By Maria Saporta

Dazzling the crowd. That was what the designers of the new Atlanta Falcons stadium hoped would happen when fans came to the “iconic” attraction when it opens in 2017.

Well if the ground-breaking is any indication, they are off to a good start.

After brief remarks from National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Georgia World Congress Center Authority executive Frank Poe, the show began on the International Plaza between the Georgia Dome and Philips Arena.

City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and Councilman Michael Julian Bond listen to Frank Poe at ground-breaking ceremony (Photos by Maria Saporta)
City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and Councilman Michael Julian Bond listen to Frank Poe at ground-breaking ceremony (Photos by Maria Saporta)

Everyone attending the ground-breaking ceremony had been given 3-D glasses, and the film began to roll complete with a three-dimensional falcon flying from the crowd into the almost lifelike stadium.

At key moments of the 3-D film, big flames of fire shot out from both sides of the screen, and then the fireworks went off. Yes, one would not be able to experience this from one’s living room. Fans would need to come to the stadium in person to fully touch and feel the uniqueness of what will be the new Atlanta Falcons stadium.

As everyone celebrated the moment, a major sales pitch was underway.

All the NFL team owners are in town for their meeting tomorrow when they will award the 2018 Super Bowl city. They will choose between New Orleans, Minneapolis an Indianapolis.

But Atlanta, under a perfect night with a perfect temperature, was hoping NFL owners were getting good vibes that would carry over until next year when they would be awarding the 2019 Super Bowl.

Don Garber of Major  League Soccer addresses crowd at ground-breaking
Don Garber of Major
League Soccer addresses crowd at ground-breaking

Atlanta intends to bid for the 2019 Super Bowl. It will know in October when it will be one of the three shortlisted cities that the NFL will consider for the 2019 Super Bowl. They are expected to make their pick a year from now.

Meanwhile, Atlanta has a three-year strategy for three major sporting events, according to Dan Corso, executive director of the Atlanta Sports Council.

In November, the Final Four cities will be announced for 2019 and 2020. Atlanta is hoping that it will get one of those years, possibly 2020.

Then it would hope to get the Super Bowl for 2019, a decision that would be made next spring.

The last major event would be the College Football Playoff Games. Atlanta hopes to win the 2018 match up, but that decision likely won’t be made until the fall of 2015.

Bain Consulting's Duriya Farooqui, former Atlanta COO, listens to speakers
Bain Consulting’s Duriya Farooqui, former Atlanta COO, listens to speakers
Bain Consulting’s Duriya Farooqui, former Atlanta COO, listens to speakers

It will be rather amazing if all of the major sporting events fall into place in sequence in back-to-back years.

But Blank and MLS’ Garber have even bigger ideas. Think World Cup.

During his remarks, Blank told Atlanta representatives to tell Goodell and Garber about the importance of getting the Super Bowl in Atlanta as well as the MLS All Stars and friendly international soccer matches.

When Mayor Reed got to the podium and welcomed Goodell, he said he was always welcome to come to Atlanta – especially when he would be announcing that Atlanta winning a Super Bowl bid.

“We are all here to support Arthur and this great city,” Goodell said when he was at the podium. “Stadiums are not just bricks and mortar. It will be a great economic driver for this community.”

3-D movie wows the crowd
3-D movie wows the crowd
Flames light the screen
Flames light the screen
Flames overtake the screen
Flames overtake the screen
Then come the fireworks
Then come the fireworks
Dignitaries prepare to break ground
Dignitaries prepare to break ground
Ground is officially broken
Ground is officially broken
Arthur Blank and his associates pose for pictures after the ground-breaking
Arthur Blank and his associates pose for pictures after the ground-breaking

Maria Saporta, executive editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state. From 2008 to 2020, she wrote weekly columns...

Join the Conversation


  1. The World Cup in 2022? FIFA has already awarded it to Qatar. While that was and still is a contentious issue, FIFA has given little indication that it might cancel Qatar’s hosting it. Not even the death of over 900 workers building the stadiums there in hellish conditions has yet altered FIFA’s determination to hold the World Cup there in 2022.

  2. @No  You must suck at math. Most of the stadium cost are being paid for by Arthur Blank. Yes – the Hotel Tax will continue. Do you think it would have gone away if we stuck with the Georgia Dome? Dome stadiums need some serious TLC after 25 years. 
    And who really pays for the Hotel tax? Hotel owners.  Who would rather have a new stadium driving new revenues instead of the status quo? Hotel owners. Who seems to be very happy about the stadium deal? Hotel owners. 
    Also really happy with the deal, the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta. 
    Remember that the state is the one that wanted the roof. The state currently makes tons of money on the dome. More money from a Falcons ticket goes to the state than to Arthur. The new stadium will send a lot more revenue to Arthur, but the state still wanted some skin in the game (and needed the facility to be next to the GWCC to drive event revenue). The city and state will recoup their relatively small investments in infrastructure and land just in new tax revenues. It’s called sensible investment. 
    Hopefully, you’re just as mad about the  $950 million we going to spend fixing the 400/285 interchange.It’s “swindling public money” on the “power brokers” who own land up 400.

  3. @Michael  
    You are choking on the Kool-Aid my man.  Is Arthur Blank the new Jim Jones?  Seems to be for some of you wild-eyed folk. 

    Hotel customers actually pay the tax, and that is money the average tourist on a fixed budget would have spent elsewhere.  So that money goes into Blank’s pocket – instead of to a local store or restaurant.  Keep drinking the Kool-Aid though, must taste mighty good!

  4. Steve Wise  
    Sunil Gulati said last October the US will not bother to even bid again unless FIFA seriously cleans up its act – which is very unlikely if you know anything about FIFA.  FIFA is not going to cancel Qatar. Too many people were bribed with way too much money. “Would we be interested
    in bidding for 2026? The procedures would need to be very different to
    what they are now,” Gulati told the Leaders in Football conference in
    “If the critical issue is taking it to new lands, then tell us in
    advance, because we won’t bother.
    “The rules need to be clearer and tighter. And the process needs to be
    better. If you are stepping onto a field of play, you know what the
    rules are.
    “We’d want more clarity on the bidding and the whole process. For
    instance, is there going to be a system of rotation, or not? This needs
    to be established well enough in advance so people know.
    “Also, my personal view is that it should also be a public vote. And the
    technical report should matter in some concrete way, otherwise it’s an
    unnecessary expenditure of funds and time.”

  5. Here’s a little Hotel tax 101 for you, since you are a little slow. If the total price for the room is too high, customers will stay someplace else. Hotel owners have to consider the tax when setting their rates. They can only change what the market can bear. If the total cost per room is too high, no one is planning a convention at an Atlanta hotel.

  6. @Michael Agree 100%. MARTA will cheaply take you to locations where hotel rooms are cheaper and you don’t pay the hotel tax. Many do the same in DC, NYC, and other major convention cities.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.