NFL Commissioner: A new stadium key to a future Atlanta Super Bowl

By Maria Saporta

The message was clear Thursday night.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear that if Atlanta ever wants to host another Super Bowl, it needs to build a new football stadium.

Goodell shared those sentiments during a pre-game reception on the roof-top of the Metro Atlanta Chamber — in front of both Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Gov.-elect Nathan Deal.

Asked about Atlanta’s chances of getting a future Super Bowl, Goodell quickly brought up the possibility of a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.

“I think there are a couple of really positive developments on that front with the vision for what your are going to try to create with a new stadium,” Goodell said.

The NFL Commissioner, who admitted that he does not have a vote on picking Super Bowl cities, clearly holds great sway in helping owners pick the winning cities.

And it was clear that the National Football League prefers an outdoor stadium. Goodell talked about how it’s best for the game to “be played in the elements.”

Goodell was then asked a follow-up question as to whether Atlanta had to build a new stadium before it got another Super Bowl.

“I think that’s going to be a critical component,” Goodell said, adding that the competition for Super Bowls is intense and that several other teams in the NFL have built new stadiums.

“There are a lot of new stadiums,” Goodell said. “It raises the level of competition of what Atlanta will be up against.”

The NFL has a shown a clear preference for rewarding cities that have invested in new facilities and picking them for future Super Bowls.

Blank has been scouting locations for a new stadium, and the leading site for an outdoor facility is along Northside Drive near North Avenue.

Currently, the Atlanta Falcons play in the state-owned, indoor Georgia Dome, and there is concern about the community’s ability to financially support both an Atlanta Falcons stadium and the Dome.

Meanwhile, during the last legislative session, the General Assembly voted to extend the hotel-motel tax that currently pays off the debt on the Georgia Dome towards renovating the current stadium or building a new one as long as it’s part of the campus of the Georgia World Congress Center.

After Goodell’s comments, I asked Gov.-elect Deal his thoughts about building a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.

“I certainly believe in the commitment that’s been made on the hotel-motel tax and the state bonds,” Deal said. “I look forward to learning more about the plans. It is important to have the Commissioner here tonight to discuss those plans.”

Asked about his thoughts on building a new stadium versus renovating the Georgia Dome, Deal said: “I’ve only had brief discussions on it.” But he added that he believed there could be alternative uses for the Georgia Dome if the Atlanta Falcons end up building a new facility.

In the end, it will all come down to money. A new stadium could cost between $500 million and $750 million. Blank has said he would be willing to share in the cost of building a new stadium, but it is expected that the deal also would need more public support than just the hotel-motel tax that currently goes to the Georgia Dome.

The governor-elect then left the roof-top reception and went to the Georgia Dome where he was a guest in Blank’s executive suite for the Thursday night football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Baltimore Ravens.

The Atlanta Falcons won a thrilling game, retaking the lead with less than a minute to go. The final score was: 26 to 21.

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.

12 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    I am sick and tired of taxpayers being forced to pay for new sporting venues to benefit millionaires. The most irksome part of the process is that the taxpayers have no say in the matter. I think that the team owners and the fans attending the games should pay since they receive whatever benefits accrue. Should Mr. Blank threaten to take his team somewhere else if he is not presented with a new stadium at public expense, I say let him leave. If that happens, hell will freeze over before I darken the door of a Home Depot again.Report

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  2. AJ says:

    Burroughston – That’s all good and well, but that’s not the reality of professional stadiums in America. It’s all about competition for big events whether it’s the Super Bowl or NCAA Basketball or a College Bowl Game. The argument is that these taxpayer funded stadiums will make money in the future, thus a positive return on investment. Everyone complains about taxpayer funds being spent. No one ever comments on profits (if there are any, which I don’t know one way or the other if there are)Report

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  3. Donald says:

    AJ is exactly right. All you ever hear is people complaining “Why should the taxpayers have to foot the bill for some millionaire?”

    Do you have any idea how much the city and state benefit from sporting events and all of the other revenue that stadiums bring in? I mean, tomorrow morning tickets go on sale for Wrestlemania. That is projected to provide between $45 and $60 million in revenue for the city.

    So answer me this— if Aurthur Blank goes out and buys property and builds a stadium with his own money, then does he get to keep every dime in revenue?

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either the city shares the cost and the benefit, or it shouldn’t get either. Cities help fund stadiums because, unlike many of you, they understand what an investment is.Report

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  4. Big Al says:

    Burroughston – If the public gets no benefit from the Falcons being here (which must be your point if you hold they should not pay anything), why would you boycott Home Depot if the Falcons left?Report

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  5. Burroughston Broch says:

    AJ, you have been drinking too much of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and NFL kool-aid. The argument you make is worthless. Plenty of studies have shown that the much-ballyhooed tax and employment benefits don’t materialize. There are profits for the team owners who get a venue at a reduced price. If it’s such a great deal for the taxpayers, then PUT IT TO A VOTE. That’s hardly ever done because the polticians, chamber staff and team owners know that it wouldn’t pass.

    Donald, you hit it on the head. Let Blank build his own stadium out of his own pocket and then he can keep all of the revenue. I would be happy because the fans would pay for it and I wouldn’t have to contribute a dime. Please read my response to AJ about the great benefits to the city.

    Big Al, you’re right – I mis-stated. What I mean is that, if the taxpayers are forced to build a stadium for Blank, I will spend my money at Lowe’s and not at Home Depot. The only way I can express my displeasure is to ding the return on his investments.Report

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  6. Leadbelly says:

    The Kraft’s financed Foxboro on their own with relatively little public investment (for roadway upgrades). Let blank take the financial risk and reap the rewards or losses…..free market at its best.
    If the Falcons leave, so what? If this town identifies itself by a football team, then the priorities are screwed up.Report

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  7. Mason Hicks says:

    My question is why can Charlotte get an NFL stadium largely free of taxpayer funding and Atlanta cannot? The city of Charlotte aquired the site and paid for the construction of parking deck, adjacent to what is now called Bank of America Stadium. This parking deck serves the city very well throughout the week and throughout the year. The financing of the stadium was handled through the sale of Personal Seat Licenses, (PSLs) which give PSL owners first option for season ticket sales; and also through stadium naming rights.
    I am not making an argument denying the benefit that having a well supported NFL franchise has for the city, but I do not see granting Arthur Blank his every wish on the fear that he will pull the Falcons out of Atlanta, especially before he has even made such a threat.
    Quite frankly, Atlanta has tremendously more pressing needs for the financing that such an endeavor would require. The cost of not dealing with the city’s and the region’s transportation problems would far exceed any potential benefit, having another Super Bowl would bring. The very idea of abandoning the Georgia Dome being centered in the city’s heart and at core of our transit system in favor of a new facility outside the city core, and not served by anything other than I-75 is maddening.
    Does one really believe that the NFL ownership will be glossed over by slick drawings of a shiny new stadium and not look at how it functions within the city? Will they not ask how all the expected throngs of visiting fans will get from the stadium grounds to the activity centers which in fact would most definitely be centered in or near the city’s heart?.
    I would support the city’s involvement in a renovation and/or a re-roofing (perhaps a retractable roof) of the Georgia Dome, if Mr Blank were to make a significant, in kind contribution towards solving the city’s trasportation issues; perhaps in the context of financial support for commuter rail service to the proposed downtown Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal.
    No question that he and the Falcons would greatly benefit from that…Report

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  8. df says:

    A note to all FAT politicians(Deal), big business(NFL,Goodell,& Blank) and the media: The days of working together to promote your own agendas and financial interests to us “common folks” are OVER so please STOP insulting your constituents, customers, and readers by staging and promoting your own agendas as a “news story”. How stupid do you all think we are? I hope Deal had a great time being watching the game in Blank’s suite but I hope he understands the potential ramifications. GA Voters will no longer accept having our elected officials being compromised with these “cozy relationships and meetings”. And how stupid does Goodell sound saying NFL preferred SuperBowl “be played in the elements.” I thought GA Dome was built for the exact opposite reason that fans preferred an indoor climate-controlled environment so whose to say by the time we built an “outdoor arena” the latest fad would be back to domes? I think it’s best we stop making the same stupid decisions that got this country in the current mess we’re in now and start taking care of the “needs” of all Atlantans/Georgians first (water,sewer, etc.) and only after those needs are fully met does the topic of conversation turn to the “wants” of anybody. And when that time comes, put it to vote and let the chips fall where they may.Report

    Reply

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