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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

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.



  1. Joe Seconder July 30, 2013 10:48 am

    Crazy!! I want MARTA access!!!Report

  2. JoeSeconder July 30, 2013 10:51 am

    The new stadium needs to have MARTA rail access. Turner Field is NOT the model to have to have access to public transportation / rail within walking distance. The north site is NOT the key to success for our future generations. We have to provide alternatives other than motor vehicles to get to events.Report

  3. Christopher Ryan Smith July 30, 2013 11:52 am

    Sadly, if the Falcons decide to build at a location that has no MARTA access, is disassociated from the rest of Downtown, and, therefore, requires an ocean of parking (Southside, Westside… are we really going to bookend the central city with parking, horizon to horizon?!?) while leaving that enormous space open and dead between Downtown and the AUC, then I will no longer support this new stadium. Maria, your recent articles concerning this stadium debacle, Morris Brown and the rest have gotten me all depressed! So much hope and excitement grinding to a close. Yet another good idea killed off and left to oblivion in the A-T-L? Frustrating and senseless.Report

  4. SeasonTicketHolder July 30, 2013 12:27 pm

    Marta will be closer than the parking lot I tailgate in…QUIT WHININGReport

  5. Chris July 30, 2013 2:13 pm

    People already easily walk the distance from the north site (which is currently a parking lot) to the Ga Dome. That’s about the same distance it will be from two MARTA stations to the stadium when it is on the north site.  “Not connected to the congress center” is just an exaggeration. The north site is across the street from the congress center. I think the Falcons never wanted the south site, but played along with the city to get their approval; the Falcons have already been accused of trying to destroy two historic churches, and they do NOT need that baggage. This is NOT the same as the distance from MARTA to Turner Field, which is way too far for many folks to walk. The whole congress center site, including the stadium in the north site, will be SMALLER than the parking lot next to Turner Field. Come on people, quit flogging false issues.Report


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