By Maria Saporta
The Atlanta Falcons had a special guest for its Sunday night victory against the Dallas Cowboys — Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League.
Actually Goodell spent the better part of 24 hours in Atlanta — meeting with the fans, attending the game, visiting with retired NFL players, a special visit with Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and then as the keynote guest at the Rotary Club of Atlanta.
Asked about the merits of building a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons, Goodell said: “It’s important, not just for the Falcons, but for the NFL.”
The NFL has encouraged communities to have up-to-date facilities. The “trick,” Goodell said, is to “find a solution that works in the community.”
Restauranteur Dante Stephensen asked Goodell: “What’s wrong with our current stadium? I love it.”
Goodell said he understands the “emotional attachment” that fans have with a facility. But he also said it’s important on a competitive basis for the Falcons to be in the best possible facility to keep up with other markets.
“You are competing against facilities where people have invested a billion dollars and built outstanding stadiums,” Goodell said at the Rotary meeting. And Goodell said that Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank knows that building a new stadium is key to Atlanta getting a future Super Bowl.
Blank, who introdued Goodell at Rotary, said Goodell has had the ability to work with 31 other owners like him. Blank joked that having both him and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones at the Georgia Dome they “had to clear the field because the egos were so big.”
With the best record in the NFL, Blank then said that “if you are 8 and 0 and can’t be happy, you’ve got a problem.”
Blank had told Goodell that if the Falcons had not won Sunday night, he would not have been invited back.
“I’m thrilled to be working with the commissioner,” Blank said. “Thank you for bringing us a victory last night. You can come back again.”