Opposition To A New Stadium

Dec 28, 2012

Should tax revenue help pay for a stadium that would replace the Georgia Dome?

The Georgia Dome
Credit Charles Edwards / WABE News

On that issue, Common Cause Georgia started out neutral. Now, the open government advocate says no.

At its meetings, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority’s board talks about and votes on new stadium developments. Those meetings are open to the public.

“The public can come to their meetings if they want to and listen in but don’t really have the opportunity to give input or even speak before the board,” said Common Cause Georgia Executive Director William Perry.

Common Cause Georgia executive director William Perry standing in front of the Georgia Dome.
Credit Charles Edwards / WABE News

The Falcons and the Authority can legally negotiate the deal in private. But, Perry argues talks should be public.

“If you’re not going to hear from the public, then you ought not to use the public’s money,” said Perry.

Under the deal, about $300 million in hotel/motel tax revenue would help pay off the stadium’s billion dollar construction loan. To get the loan, the state will have to raise the Congress Center’s credit limit. Perry will ask lawmakers to say no.

“Until the Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center do a better job in engaging the public and showing this is a worthwhile investment of public money,” said Perry.

On the other side, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority will lobby for state approval.

“We’re simply providing factual information to legislators so that they understand that the deal that we’ve crafted is in the best interest of the Authority, of the state and the citizens of Georgia,” said GWCCA spokeswoman Jennifer LeMaster.

Georgia World Congress Center Authority communications director Jennifer LeMaster
Credit Jennifer LeMaster

The Falcons would pay about $700 million of the new stadium’s cost. LeMaster says the Authority and its board don’t take public input lightly.

“Because this isn’t a city council meeting and there isn’t a public forum for people to stand up and give speeches or testimonies doesn’t mean that public comment isn’t being received,” said LeMaster.

The stadium would be built near Atlanta’s Vine City and English Avenue neighborhoods. LeMaster says the Congress Center has been talking to neighborhood planning groups, churches and others.