http://www.ajc.com/sports/atlanta-falco ... 15201.html
A possible sign of movement came earlier this month, when Gov. Nathan Deal included money in his 2012 budget to purchase property next to the proposed stadium site.
The GWCC Authority, which oversees the state-owned complex that includes the Georgia Dome, voted last February to negotiate with the Falcons toward a possible memorandum of understanding on a $700 million stadium that would be built about a half-mile north of the Dome.
"We continue to meet with the Falcons on a whole array of business terms and items attendant to that," GWCC Authority executive director Frank Poe said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. "We have tried to quantify the issues that each side would have and talk through a series of items that are important for both sides, but nothing has been resolved in the form of an agreement."
Asked how far along the process has moved, Poe said: "It would be hard to say we're 10 percent or 50 percent or 60 percent there. There are some areas where there is common acceptance of positions, but there also are a lot of areas in which we still have work to be done. It's not going to be something that will be resolved real quickly."
The Falcons, who have made clear their desire for a new, more lucrative stadium when the Georgia Dome bonds are paid off later this decade, declined to comment on the status of negotiations beyond providing a written statement in response to inquiries from the AJC.
"This is a complex deal which includes a good number of key stakeholders, including the state, city, county, our fans and the community," said the Falcons' statement, which was provided by Kim Shreckengost, executive vice president of the team's parent company, AMB Group. "When there are that many stakeholders involved, it's that much more important to get it right, which is what we and the Authority are trying to do.
"There are no further developments to discuss at this point out of respect for the negotiation process."
A memorandum of understanding would define the business relationship of the parties, according to the motion passed by the GWCC Authority, a state agency, on Feb. 22. It would include financing of the project, how much of the cost would be paid by the Falcons, how revenue would be divided and how a new stadium would co-exist financially and logistically with the Georgia Dome, among other matters.
The possibility of a new stadium also has stirred public debate about whether one is needed, whether taxpayer funds should be used and how it would affect downtown.
Speaking to the Atlanta Press Club on Tuesday, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, responding to a question about whether taxpayer funds should be used, signaled that he believed a new stadium might be necessary.
“No city that ever fought the stadium fight ever came out on the winning end of it,” Reed said. “Every time a municipality has fought this stadium fight -- new stadium versus old stadium -- guess who lost? The city.”
Reed noted that the Dallas Cowboys play in Irving, Texas, and the San Francisco 49ers are on the verge of moving to Santa Clara, Calif.
“I’m not going to be the person who loses the Falcons," the mayor said, adding, "I’m not going to be drawn into a debate about stadiums."
If a new stadium is built, Poe said, the GWCC's position is that Georgia Dome must be maintained as a "sustainable and viable" entity. He noted that events such as the SEC Championship football game, the Chick-fil-A Bowl and college basketball's NCAA Final Four would not be played in an outdoor stadium.
"The possibility of two stadiums ... complicates the business structure fairly significantly," Poe said. "Each issue that you surface may have different tangents that you have to chase down on both sides. ... Those are the types of big-rock issues that have got to be worked through in order to get to a point that you can say, ‘Yeah, we've got a deal that we can do.'"
Over the past few years, several developments have advanced the ball toward a new Falcons stadium:
In April 2010, Georgia lawmakers approved legislation that would extend the hotel-motel tax from 2020 to 2050 as a funding mechanism for a renovated Georgia Dome or a new stadium on GWCC property. Estimates were that, depending on economic conditions, the tax could cover about $300 million in stadium cost.
In February 2011, Kansas City-based architecture firm Populous delivered a GWCC-commissioned feasibility study that said a new stadium could fit on a 28-acre site at the intersection of Northside Drive and Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard, a site that currently holds the Congress Center's truck marshaling yard (an area where trucks are parked during conventions) and the Yellow parking lot.
This month, Deal included $15 million in his proposed 2012 budget for the GWCC Authority to purchase the old Herndon Homes property next to the potential stadium site from the Atlanta Housing Authority. GWCC spokesman Mark Geiger said the property could be used for a marshaling yard, for GWCC expansion or parking, or for a stadium. The property could provide more flexibility in stadium design. But "regardless of whether a stadium is there or not there, we have seen that property as important to the future of the Authority," Poe said.
The Falcons see a new stadium as a public/private partnership, team president Rich McKay said in a November interview. He said the Falcons would pay a substantial but undetermined portion.
At the time, McKay said he expected the team or the GWCC Authority to send out a request for proposals (RFP) to potential stadium architects by the end of 2011 in order to get a conceptual design and an updated cost estimate.
However, the RFP has not yet been issued. Poe said that from the GWCC's perspective, the timing is not ripe for it, adding that it could "flow" from a memorandum of understanding if one is reached with the Falcons.
The Falcons want to move into a new home when the Georgia Dome bonds are paid off, triggering the end of the team's commitment to play there. The bonds are scheduled to be paid off in 2020 but likely will be paid off sooner, perhaps as early as 2017. The Dome, which opened in 1992, will be 25 years old in 2017; several NFL teams have moved out of domed stadiums of approximately that age.
The Falcons have resisted other options, saying a renovated Georgia Dome would not be a long-term solution and that a retractable-roof stadium would be too expensive.
Poe described the negotiations as "amiable, collaborative and cooperative" and said there is no timetable for a resolution.
"We're working deliberatively; we're not letting any time slip by," he said. "But we're not saying it has to be done on or before ‘X' date."