Wed., December 12, 2012 4:21pm (EST)

Details On Stadium Deal Still Murky
By Adam Ragusea
Updated: 1 year ago

ATLANTA  —  
A graphic showing the general footprint a new Falcons stadium on one possible site (Courtesy of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority)
A graphic showing the general footprint a new Falcons stadium on one possible site (Courtesy of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority)
The tentative funding deal for a new Atlanta Falcons stadium is generating a lot of controversy, but details are far from clear.

At their public presentation earlier this week, Georgia World Congress Center Authority officials said about $300 million of the $1 billion construction price would come from taxes people pay to stay in hotels and motels, while the Falcons would pick up the rest.

But "the devil is in the details," says Smith College sports economist Andrew Zimbalist.

"You want to know not only the share of construction expenditures that are born publicly, but you want to know what kind of ongoing obligations the public sector has," he says.

What kind of ongoing obligations?

"Sometimes the stadium authority is responsible for putting a million or $2 million a year into a renovation fund," Zimbalist says.

The term sheet for the Atlanta deal calls for exactly that kind of thing, though a spokesperson for the authority says money would only go into that fund if tax revenues beat expectations.

What else?

"Sometimes they're obligated to keep the stadium in what's called the 'state-of-the-art condition,'" Zimbalist says.

On this point, the term sheet is quite clear; the Falcons would have to keep the place up-to-snuff with "comparable NFL facilities."

Zimbalist also says there are often "questions about what kind of infrastructure costs will be involved."

Now the wording in the term sheet gets vague. But it does specifically mention the possibility of "pursuing other […] governmental funding sources" for infrastructure.

Of course, this is all non-binding anyway; the legislature will have to raise the authority's debt ceiling before any deal can be signed.