Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank has to be feeling pretty good. One week after the team's season-opening win on the road, the Denver Broncos are in town for the sold-out home opener, and plans for a new stadium with a retractable roof that will earn the Falcons millions of additional dollars seem to be coming together.
That is good news for the Falcons and some of their fans.
"I think they need a new stadium," said Jenaya Urrutia, a Falcons fan. "Twenty years, they need a new stadium, it's about time."
The Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which operates the Dome, said a new stadium is needed because its largest customer, the Falcons, wants one and the area needs a new stadium in order to continue attracting high-end events like the Super Bowl.
But with a potential total price tag of $1.2 billion and tax payers on the hook for as much as $300 million or more, some want to sack the stadium plan.
"We don't need this project right now," said Barbara Payne with the Fulton County Tax Payer Association.
Payne said she doesn't believe taxpayers should pay a single cent.
"I think the better idea would be what the gentlemen did in Dallas," Payne said. "He owned the team, he paid for the stadium."*
In 2010, state lawmakers passed legislation paving the way for money generated from the hotel/motel tax to be spent on a new stadium.
State Rep. Mike Dudgeon, R-Alpharetta, who wasn't in office at the time that legislation was passed, said his colleagues made a mistake.
"I know a lot of other states like Florida use the hotel/motel tax to offset their own state taxpayer money, like not having an income tax for example," Dudgeon said. "There is other things you could spend that money on."
"I mean, we already have enough problems as far as billions of dollars in pension funds and healthcare funds for city employees, billions of dollars underfunded, and now we are talking about a billion-dollar project for a stadium we don't need," she said. "What is more important, city of Atlanta workers or stadium?"
Currently, unless new legislation is passed, money from the hotel/motel tax can only be spent on the stadium.
CBS Atlanta News asked Dudgeon why laws couldn't be passed to use taxpayer money for things like schools or road repairs if it could be used for stadiums.
"You are absolutely right. The General Assembly certainly could allocate that hotel/motel tax to something like transportation, the BeltLine," Dudgeon said. "I'm not sure about the legality of education, but certainly there is a ton of other uses, sewer infrastructure, all kinds of other things that could be used that I believe are higher priorities than a stadium."
CBS Atlanta News then asked Dudgeon why using the money for what he considered to be higher priorities wasn't done.
"I don't know," he said. "That is a great question."
*Note: Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, received $300 million in taxpayer funding to help build a new stadium for the team.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Friday, May 17 2013 7:16 PM EDT2013-05-17 23:16:53 GMT
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