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Two votes needed to lock up Falcons stadium deal
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Two votes needed to lock up Falcons stadium deal

Two votes needed to lock up Falcons stadium deal
Photo Credit: Special to WSB-TV
A diagram indicating a proposed location for the new Atlanta Falcons stadium, just south of the Georgia Dome. The diagram also shows how MLK Dr. would be relocated.

Two votes needed to lock up Falcons stadium deal

After two-and-a-half years of negations, the new Falcons stadium could finally be approved this week.

All that is left is approval from the Atlanta City Council and Invest Atlanta, the city's economic development arm.

The city council has a regularly scheduled meeting Monday and could vote on the deal then. Invest Atlanta also needs to approval the deal. It meets Tuesday.

Neither group is saying that it will vote on the stadium this week, but no one would be surprised if it happened.

"I don't think it's moving too fast. They've been in negotiations for 2 1/2 years now," said Duriya Farooqui, the city of Atlanta's chief operating officer. "We've heard the public, and we've heard the council's input. We think it's a good deal for the city, the state and the Falcons, and that has been validated today."

But some City Council members aren’t ready to put a stamp on the stadium just yet.

“This is a huge deal,” Councilman Michael Julian Bond told Channel 2 Action News. “You want everybody to be on board when you make such a large decision like this. It’s going to change the face of downtown. People want to vote to support to vote this because of the impact it’s going to have on our city. But people don’t want to be rushed.”

Count Councilwoman Felica Moore as one who want things to slow down.

"If the train leaves that soon, it will leave without me," she said Thursday.

But others say it’s time to make a move.

"Let's get on with the business of the community," said council member Ivory Lee Young, whose district includes the stadium area. "Let's get on with this and move on to bigger things. Because we can certainly use a better stadium than the one we have now, and we have figured out a way to pay for it. What is our delay?"

If the deal is approved by the City Council and Invest Atlanta, the Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority will choose an architect to build the stadium by April 30. A general contractor will be hired May 31.

By August 1, a site should be selected. Both sides want the land just south of the Georgia Dome. But they have to buy land owned by two churches first. If they can’t get it, a backup spot just north of the Dome will be used.

We should see drawings for the new stadium by Oct. 31. Construction will need to begin by mid-2014 if the Falcons want to start the 2017 season in their new home.

All of this was set in motion Friday when the GWCCA voted Friday to move forward with a plan to build a $1 billion stadium in downtown Atlanta.

The agency's board of governors voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Falcons to build the new retractable roof stadium.

The board's executive director has drafted a memorandum of understanding between the authority and the Falcons, and a second memorandum that includes Invest Atlanta, said authority spokeswoman Jennifer LeMaster. The executive director has also prepared a funding and development agreement between the authority and Invest Atlanta, and an operation and maintenance agreement between the authority and the city.

"The Board's vote to allow us to finalize the new stadium transaction is a direct reflection of a mutually beneficial and sustainable business relationship crafted by all parties," GWCCA Executive Director Frank Poe said in a release. "This is a very significant step forward for our campus."

Board chairman Tim Lowe said the development will reinforce Atlanta's position as a top-tier sports and entertainment host and is in the state's best financial interest.

The Congress Center plans to retain control over events annually hosted at the Georgia Dome — including the SEC Championship football game, NCAA basketball tournament rounds and Georgia high school football championships, among others.

Mayor Kasim Reed and Falcons owner Arthur Blank last week agreed to financing terms of the project, which would replace the 20-year-old Georgia Dome.

Reed said the city would provide $200 million for construction costs through hotel-motel tax revenue and the Falcons would provide $800 million. Officials have said the public investment is less than what would have to be spent on Georgia Dome upgrades in the next few decades. The franchise is also responsible for providing up to $50 million to cover infrastructure costs, and will pay for any cost overruns.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank, in a statement, called Friday's vote "an important step towards a new stadium," which he said would be "an iconic asset" for downtown. Blank is on the board of directors of Cox Enterprises, whose media holdings include News/Talk WSB.

The authority will own the stadium and officials hope to build it in time for the 2017 NFL season. The agreement calls for the Falcons to lease the stadium for 30 years, paying the state $2.5 million annually in rent.

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