Marcus Camp, a season-ticket holder since the Falcons moved into the Georgia Dome 20 years ago, doesn’t think the team needs a new stadium, especially not at taxpayer expense.
If one is built, however, he favors a retractable roof that can be opened to “Atlanta’s sunshine and blue skies” and closed when “it is below 40 degrees and raining.”
Falcons fans such as Camp don’t have a seat at the table for the ongoing negotiations between the team and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, the state agency that operates the Dome and 14 months ago agreed to pursue a deal on a new stadium, but they want to be heard.
Many fans who shared their opinions with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in interviews and emails objected to the Falcons moving from the Dome to a roof-less, open-air stadium, which is the team’s stated preference. Others endorsed the idea, contending football is meant to be played outdoors. And almost all expressed concern about the cost of a new stadium to taxpayers and ticket buyers.
Parrish Walton, who has had Falcons season tickets for three years, spoke up for the Dome, sort of: “I think the Dome is not as nice, obviously, as these new, ridiculous buildings they have in other cities for the NFL, but I think it serves its purpose. And I don’t think Atlanta fans would go to an open-air stadium in weather that was even remotely poor.”
Michael Smith, a season-ticket holder for 14 years, said he and many who sit near him in Section 202 plan to cancel their tickets if the Falcons move into an open-air stadium at the mercy of the weather. He would prefer a retractable-roof facility such as 4-year-old Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where he enjoyed a Falcons-Colts game last season.
Countered John Burke, who attends two or three Falcons games per season: “I prefer outdoor sporting events, even if the weather is less than desirable. I do not want a retractable roof because it makes the lighting in the stadium really weird.”
The possibility of an open-air stadium, which would become the Falcons’ home while the Georgia Dome would continue to house events that require an indoor facility, has gotten the most attention since a GWCC-commissioned study last year determined one could be built on a site a half mile north of the Dome.
But the Falcons and the GWCC Authority also have kept two other options on the table: a new retractable-roof stadium on the nearby site that would replace the Dome and a massive renovation/rebuilding of the Dome with a retractable roof on its current site.
Two years ago, the Falcons objected to a retractable roof because of the added cost, but the continued examination of the possibility underscores the fluidness of the process.
Concerns about cost
Regardless of their roof preference, fans fret the costs of a second football stadium.
“I just don’t see how a city of 5 million people could support two stadiums,” said Tim Brayboy, who is considering buying season tickets. “If [Falcons owner Arthur Blank] wants to spend all his own money and build a stadium next to the Dome, that’s fine, but I don’t see using taxpayer money in these times. If they want to do a retrofit to the Dome and make it retractable, I could see that.”
Burke, among others, expressed concern that ticket prices would skyrocket in a new stadium and that fans would be asked to pay big bucks for permanent seat licenses (PSLs) in order to be eligible to buy season tickets. PSLs often are part of the financing plan for new stadiums, and the Falcons have been noncommittal about whether they would be used here.
“My concern, looking at what has gone on with new stadiums in New York and Dallas, is whether tickets can remain in reach of average folks in the market,” said Carlos Vilela, who became a Falcons fan around the time Blank bought the team. “When I start hearing all the different features a stadium could have — bigger [video] screens, retractable roofs — I start thinking my hot dog is going to go to $9.”
Others said more details need to be unveiled about how a new stadium would enhance the game-day experience.
The Falcons would not comment for this article, citing the ongoing negotiations. The team’s previously stated position is that the organization will have completed its commitment to the Dome when the bonds that funded the building’s construction are paid off late this decade, and that a long-term lease in a new venue will be needed at that point to compete economically with other teams.
Neil Glat, NFL senior vice president of corporate development, said the design trend in new stadiums is toward “buildings that are generally bigger than what the Dome is.” He said the additional square footage doesn’t mean more seats, but “more space for comfort and more space for amenities,” such as club areas, restaurants, larger concourses, team stores, team halls of fame and high-tech fan attractions.
“What’s important to understand is even if a building physically is not obsolete, [it] can become economically obsolete,” said Glat, who works on stadium deals league-wide.
“After 1992, when the Dome opened, the NFL really had a stadium boom. ... You do get to a point where, how do you compete in a league where, economically, people are in newer facilities that have the amenities that allow them to generate the premium dollars needed?”
Said Chicago-based sports business consultant Marc Ganis: “What you find with stadiums is that the economic obsolescence cycle keeps speeding up.”
Lou Bassett, a 10-year Falcons season-ticket holder, said he “understand[s] that Blank needs a new stadium to get his revenue stream competitive with other owners,” but added that he would not be excited as a fan about the team leaving the Dome. “Great place to watch a game, great memories there.”
A number of fans expressed sticker shock at the escalation in stadium costs since the Dome was built for $214 million.
A new stadium is projected to cost about $700 million, plus another $150 million to $200 million if it gets a retractable roof. The Falcons and the GWCC have referred to the project as a public-private partnership, but details have not been worked out about financing.
The Georgia Legislature two years ago agreed to 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 the tax would cover $300 million to $400 million in stadium cost.
Another funding source likely would be the “G-4” stadium-construction program enacted by NFL owners in December. The Falcons, Glat said, would be eligible for as much as $200 million from the league toward a new stadium — provided the team, or Blank, puts up a matching amount to make the total private contribution at least $400 million.
Glat said $50 million of a $200 million league contribution would be a loan to be repaid by the Falcons and another $100 million would be repaid from incremental increases in the visiting-team share of revenues in the new stadium. If the stadium failed to generate sufficient new revenue, the Falcons would be responsible for the balance of the $100 million.
As the complex process continues to develop, some season-ticket holders want the Falcons to seek their input.
“They send us emails about stuff all the time,” said Smith, the 14-year season-ticket holder, “but not once have they asked our opinion about what kind of stadium we’d prefer. That’s my biggest gripe.”http://www.ajc.com/sports/atlanta-falco ... 10591.html
Fun Gus note*
For the misguided romantics that believe 'football should be played outdoors' because they once froze watching football in the past...Well, back in ;the past' they also didn't have black quarterbacks or the forward pass, either. Move on. This is the ATL, and a goodly percentage of the fan base is African-American Women. I know it's a 'sweeping statement', am I may be wrong as hell...but my experiences with them has lead me to believe they just are not a fan of sitting in the hot September sun. They might show up bundled up when cold: but when sweltering hot? Forget it. Aint gonna happen.
I leraned this lesson when I was a drummer for Cora Mae Bryant, and we did the festival circuit. I loved being in the sun, and she liked being in the shade. It really was just that simple. I tried to get her to go to a Braves Game and she just laughed at me. Miss that old broad she was the best, taught a young Fun Gus alot about things I had no clue. And she introduced me to poke salad.
So you can just kiss that goodbye, and a smaller percentage of men that come to the game not only to meet said females but watch the game might just decide the 'new cost' of the 'new improved' tickets in about 2-3 years after they abandon the games aint worth it. Sure, it will be all unicorns and flowers for the first couple years of the shiny new toy, but after the newness wears off, your going to see a portion of your fanbase quit because they are uncomfortable ( and this goes for everyone) and the concessions, parking and ticket prices ( not even mentioning PSL's) are not worth it anymore.
Now winning a Championship might delay that awhile, but that's the only other way I see this working out well. Otherwise this is going to go over like the Edsel, or todays version: the Chevy Volt.