposition better than us with nothing at risk. Finally I have seen projects like this help revitalize and or improve areas ie Clevland basketball stafium, downtown parking tax project for Nappervile……

Charlie August 25, 2012 at 3:03 pm

The two weeks leading up to the T-SPLOST vote, Mayor Reed did a two week radio/TV tour telling anyone who would listen how vital T-SPLOST, and specifically MARTA and The Beltline were to the convention business.

The Falcons play 8 games per year. That’s at most 16 nights per year this 30 year tax affects. The other Dome events are happy to be in the Dome as it exists. So the marginal effect of this upgrade is to maintain 8 games per year, and that’s only if Arthur Blank really wants to go from hero to zero in this town by moving the team. I’m willing to call that bluff.

On the other side of the coin, if the $400 Million (the original number discussed to give to the stadium, exclusive of additional land costs and sales tax exemption that pushed that number closer to a half billion) were used with federal matching funds for transit, you would have $720M available for the Beltline construction. That’s more than T-SPLOST allocated for it.

Economics are about choices. The City of Atlanta needs to decide if the convention business that bears the burden of this tax really needs to duplicate infrastructure we already have in place to pacify one person’s ego, or committ that money to building out the transit network that would be available to help both the convention business and year round residents 365 days per year.

John Konop August 25, 2012 at 6:43 pm

In all due respect, does not the upgrade also attract other events off season. I am not saying this is the best ROI for Atlanta. My only point is if the business community backs the price increase you would think they have merit. Btw not sure if they back it or not.

Daddy Got A Gun August 26, 2012 at 9:09 am

The hotel tax is effectively a tax to support the various Chambers of Commerce and eventually funnel money back into the campaigns of the Legislators that support the Chamber’s goals. I’m sure the hoteliers have been told to support the Chamber of Commerce Tax if they know what’s good for them.

Here is are some recent press reports how the Hotel Tax funds the Chamber.

“… the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce has received $14,000 of the city’s projected $30,000 in hotel/motel tax revenue.” http://www.independentmail.com/news/2012/jun/07/toccoa-leaders-look-hotelmotel-tax-revenue/

“The executive director of the Effingham chamber of commerce asked county commissioners Tuesday to enact a 5-percent hotel-motel tax to promote
tourism. ….Lott said the chamber would use the money ….” http://savannahnow.com/effingham-now/2012-08-09/chamber-asks-hotel-motel-tax#.UDodI9ZlSAo

“…… at issue is whether public funds (the hotel-motel tax) is going to supplement the salaries of executives at the chamber, as alleged by Cannon in his email .”http://www.albanyherald.com/news/2011/sep/26/chamber-cvb-future-lies-city/

Daddy Got A Gun August 26, 2012 at 11:58 am

I want to point out that the hotels/businesses aren’t paying the tax, hotel guests are. So the chamber, its allies in the Legislature, and Arthur Blank, aren’t stepping up and spending their money. They are taking money from others by force and spending it.

If the long term goal of the Legislature is to reduce or eliminate the income tax and move to a sales tax, it will need to repeal all of these existing sales taxes, eg SPLOST’s, Chamber of Commerce Funding tax, etc. Otherwise, Georgia will end up with very high sales taxes, enough that people will spend their money elsewhere to avoid the tax.

John Konop August 26, 2012 at 12:43 pm

The hotel is at risk if they cannot push the increase price to their customer base. If the hotels back this idea it would be about a risk verse reward business decision on a price increase. Do you really think a business group owning hotels with millions of dollars at risk would just do this via pressure from the chamber? As I said I have no idea if the hotel owners back the idea or not. But, I would trust their analysis of the situation better than most because they have he most at risk.

bgsmallz August 27, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I’ve pointed out before…but just saying “it is only 8 nights” isn’t realistic. The largest revenue producer for the GWCCA is the Falcons and the Authority goes into the red by $2 to $3M per year without them. Also, it seems ironic that the bullet in the chamber of your economic argument is that Arthur Blank doesn’t want to ruin his reputation by moving.

Is it really an economic argument if we are making it in days or reputations, Charlie? It has to be in dollars, right?

But there is something else in your commentary that I’d like to explore a bit…

You are proposing taking $300M to $400M in “taxpayer” money and matching that with $320M in “taxpayer” money in order to build the Beltline as a reasonable alternative to building the stadium (with over $700M in private funds, I might add).

Would “Rep. Mike Dudgeon” be on board for that and support that alternative scenario, Charlie? Because all I hear him saying is ‘we want to control the money.’ So where does he think it should be spent? Or is he proposing that the City of Atlanta cut its hotel/motel tax? [Or is he just taking aim at low hanging fruit for political points in south Forsyth?]

I tell you what, let’s poll the “Atlanta region” and ask them if $720M in taxpayer funds should be spent on the Beltline? I bet the results are even worse than the poll on the stadium.

In the same poll, let’s ask them if they would prefer spending $300 to $400 M in taxpayer money on a $1B stadium or spend $720M on the Beltline? [hee hee…]

It’s all hypotetical, but at some level, I’m serious. At what point can we move away from the political narrative that is less knee-jerk and more cumulative? Going back to your vision point…a representative can’t just say “We aren’t going to build the stadium” and call that a plan or a vision. At least Mayor Reed has been consistent in saying that the city needs both transportation infrastructure and a new stadium…I’m still not sure what the vision is of our GOP legislature other than to oppose funding either, it seems.

Keep fighting, Charlie. It is a good fight. But make sure that the folks you are supporting are on the same team…don’t lose the war on vision in order to win the battle on a stadium.

View from Brookhaven August 24, 2012 at 7:01 pm

I look forward to the “we need more tax $” statement being taken out-of-context during your next campaign. Cheers!

(Where’s the modify feature?!)

chamblee54 August 24, 2012 at 9:53 pm

I guess I forgot about the meet and greet tonight. Manuels will not miss a retired drunk anyway.

The other day, I did my annual post about the physical damage caused by football. I started to ramble, and before long I was talking about the economics of stadium building. Let Rankin Blank pay for his own stadium.
http://chamblee54.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/keeping-a-box-score-on-hypocrisy/

Andre August 25, 2012 at 4:30 am

Can we take the politics out of this debate for just a moment to discuss this issue from a fan’s perspective?

Why is Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons organization even entertaining the idea of a new stadium when the Falcons have yet to bring home a single championship?

I just don’t see the purpose of rewarding a team with a new stadium, when the team hasn’t won anything. It’s the near-equivalent of Ted Turner asking for a new ballpark when the Braves were in last place, losing 17 games in a row.

At least the Braves were defending National League Champions, and a couple years removed from winning a World Championship, when we moved into Turner Field.

Arthur Blank needs to focus on getting some decent wide receivers, beefing up the offensive line, and bringing home a few rings before we even start thinking about a new stadium.

New stadiums do not build championship teams. Championship teams build new stadiums.

seenbetrdayz August 25, 2012 at 7:57 am

That’s been on my mind since I first heard of this situation.

To be blunt, Arthur Blank needs to get over it.

Fenway Park is 100 years old. Wrigley Field is 98 years old. (yes I know those are baseball fields, but still . . . ). And Blank wants to throw a fit because he can’t get a new stadium every 20 years?

Self_Made August 25, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Thanks Andre. Best case against so far.

Will Durant August 26, 2012 at 1:09 am

This is absolutely the wrong time to tear down a very good stadium. But as you closed, the legislature will make it happen for a man of means like Arthur Blank. Actually now that I think about it, small means will do. The politicians might be the only thing associated with this white elephant that can be considered cheap.

Give Balfour tickets for life. Chip into Chip’s campaign/retirement fund. Maybe a couple of sweater dresses and the rental rates on some cheerleader/Cheetah Girls to fill them out. Done Deal.

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