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Authority approves preliminary plan for new stadium

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Members of the GWCCA and the Atlanta Falcons speak to the press after the GWCCA approved a preliminary plan for a new stadium to replace the Georgia Dome, Monday, December 10. (Chris Rosenthal/myfoxatlanta) Members of the GWCCA and the Atlanta Falcons speak to the press after the GWCCA approved a preliminary plan for a new stadium to replace the Georgia Dome, Monday, December 10. (Chris Rosenthal/myfoxatlanta)
ATLANTA -

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority has approved terms for a proposed deal to build a $1 billion retractable-roof stadium on a site near the Georgia Dome.

The authority voted on the plan on Monday morning. The plan could ultimately put a new stadium north of the Georgia Dome at Northside Drive and Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard or just south at Northside Drive and Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Drive.

The 24-page plan outlined the framework of the proposal. The state would build stadium and lease it to the Falcons, who would operate it. Taxpayers would pay for a portion of it.

The Congress Center Authority is counting on state legislative approval to expand its capacity to sell bonds to help finance the project.

"It's critical to the structure of this deal. No doubt about it. You can't advance under this term, a business relationship absent an increase in our capability for bonding," said Frank Poe, GWCCA Executive Director.

About $300 million would come from a hotel tax. The team would pay the remaining $700 million of the costs, of which about $100 million would be raised through personal seat licenses.

"This has been a deal in which we've tried to explain that we're willing to make a contribution, a substantial contribution, and we're willing to assume all of the risk associated with it. I think that's where we start," said Atlanta Falcons President and CEO, Rich McCay.

Also under the plan, the Georgia Dome would be demolished if the new stadium is built south of it. The land would be initially converted to surface parking, and would eventually be redeveloped by the Falcons. If the new stadium is built on the north side, the Falcons would have to decide how to develop the land.

The Falcons say the deal would seal the team's place in the city for next 30 years and will have a positive impact beyond football.

"This is the time and the place to do a long-term solution for the franchise, to stabilize it and to give Atlanta an opportunity to remain at the top of the chart with respect to big major sporting events. And so we feel like that makes in the right time," said Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay.

But critics contend the public's voice has not been adequately heard as the stadium plans move forward.

"This is a public entity. This is a state authority. And the fact that public is being benched, you know, on this idea of a new stadium, it's just really distressing," said William Perry of Common Cause Georgia.

Many details remain to be negotiated before a deal is finalized.

The Falcons owner, Arthur Blank, said Monday's vote was an important first hurdle in the process.

"It's a state-owned facility. We will not own it, although we will put up 70 percent of the funds to do it. So we think it's a complex deal that makes sense for everybody including the Atlanta Falcons, citizens of the city and state and region," Blank said.

Blank, who has owned the team since 2001, contends that the deal for taxpayers is a good one with long, running dividends.

"Unless you are staying in a hotel, motel in the city of Atlanta or in certain unincorporated areas in north Fulton County, you'll never pay any of the tax at all. So the risk, the capital risk, is all on the Falcons," Blank said.

Blank said that he believes the public has not been fully informed about the proposal yet. He said that a new stadium is needed.

"It is fine for playing the Giants next Sunday, it's absolutely fine. And probably for the next couple years it will be fine. But if you are looking at 30 years solution, it's not fine," Blank said. "So we have to look at it, as a Falcons franchise, look at what is the right solution long-term. And then, in partnership with the Congress Center, figure out what kind of facility to keep the current events and remain competitive for those and the opportunity to compete for new ones."

Blank projects that the project alone will generate 4500 jobs in the next few years.

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