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Falcons Fans Have Their Stadium Say


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By Tim Tucker

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Marcus Camp, a season-ticket holder since the Falcons moved into the Georgia Dome 20 years ago, doesn’t think the team needs a new stadium, especially not at taxpayer expense.

If one is built, however, he favors a retractable roof that can be opened to “Atlanta’s sunshine and blue skies” and closed when “it is below 40 degrees and raining.”

Falcons fans such as Camp don’t have a seat at the table for the ongoing negotiations between the team and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, the state agency that operates the Dome and 14 months ago agreed to pursue a deal on a new stadium, but they want to be heard.

Many fans who shared their opinions with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in interviews and emails objected to the

Falcons moving from the Dome to a roof-less, open-air stadium, which is the team’s stated preference. Others endorsed the idea, contending football is meant to be played outdoors. And almost all expressed concern about the cost of a new stadium to taxpayers and ticket buyers.

Parrish Walton, who has had

Falcons season tickets for three years, spoke up for the Dome, sort of: “I think the Dome is not as nice, obviously, as these new, ridiculous buildings they have in other cities for the NFL, but I think it serves its purpose. And I don’t think Atlanta fans would go to an open-air stadium in weather that was even remotely poor.”

Michael Smith, a season-ticket holder for 14 years, said he and many who sit near him in Section 202 plan to cancel their tickets if the

Falcons move into an open-air stadium at the mercy of the weather. He would prefer a retractable-roof facility such as 4-year-old Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where he enjoyed a Falcons-Colts game last season.

Countered John Burke, who attends two or three

Falconsgames per season: “I prefer outdoor sporting events, even if the weather is less than desirable. I do not want a retractable roof because it makes the lighting in the stadium really weird.”

The possibility of an open-air stadium, which would become the

Falcons’ home while the Georgia Dome would continue to house events that require an indoor facility, has gotten the most attention since a GWCC-commissioned study last year determined one could be built on a site a half mile north of the Dome.

But the

Falcons and the GWCC Authority also have kept two other options on the table: a new retractable-roof stadium on the nearby site that would replace the Dome and a massive renovation/rebuilding of the Dome with a retractable roof on its current site.

Two years ago, the

Falcons objected to a retractable roof because of the added cost, but the continued examination of the possibility underscores the fluidness of the process.

Concerns about cost

Regardless of their roof preference, fans fret the costs of a second football stadium.

“I just don’t see how a city of 5 million people could support two stadiums,” said Tim Brayboy, who is considering buying season tickets. “If [

Falcons owner Arthur Blank] wants to spend all his own money and build a stadium next to the Dome, that’s fine, but I don’t see using taxpayer money in these times. If they want to do a retrofit to the Dome and make it retractable, I could see that.”

Burke, among others, expressed concern that ticket prices would skyrocket in a new stadium and that fans would be asked to pay big bucks for permanent seat licenses (PSLs) in order to be eligible to buy season tickets. PSLs often are part of the financing plan for new stadiums, and the

Falcons have been noncommittal about whether they would be used here.

“My concern, looking at what has gone on with new stadiums in New York and Dallas, is whether tickets can remain in reach of average folks in the market,” said Carlos Vilela, who became a

Falcons fan around the time Blank bought the team. “When I start hearing all the different features a stadium could have — bigger screens, retractable roofs — I start thinking my hot dog is going to go to $9.”

Others said more details need to be unveiled about how a new stadium would enhance the game-day experience.

The

Falcons would not comment for this article, citing the ongoing negotiations. The team’s previously stated position is that the organization will have completed its commitment to the Dome when the bonds that funded the building’s construction are paid off late this decade, and that a long-term lease in a new venue will be needed at that point to compete economically with other teams.

Neil Glat, NFL senior vice president of corporate development, said the design trend in new stadiums is toward “buildings that are generally bigger than what the Dome is.” He said the additional square footage doesn’t mean more seats, but “more space for comfort and more space for amenities,” such as club areas, restaurants, larger concourses, team stores, team halls of fame and high-tech fan attractions.

“What’s important to understand is even if a building physically is not obsolete, [it] can become economically obsolete,” said Glat, who works on stadium deals league-wide.

“After 1992, when the Dome opened, the NFL really had a stadium boom. ... You do get to a point where, how do you compete in a league where, economically, people are in newer facilities that have the amenities that allow them to generate the premium dollars needed?”

Said Chicago-based sports business consultant Marc Ganis: “What you find with stadiums is that the economic obsolescence cycle keeps speeding up.”

Who pays?

Lou Bassett, a 10-year

Falcons season-ticket holder, said he “understand that Blank needs a new stadium to get his revenue PIRATED VIDEO IS ILLEGAL competitive with other owners,” but added that he would not be excited as a fan about the team leaving the Dome. “Great place to watch a game, great memories there.”

A number of fans expressed sticker shock at the escalation in stadium costs since the Dome was built for $214 million.

A new stadium is projected to cost about $700 million, plus another $150 million to $200 million if it gets a retractable roof. The

Falcons and the GWCC have referred to the project as a public-private partnership, but details have not been worked out about financing.

The Georgia

Legislature two years ago agreed to extend the hotel-motel tax from 2020 to 2050 as a funding mechanism for a renovated Georgia Dome or a new stadium on GWCC property. Estimates were that the tax would cover $300 million to $400 million in stadium cost.

Another funding source likely would be the “G-4” stadium-construction program enacted by NFL owners in December. The

Falcons, Glat said, would be eligible for as much as $200 million from the league toward a new stadium — provided the team, or Blank, puts up a matching amount to make the total private contribution at least $400 million.

Glat said $50 million of a $200 million league contribution would be a loan to be repaid by the

Falcons and another $100 million would be repaid from incremental increases in the visiting-team share of revenues in the new stadium. If the stadium failed to generate sufficient new revenue, the Falcons would be responsible for the balance of the $100 million.

As the complex process continues to develop, some season-ticket holders want the

Falcons to seek their input.

“They send us emails about stuff all the time,” said Smith, the 14-year season-ticket holder, “but not once have they asked our opinion about what kind of stadium we’d prefer. That’s my biggest gripe.”

Edited by jesushchristo
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As I have said in previous posts, the day the Falcons start requiring a Permanent Seat License (or whatever they decide to call them) is the day I'm dropping my season tickets.

Just look at Dallas' fairly new Cowboys Stadium – a very impressive stadium I must admit (and I have attended games there,) but to say it's overbuilt is an understatement. To meet expenses the Cowboys fans are getting financially raped at almost every turn. (Talking with them in the parking lots, many Cowboys fans are not too pleased with Jerry Jones.) Same thing with that monstrosity at Meadowlands, New Jersey – it takes some serious dedication (and deep pockets) to be a Giants or Jets ticket holder today. (Yes, New York tickets would be expensive in any case, but the new stadium used by both the Giants and Jets just makes it all the worst. Also, I can hardly wait to see – on TV - the Feb. 2014 Super Bowl scheduled to be played there.)

There's a joke regarding the government purchase of an expensive piece of equipment: when the expense is divided by the number of taxpayers, the cost is really nothing since the share to each individual taxpayer is so miniscule as not noticeable. I consider that same mindset is one thing that's driving a new Atlanta stadium – many Georgia residences believe they won't really have to pay anything for it. Don't you believe it.

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I can get behind a huge renovation of the Georgia Dome in making it bigger and putting a retractable roof on it. That's got to be cheaper than a completely new stadium. The Falcons would have to move their home games somewhere else for a couple of years while they do that. I really would like a new stadium of some kind. The Dome has served it's purpose but it is outdated.

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I've had season tickets for 15 years. If they go to PSL's I will definitely without a doubt not renew. As for the "football is meant to be played outdoors crowd" I'm sure it looks cool on TV but when I've been tailgating in the crap for hours it would be nice to find shelter for a few hours and watch the game.

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I've had season tickets for 15 years. If they go to PSL's I will definitely without a doubt not renew. As for the "football is meant to be played outdoors crowd" I'm sure it looks cool on TV but when I've been tailgating in the crap for hours it would be nice to find shelter for a few hours and watch the game.

That's why a retractable roof stadium makes perfect sense. There are plenty of pleasant fall days in Atlanta to play football in.

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As a Brit, I spend 95% of my sporting endeavors at the mercy of the elements.

All of our major games are outside, and the atmosphere is great. But we are used to cold and rain, and a lot of the time it adds to it.

Having seen all of the NFL london games live though, the quality of the games is significantly reduced if the field isn't up to scratch... not exaclty in keeping with having explosive aerial attacks. The one exception was the saints chargers...

I vote indoors for quality of game, or outdoors for architectural beauty and atmosphere..

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As a Brit, I spend 95% of my sporting endeavors at the mercy of the elements.

All of our major games are outside, and the atmosphere is great. But we are used to cold and rain, and a lot of the time it adds to it.

Having seen all of the NFL london games live though, the quality of the games is significantly reduced if the field isn't up to scratch... not exaclty in keeping with having explosive aerial attacks. The one exception was the saints chargers...

I vote indoors for quality of game, or outdoors for architectural beauty and atmosphere..

Well put. Totally agree.

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I just hate ow when i go to the games there is no shop, so show room, like i am at a motor cross event or something. We need a Falcons building. On TV you see these great stadiums with great food and shops and teams Hall of Fame area. There is none of that at the GD. Kind of lame actually.

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The dome is really a fine stadium. I don't understand everyone's rush to get a new stadium. I understand that everyone looks at New York, Dallas and Indy and think, "Man, we have to keep up with these guys" but really it's not that big of a deal. I wonder if in 1992 when the dome opened they thought it would only be used for about 25 years? The way I see it it needs to be a retractable roof stadium. But I believe it should be another 10 years or so before we even break ground.

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The dome is really a fine stadium. I don't understand everyone's rush to get a new stadium. I understand that everyone looks at New York, Dallas and Indy and think, "Man, we have to keep up with these guys" but really it's not that big of a deal. I wonder if in 1992 when the dome opened they thought it would only be used for about 25 years? The way I see it it needs to be a retractable roof stadium. But I believe it should be another 10 years or so before we even break ground.

Because it de-values the team to not own a stadium. We don't need some insane theme park stadium, but the organization needs to have SOMETHING. Even if they build an exact replica of the GA Dome, it needs to be owned by the Falcons and not rented.

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Retractable roofs are an eyesore. Play outdoors (my preference) or indoors. RRs do both, but they do them both badly.

If you live across the street from the dome I guess it could be an eyesore. If you just attend the games then thats not a lot of times you'd have to look at it.

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I just hate ow when i go to the games there is no shop, so show room, like i am at a motor cross event or something. We need a Falcons building. On TV you see these great stadiums with great food and shops and teams Hall of Fame area. There is none of that at the GD. Kind of lame actually.

Good idea but they'd for sure need a new location with more room. My main gripe is the FOOD COSTS SO MUCH. The stadium or whomever controls the food is ripping us off big time!

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I’ve been a STH the last 10 years so I’ll chime in. I personally hope we build the outdoor stadium similar to the master plan released about a year ago.

In the article, one of the STH added that he would not be excited as a fan about the team leaving the Dome. “Great place to watch a game, great memories there.”

I have some great memories of Fulton County Stadium also but it’s time to move on.

Winning sells tickets not the weather.

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