Stadium discussions continue for both south site and north site

By Maria Saporta

The decision to build a new football stadium on the north or south site is heading down parallel tracks this week.

The Georgia World Congress Center and the City of Atlanta will be meeting to talk about the situation with Mount Vernon Baptist Church, which would have to be acquired for the stadium to be built on the south site.

The state and the church, according to the latest reported offers, are $14 million apart. The state had offered Mount Vernon $6.2 million while the church was asking for $20.3 million. Mount Vernon will be holding a family meeting to discuss the situation among themselves on Aug. 13.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced last week that the city had reached a $19.5 million deal to acquire Friendship Baptist Church across the street. That deal still has to be approved by the congregation on Aug. 18.

“We have reached out to the mayor’s office to follow up on his offer of assistance with Mount Vernon,” said Jennifer LeMaster, a spokeswoman with the Georgia World Congress Center.  “We want to sit down and talk about where we are.”

The mayor welcomed the move.

“I think that’s a positive step, and I look forward to visiting with Frank Poe and his team sometime next week,” Reed said on Saturday at the dedication of a new PATH trail in Southwest Atlanta.

Asked if he felt the stadium would be built on the preferred south site, the mayor said: “I think it’s going to be fine.”

LeMaster said the state is legally restricted to the appraised value of the land in what it can offer, which explains the disparity in the Friendship and the Mount Vernon deals.

“We’ve had good neighborly relations with both churches for two decades,” LeMaster said. “The negotiations fell apart because of financial reasons and because of the state’s limitations, not because we couldn’t communicate or get along.”

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons are proceeding with due diligence to determine the feasibility of building the stadium on the north site at the corner of Northside Drive and Ivan Allen Boulevard.

One of the major complications with that site is the fact that there are high intensity electrical transmission lines that traverse the site.

Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers called those lines the “critical infrastructure” for Atlanta. “They are the backbone of the electrical grid for the City of Atlanta,” Bowers said.

Leslie Sibert, vice president of distribution for Georgia Power, said that those lines, which she said were 230 KV, were essential. Georgia Power has been meeting with stadium construction team to determine how to build the stadium and handle the lines.

“We actually have defined a path where we could go underground on the property and where we could bring them back above ground,” Sibert said.

She said it would take about four months to determine how much that project would cost and what it would entail, but she said it would be possible. Sibert also said that there would be no need to move the substation that’s located diagonally across the street.

She said Georgia Power will be meeting with the stadium construction team this week.

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