Venue News: Falcons Reach Deal to Build New Stadium; Public Funding for Venue Construction Faces Growing Opposition

Compiled by Karen Hogan, Associate Editor, Sports Video Group

After years of negotiations, the Atlanta Falcons will get what they wanted: a new stadium to replace the Georgia Dome, which is barely two decades old. On Thursday, city officials and the team announced a deal to build a $1 billion stadium with a retractable roof in downtown Atlanta, with the team picking up 80% of the cost and the remaining 20 percent financed by hotel bed taxes in Atlanta. The tentative agreement – which still must be approved by the Atlanta City Council and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority – keeps the Falcons in the city and raises the probability that the Super Bowl will return to Georgia in the coming years…

…Maybe Falcons owner Arthur Blank should count himself lucky he’s on the verge of getting any public funding for a new $1 billion stadium. The billionaire’s tentative agreement with Atlanta’s mayor for $200 million in public funds toward the construction of a retractable-roof stadium comes amid growing public backlash for using taxpayer support to finance pro football facilities. Efforts to renovate or build new NFL stadiums in Miami, Charlotte, and Minneapolis have faced the same sort of opposition that led Gov. Nathan Deal and state lawmakers to punt the debate to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. Polls in Atlanta and elsewhere have shown widespread opposition to the public financing of sports facilities, although Reed has said the support is much higher when only voters in Atlanta are surveyed. Yet despite the pushback, the public often ends up ponying up the money…

…The Miami Dolphins effort to win state help for stadium renovations is moving in the Florida Legislature but the fight keeps getting harder. A House panel on Friday became the third legislative committee so far this year to approve a bill that would guarantee $3 million a year in state money for the next 30 years to help pay for stadium upgrades. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wants to use state and local dollars to help pay for $400 million worth of renovations to Sun Life Stadium, originally named Joe Robbie Stadium when it opened in 1987.  Dolphins management as well as other South Florida backers contend that the renovations will help the area in an effort to lure the Super Bowl for its 50th anniversary. But the renovations will also benefit the University of Miami Hurricanes and could help the state lure international soccer games…

…Should the City of Edmonton be coming up with a backup plan for how it will fund the downtown arena project? That seems to be the $100 million question, following Thursday’s provincial budget announcement.  In January, the city and the Katz Group signed off on a new framework agreement for the arena. However, $100 million in provincial funding was still missing. Mayor Stephen Mandel says he has been reassured numerous times the money is coming, but there was no announcement of any funding in this year’s provincial budget…

…With progress stalled in the effort to seal a deal for the $300 million rehab of Wrigley Field, the alderman who represents the area is talking tough about his terms of agreement. Ald. Thomas Tunney, 44th, said Thursday that he would not sign off on a deal unless it included more parking, better police protection and “aesthetic” assurances sought by Wrigleyville residents and businesses — all issues that have yet to be settled.  The Rickettses have maintained that a deal needs to get done by opening day in early April so they can line up the contractors and materials needed to fix up their aging ballpark, but Tunney dismissed that concern.