Gov. Nathan Deal: ‘incumbent on us’ to not lose the Falcons to Los Angeles

By Maria Saporta

Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday it would be a big loss for the state if the Atlanta Falcons were to move to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles, one of the top media markets in the country, has been seeking a football team for years. Reportedly, Arthur Blank has told Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and other officials that he has been approached by Los Angeles leaders who are interested in him moving the Falcons to the Southern California city.

“It’s incumbent on us to make sure we don’t lose the franchise,” Deal said after being recognized as the 2013 Georgian of the Year by Georgia Trend magazine at its annual 100 Most Influential Georgians luncheon.

That said, Deal did express concern.

“What it does is emphasize the fact that having a major football team like the Atlanta Falcons is a sought-after commodity,” Deal said. “I recognize that fact.”

But Deal stopped short of saying whether the Los Angeles factor could improve the current negotiations between the state and the Falcons on the financial deal to build a new $1 billion stadium. It is possible the City of Atlanta could end up playing a much larger role in the financing if the decision is made to not present the deal to the state legislature.

The option of the Atlanta Falcons moving to Los Angeles, however, has not been a major issue until now.

“Arthur Blank has never played that card, and I give him credit for that,” said Deal, who added that ““I have not had any direct conversations about this.”

Blank has consistently told people that he wants to stay in downtown Atlanta. The only way he would consider other options is if this stadium deal fell through.

While the governor was being honored, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority was holding its monthly board meeting. But the issue of a new Falcons stadium was not brought up because the authority wanted to honor the 15-day quiet period that the governor has established on the negotiations with the Falcons.

Deal also described the proposed deal in favorable terms.

“All along we have understood that this project is one that would funded primarily by the Falcons, some state and more city and county involvement,” Deal said. “Most of the money is Arthur Blank’s and the NFL’s and outside sources.”

Under the agreement that had been negotiated between the Atlanta Falcons and the GWCCA, the state would have issued $300 million in revenue bonds that would have been backed by hotel-motel taxes collected in the City of Atlanta and unincorporated Fulton County.

The remaining $700 million (and any cost overruns) would be paid for by the Atlanta Falcons and the NFL.

But some state legislators have balked at the idea of having any public financing for a new stadium. The General Assembly would have to approve a $300 million bonding capacity for GWCCA under that scenario.

Because the current Georgia Dome was funded with $200 million in state-backed bonds (also repaid by the city’s hotel-motel tax), Gov. Deal had explored just maintaining that $200 million bonding capacity.

“At the time we were looking at the $200 million that the legislature had already authorized,” Deal said, but he added that the ability to apply that bonding capacity to a new stadium may not be possible without going back to the legislature.

It also is possible that there might need to be some “clarification and some additional language that would have authorized (the GWCCA) to have a $200 million revolving authorized limit” of bonding capacity.

Because of the issue of public funding for the stadium has been controversial at the state, the City of Atlanta is exploring whether it could issue up to $300 million in revenue bonds for the project. All these issues are being looked at during this “quiet phase.”

Meanwhile, the fact that Los Angeles is wooing the Falcons could help change the tide of public opinion on the stadium.

A recent WXIA poll released on Jan. 18 showed that if building a new stadium is the only way to keep the Falcons playing in downtown Atlanta, the project had the support of 54 percent of those polled with 37 percent opposing it.

Atlanta Business Chronicle reporter Amy Wenk contributed to this story.

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The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

I say rent some moving trucks and pull them up to the Falcons' offices in Flowery Branch and tell Arthur Blank what he can do and where he can go with his stadium demands. 


One might even say that Atlanta would makeout quite well without the Falcons as the financial resources that are now going to maintain the high-end lifestyle of a narcissistic NFL owner (remember the $300 million that was spent on very-recent renovations of the Georgia Dome?...$300 million that might've come in quite useful in helping to fund the construction of the brand new stadium that is now under intense discussion during a time of continued economic struggles and fiscal austerity in state government) would like be used towards the continued development of Georgia State University in Downtown Atlanta.


That's right, the Falcons leave for L.A. and the worst that happens is that Downtown Atlanta becomes a college town as the financial resources that are now going to maintain the pro-football Falcons would likely be poured into the college football Georgia State Panthers as a (likely very-successful) way of maintaining the financial viability of the Georgia Dome and the Georgia World Congress Center complex.

Though there would likely be some interests that would panic and want to beg the NFL for an expansion franchise, Atlanta would very-much more than likely fare very well without the Falcons as their leaving for L.A. would free-up a lot of financial resources that would be used to build the academic and athletic (football) programs at Georgia State.


After the Falcons left, I could see money being poured into Georgia State on both the academic and athletic sides.

I could even see Georgia State University and its urban campus and diverse enrollment of 30,000-plus students gaining membership to the Southeastern Conference (using the threat of membership to the Big Ten Conference as leverage for membership to the SEC).


With the Falcons gone and financial resources being poured into the Georgia State football program, one could see the Georgia Dome being filled to the brim on with membership in the SEC and teams like Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, LSU, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina rolling through the Georgia Dome every fall as Georgia State University grew in academic stature to become the New York University of the Southeast and Atlanta socially and culturally grew to become a larger southeastern version of Austin, Texas.


 Though I doubt that Atlanta turning into a cultured college town will probably ever happen as the state and city will most likely cave to the demands of a narcissistic NFL owner and his wanton desires for a brand-spankin-new stadium to "Keep-up-with-the-Joneses" as in Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and his billion-dollar "Jerryworld" stadium.


Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

Mr. Blank is bluffing, the next step in a dance orchestrated in advance with State and City of Atlanta leaders. I say call his bluff.


If he wants to leave, then first pay off his remaining contract on the Georgia Dome. Then he can deal with his staff who will not like paying high California taxes and prices. The average cost of living for those making $1million or more a year is 38% higher in Los Angeles than in Atlanta.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @Burroughston Broch

 Also, the fact that Blank could move the Falcons into a new stadium that he would not have to pay for would be quite alluring to him (or any NFL owner) should the stadium deal fall through in Atlanta.


Heck, just the prospect of Blank getting a brand-spanking new stadium that he would have to pay nothing for upon moving his winning team to the nation's second-largest media market and the Western Hemisphere's second-most important city in Los Angeles is probably enough to negate any increased cost-of-living or tax burdens that he would encounter upon moving to Los Angeles as Blank would have to pay at least $700 million to build a new stadium in Metro Atlanta.


Just looking at all of the financial benefits ($700 million for a new stadium in Georgia versus $0 in California and all of the money he would make hand-over-fist as the owner of a winning NFL franchise in pro-football-starved L.A.) and the psychological appeal for Blank's ego of being the absolute center-of-attention and the star leading citizen in Los Angeles (as opposed to struggling to stay relevant in a college football-obsessed region where pro football games are like a scrumptious dessert at best, and a stale after-dinner mint at worst, but still a distant-second, at best (and sometimes even third after high school football) in social and cultural importance on weekends during the fall) brings me to the conclusion that Arthur Blank may not necessarily be bluffing about a possible move to Los Angeles if the stadium deal falls through in Atlanta.


Heck, looking at all of the possible benefits of moving to L.A. from Blank's point-of-view makes me think that Blank may even be looking for an excuse to move the Falcons to L.A.


From Blank's point-of-view, paying for the construction of a new stadium in Georgia may even be the worse of the two options he is looking at because to him, if he moves to L.A., he would move into a stadium that is already paid for with a winning football team that is highly-competitive and highly-marketable in a highly- narcissistic city that loves winning pro-sports teams.

Moving to L.A. with a winning team would also mean that, in his mind, Blank would be not only one of the city's leading citizens as he is in Atlanta, but a CIVIC HERO in a very-important town for bringing football, and quite possibly a winning pro-football franchise at that, back to Los Angeles.


I wouldn't be surprised if Arthur Blank already had one foot out the door with what he thinks he has to gain by moving to L.A.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @Burroughston Broch 

I completely agree tha this news of Arthur Blank being approached by Los Angeles leaders has all of the makings of being either a bluff or news that has been manufactured by the Falcons or either pro-stadium interests with the City of Atlanta, the State of Georgia or all three.


Though there is also a strong chance that the news of Blank being approached by L.A. leaders may not necessarily be a bluff as pro-football interests in Southern California have been very-active as of late in pushing ahead on the planning and development of a new stadium next to the Staples Center as a way to lure the NFL back to the Los Angeles mega-market.


The new stadium that NFL and convention interests in Los Angeles are pushing ahead with is called Farmers Field and it is part of a roughly 27-acre development in Downtown Los Angeles called L.A. Live that includes the Los Angeles Convention Center, the Nokia Theatre; an 879-room J.W. Marriott, a 123-room Ritz Carlton Hotel and a 224-Residences at the Ritz Carlton condominiums that are all part of the same 1,001-room, 54-story tower; a 14-screen movie theater that is the West Coast flagship location for Regal Entertainment Group, an ESPN Zone with broadcasting studios and several upscale restaurants.


L.A. leaders plan to have the stadium completed in time for the 2016 NFL season and the Atlanta Falcons, a team that has gone 56-24 over the last five regular seasons and 108-67-1 over the 11 regular seasons that Blank has owned the team, would the be PERFECT target for the L.A. pro-football interests and the league for relocation to L.A. and for the NFL to re-enter the L.A. mega-market with should any stadium deal fall through in Atlanta as the Falcons have either consistently won and/or consistently been competitive since Blank took over ownership of the team in 2002.


For Arthur Blank, a very-wealthy pro-sports team owner with a history of personal success in his career as a businessman and a slight narcissistic psychological edge which is gradually being revealed more and more as this stadium drama saga progresses on, a move to the West Coast to become one of the community's leading citizens in what is basically the continent's second most-important city is a no-brainer.


Why would a highly-competive person with narcissistic qualities like Arthur Blank stick around and merely be a big fish in a relatively small pond in a market of roughly 7 million in the Atlanta/North Georgia region where he has to share (and probably in his mind, fight for) the stage with college football if he cannot get what he wants in a brand-spankin new stadium to compete with the likes of Dallas Cowboys' Owner Jerry Jones and his billion-dollar playpen when he can go to the nation's second-largest metro region and a mega-market of nearly 20 million in L.A. and likely be (one of) the really big fish in a really big pond (...that is, as long as his team would continue to win)?


Getting the overwhelming loving adoration of fans and media and movie stars for a winning team in a pro-football-starved town and having the opportunity of not only being a leading citizens, but quite possibly the star citizen in the nation's second-largest metro region would be quite the pleasurable psychological ego boost to a man like Blank.


Moving his Falcons to L.A. also means that Blank, by way of his winning team, would be the absolute center-of-attention in a very-important city during the football season as opposed to being second-fiddle and sometimes even a mere afterthought in a college football-mad region where the football games played on Saturdays are an infinitely-larger deal than the football games played on Sundays.