Let me preface this with: I still believe the Falcons are going to get their new stadium in downtown Atlanta, for the simple reason that politicians tend to care more about pushing through deals for people like Arthur Blank than, say, pleasing teachers, paving streets or healing an open sore of a neighborhood around Turner Field.
But if Blank doesn’t get his Versailles, would it be the worst thing in the world if the Falcons moved to the suburbs?
Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed and all of his city underlings are going through conniptions over this possibility. Of course. They work for the city of Atlanta. A team named the Atlanta Falcons that plays in Norcross does them no good.
Professional sports has no shortage of teams that play in the suburbs. The NFL has several that play in suburban stadiums. The San Francisco 49ers are moving a half-hour south down the 101 to Santa Clara. The “New York” Giants and Jets are in East Rutherford, N.J. The Miami Dolphins are in a city called “Miami Gardens” but it’s really a neighborhood 25 minutes north of downtown. The Dallas Cowboys are in Arlington, Texas, the Washington Redskins in Landover, Maryland, the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.
Have they been affected? Have the downtowns in those cities been crushed by a football team’s changed zip code?
I’m tired of the scare tactics.
Arthur Blank wants a new stadium. I get that. So let him build it. Anywhere he wants.
Despite the well-orchestrated sound bites coming out of the mouths of Blank, his people and whatever power brokers are lining up behind him, this issue is not about beautifying downtown Atlanta. This isn’t about enhancing our lives. This isn’t CNN Center or Centennial Park or the High Museum of Art. This isn’t Bernie Marcus building a wonderful aquarium that draws millions of tourists and gives the city something special and unique.
This is a football stadium. It’s not going to hold works of art or house the homeless or baffle historians like Stonehenge. It’s just a football stadium.
This is about increasing the value of a football team and the coffers of its owner, not making Atlanta a better place to live. The Georgia Dome is fine. It’s better than fine. And in the worst-case scenario of the Falcons moving to the suburbs, the Georgia Dome isn’t going away. The SEC Championship game, the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the trade shows, the motocross events, the NCAA tournament basketball games, the Final Four – which is here this year, by the way – and so many other events that the Dome hosts are not going away. The Dome would take a financial hit without the Falcons as a tenant, but it doesn't mean it couldn't function.
The Super Bowl? Yes, if a new downtown stadium with a retractable roof is built, Atlanta would get a Super Bowl. But Atlanta would still not be in the regular rotation. That honor is reserved for warm-weather winters in Florida and Arizona, as well as New Orleans. So ignore all blather to the contrary.
Could the Dome use some repairs and upgrades? Maybe. But it looks fine to me. There’s a difference between a “needs” list and a “wants” list. Claims of the Dome requiring a facelift of “up to $350 million” border on comical. It’s political rhetoric. Don’t bite the worm.
Besides, if Blank leaves downtown, that $200 million from bonds conceivably could be made available for a Dome upgrade. I’m pretty sure $200 million would still buy enough paint and flat screens to please the gatekeepers for those other major events.
The Falcons moving from Atlanta to the suburbs for 10 out of 365 days a year (not including playoffs) won’t destroy anything. A much stronger case can be made for a downtown arena or baseball stadium being the centerpiece of downtown redevelopment because they're likely to host more events year round.
Then again, the neighborhoods surrounding the Georgia Dome and Turner Field haven't benefitted from having sports venues built, so there’s no reason to project any improvement with a new football facility (Also, there may not be any public money left after chipping in for the new place.)
A move to the suburbs wouldn’t hurt fans. Atlanta’s city population is just over 400,000. Atlanta's metro population is over five million. Suburbs win.
The 49ers couldn’t get a downtown stadium deal done, so they’re moving to Santa Clara, 30 to 45 minutes away. Not a big deal. It's where they practice. That’s where Great America (think Six Flags) is. There's offices, restaurants and housing.
By the way, Candlestick Park is 53 years old.
The Giants left the old Meadowlands stadium, which was 34 years old. The Dolphins left the Orange Bowl, which was built in 1939. The Cowboys and Patriots left stadiums that were opened in 1971. The Redskins left RFK Stadium, built in 1961.
The Georgia Dome opened in 1992.
Blank wants out because he can’t make enough money there. He’s a businessman. But it’s his business, nor ours, and downtown Atlanta would survive just fine without the Falcons.http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/jeff-schultz ... h-atlanta/