"A new or improved place for the Atlanta Falcons to roost will not be cheap.
Georgia World Congress Center Executive Director Frank Poe, who took the reins as the center’s leader in April, told the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau board of directors Wednesday morning renovating the Georgia Dome would cost $400 million, while building a new open-air stadium would cost up to $800 million.
“We’re meeting about every three weeks with the Falcons,” Poe said. “One of the key position points for them is really understanding when. When is that point in time that they need to have a new facility available for them. They’re working through their own decision processes to reach that point.”
For the city and its hospitality leaders, the bottom line is cost, Poe told the ACVB board.
“Siting for it, infrastructure improvement and, again, the old adage ‘location location location’ are all going to be factors,” Poe said. “But at the end of the day, financials are going to drive lot of those decisions [to build a new stadium or renovate the Georgia Dome].”
The Falcons want an open-air stadium as a replacement to the 18-year-old Georgia Dome, and they have a site in mind on property just north of the Georgia World Congress Center.
But the state authority that owns and operates the 71,000-seat Dome and the nation’s fourth-largest convention center has insisted it must have an enclosed venue to support the city’s powerful tradeshow industry and remain the hub of SEC Championship football, as well as compete for other blockbuster sports events such as the NCAA Final Four. It wants to keep the Falcons downtown.
In past interviews with Atlanta Business Chronicle, Falcons owner Arthur Blank and team President Rich McKay said a site at the corner of Simpson Street and Northside Drive fits the team’s priorities for an outdoor venue with tailgate-friendly parking they say will help improve the fan experience.
The Falcons, whose lease ends when the original bonds for the facility are repaid -- which could be in 2018 or 2019 depending on hotel/motel sales tax revenues -- oppose a Dome overhaul.
Poe said conversations with the team have been “very positive” and that financial discussions have been “transparent” on both sides.
“We’ve got a finite amount of money, or resources for money, and that is the extension of the hotel/motel tax,” Poe added. “There’s a key partner in that with the city of Atlanta, starting with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, that will play a significant role in terms of how those funds are re-applied longer-term.”
The Dome was built for around $220 million and has had $55 million in improvements over the past four years. But it is the fourth-oldest stadium in the National Football League. And Falcons officials have said the current lease, which will end no later than 2020, is no longer favorable to the team.
Atlanta is a top 10 market. But the Falcons rank 26th in a 32-team league in annual revenue. In August, Forbes said the team lost 3 percent of its value last year and is now worth $831 million.
A new stadium or extensively renovated Georgia Dome could make Atlanta a viable bidder again for the NFL’s biggest prize, the Super Bowl. Atlanta has not played host to the NFL’s championship game since 2000, and city leaders have said a new facility -- likely a domed one --- was needed for Atlanta to successfully bid again.
In other sports news, Poe said the College Football Hall of Fame is considering a location on Marietta Street on a property known as the “Green Lot” near sports bar Stats and the Omni Hotel."