Atlanta City Council approves stadium financing plan

Vote came after divided public comment and amendment debates


The Atlanta City Council on Monday night voted 11-4 to approve a financing deal that paves the way for a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. The move OKs using the city’s lucrative hotel and motel tax to pay out at least $200 million to help build the estimated $1 billion athletic complex planned for downtown.

The vote followed several hours of divided public comment and discussion over proposed amendments. Council members ultimately added language to the legislation that requires the Falcons to fund up to $20 million in additional infrastructure costs, and prohibits the city from tapping the general fund to pay for cost overruns, road and sewer repairs, and new stadium operations and maintenance costs, among other amendments.

In the end, the nays included Howard Shook, Kwanza Hall, Alex Wan, and Felicia Moore, a fiscal watchdog who repeatedly stated that the legislative body wasn’t given enough time to vet the proposal.

Mayor Kasim Reed, after thanking council members after the vote, called the stadium agreement “one of the best in America.” He defended his administration’s use of the $200 million public investment figure, comparing it to a home purchase. (When you factor in the interest on mortgage payments, he argued, the actual price is higher.)

The years-in-the-making deal calls for at least $200 million in hotel/motel tax revenues to build the stadium. The total public contribution over 30 years could total nearly $1 billion when debt payments and operations costs are included. Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s philanthropic foundation has agreed to invest $15 million in Vine City, English Avenue, and Castleberry Hill, where the team wants to build the new facility. Invest Atlanta will match that contribution with cash from the city’s Westside Tax Allocation District. The Falcons will fund up to $70 million in “stadium-related” infrastructure fixes.

What’s next: The board of Invest Atlanta will meet tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. (jeez, guys) to vote on the agreement. The city’s economic development arm will issue the bonds to fund the stadium. In return, it’ll receive some perks, such as tickets, advertising, and right of first refusal on future bonding opportunities. The board of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, the state agency that will provide land for the stadium and which will own the facility, approved the deal on Friday.