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Financing terms reached for new Falcons stadium

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 7, 2013 at 5:45 pm •  Published: March 7, 2013

ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta's mayor and Falcons owner Arthur Blank have agreed to financing terms for a new $1 billion, retractable-roof stadium to replace the 20-year-old Georgia Dome and keep the team's home games in the city's downtown, the two men said Thursday.

Mayor Kasim Reed said the city would provide $200 million of construction costs through bonds backed by the city's hotel-motel tax. The Falcons franchise, owned by Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank, would provide $800 million and be responsible for construction cost overruns.

The Falcons would pay for up to $50 million in infrastructure costs not included in the construction budget and help retire the last few years of debt on the Georgia Dome, which was publicly financed entirely using the hotel-motel tax.

Also, Blank's private foundation and the city each would spend $15 million on surrounding neighborhood development.

Blank — who has built his football franchise into a perennial playoff contender — still must negotiate a detailed lease and operating agreement with the Georgia World Congress Center. That's the state agency that owns the existing dome and would own the replacement. Reed also must get the blessing of the Atlanta City Council, though several members attended the announcement in the mayor's office, as did Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.

Officials said the deal presumes the stadium would be built immediately south of the existing Georgia Dome, though that is contingent on securing adjacent property that is not yet publicly owned. A secondary site is available several blocks north of the current stadium.

The Georgia Dome would be demolished after the new stadium opens.

The Thursday announcement, which took on a celebratory tone at City Hall, comes after months of private negotiations — and several years of planning and studies — involving the governor's office, the World Congress Center Authority and the mayor's office, among others.

Reed called the arrangement "a great public-private partnership" that will benefit the city and the state.

City Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell said he was encouraged by the mayor's announcement, and he promised public hearings in the near future.

Deal praised the agreement, as well. At one time, the governor was the focal point of negotiations, when Blank sought $300 million in state debt to $700 million from him. Deal never publicly endorsed or rejected that split, but it became clear that the General Assembly was unwilling to raise the state's debt limit to accommodate the bond sale.

So now the city is left to sell the bonds using the tourism tax — a move authorized by the legislature — to pay back investors.

Blank called it "a win-win" and promised that the new stadium will help the city continue to compete for all major events, including the Super Bowl. "That's the only secret ballot in the NFL," he said. "We'll have to earn it. But this public support is an important piece."

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