Friendship Baptist: Falcons calling off talks on south site, moving north

By Maria Saporta

The Atlanta Falcons have reportedly decided to drop all negotiations to build the new stadium on the south site and build on the north site.

Lloyd Hawk, chairman of the board of trustees of Friendship Baptist Church, said his attorneys received a call Tuesday morning from Duriya Farooqui, chief operating officer of the City of Atlanta, saying the Falcons were turning their attention to the north site.

The move came as a surprise, because active negotiations were underway with Friendship Baptist Church. The latest proposals and counterproposals were being made as late as Monday afternoon with the gap between the two becoming more narrow.

“We had gotten closer,” Hawk said. “Every meeting, they’ve gotten a little closer. The dollars involved were getting pretty manageable.”

The Falcons had set an Aug. 1 deadline to determine whether the south site would be feasible. Hawk previously had said that he thought it would be possible for the church’s board of trustees and board of deacons to reach an agreement with the city and the Falcons by Aug. 1, but the full congregation probably wouldn’t be able to vote on that agreement until Aug. 4.

Meanwhile, Friendship had permitted for the Falcons’ engineers to start working on the site to get soil testing and other information needed to determine the feasibility of the site.

Negotiations with the second church, Mount Vernon Baptist Church, have been a bit more complicated. The commonly held belief in the community was that Mount Vernon was waiting until Friendship did its deal, and then it would have a better idea of how to proceed with its negotiations with the Georgia World Congress Center Authority.

The GWCCA board is meeting Tuesday at 1 p.m. to vote on a resolution about whether to start doing due diligence on the north site. But up until now, it was thought that the south site and the north site would continue to be considered on parallel tracks.

If the Falcons have decided to move north and abandon the south site, the stadium project could face some intense community opposition. Already neighborhood groups have voiced opposition to the location.

At least one city councilperson who had voted in favor of the stadium, Ivory Young, has said he opposes the north site. And there is the possibility that there could be a groundswell of opposition by people who would object to the stadium’s inaccessibility to MARTA and the fact that it would not be right next door to the convention center.

Also, the north site is expected to have an expensive price tag associated with having to move huge power transmission lines, a cost that’s expected to run in the tens of millions of dollars.

Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons, could not be reached for comment.

But deciding to move to the north site without keeping the south site option alive was a bewildering move to some.

“If that’s the case, it’s pretty surprising,” Hawk said. “Logically it makes no sense for political reasons, legal reasons and financial reasons.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

There are 6 comments What are your thoughts?

What are your thoughts?