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.