From Atlanta's WSB Radio, it was announced today that "a framework for funding" for a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons has been unanimously approved by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. The GWCCA is a board that manages the Georgia Dome, the Georgia World Congress Center (the city's major convention center), the Centennial Olympic Park, and other related facilities on behalf of the State of Georgia. The new stadium, which will feature a retractable roof, is currently slated to cost up to $1 billion and is expected to open in 2017.
$300 million of the overall price tag will come from the public: a mix of funds from a hotel tax and other revenue sources, while Falcons owner Arthur Blank and the NFL will pay the rest and are responsible for any cost overruns. The State of Georgia will own the new stadium but Blank and the Falcons will actually run it, and therefore collect ALL the revenue. Any profit from naming rights on the venue will go to the Falcons. Apparently that's the cost of doing business with pro sports teams.
The Falcons will pay rent to the GWCCA, starting at $2.5 million a year. With the stadium officially putting aside fears that the Falcons would leave town, the Falcons are expected to sign a 30 year lease coinciding with the stadium opening.
According to this article from SB Nation Atlanta, the new stadium is slated to seat 65,000, a downsizing from the Georgia Dome's capacity of 71,250 but the new stadium will have the ability to expand to 75,000 for events like the Super Bowl, college bowl games, NCAA Final Fours, etc.
The new stadium will have 7,500 club seats over the Georgia Dome's 4.600 plus an increase in suites and will feature 111 suites with room for expansion. Also, since the roof will be retractable, there are plans to have a natural grass field while the Dome has always had to have an artificial surface (first Astroturf with an upgrade to Fieldturf in 2003).
The 71,250-seat Georgia Dome opened in 1992, and received a major renovation in 2006. Those renovations were mostly to the premium seating areas but also new audio/visual components in the dome, plus cosmetic changes. Stadium Journey's own John McCurdy reviewed the Georgia Dome game experiences of both the Falcons and the Georgia State Panthers, coming away less than enthused with the 20 year old stadium. Once the new facility opens, the idea was posited that the Georgia Dome would stay around, repurposed as additional space for trade shows and other conventions. Currently, as this rundown of the project's facts from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution mentions, the Dome is now expected to be demolished and, at least initially, be replaced with surface parking lots.
The contracts will officially be signed in January and construction is expected to take three years. Though no official location for the new facility has been announced, it is expected that it will be located in one of two lots near the Dome and Philips Arena. We'll keep you updated as images are released to the public.
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