Perhaps some football fans would like to see the Georgia Dome — the site of recent Georgia football heartbreak — torn down and a new, nicer stadium constructed. Yes, fresh beginnings can be nice.
The Bulldogs were stopped short of a national championship berth on the five-yard line in the Georgia Dome in December. The Falcons suffered the same fate on Sunday, falling just short of the Super Bowl.
Ouch! That hurt. Want to wipe out the site of such disappointment?
Perhaps a new, retractable-roof stadium will help us forget about that pain. It will also be Georgia’s way of keeping up with the Joneses — Jerry Jones, that is — in the world of mega stadiums. Jones brought Dallas that retractable-roof stadium with the overhead high-def flatscreen that hangs from 20-yard line to 20-yard line. The Cowboys’ home serves as the ultimate “mancave” achievement in American sports history.
Maybe we, as Georgia taxpayers, would be well served by helping fund our own “mancave,” where we can go convertible-style and pull back the roof on sunny days, have some $10 drinks and watch football, either on the field or on a gigantic TV that dwarfs the live action.
Well, such a scenario may be in the works.
State officials are negotiating with the Atlanta Falcons on a public financing deal that will help cover the $1 billion cost of a new stadium in Atlanta.
According to The Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday confirmed he’s asked Falcons owner Arthur Blank to lower his request for public funding from $300 million to $200 million for the team’s proposed retractable-roof stadium.”
“We’re still talking and hopefully before too very long we will have a proposal that will save the taxpayers a lot of money,” said Deal.
Of course, “save the taxpayers a lot of money” is a funny phrase when you’re talking about spending a couple hundred million in taxpayer money, isn’t it?
The AJC also noted that Atlanta’s hotel-motel taxes would help finance bonds for the project. Bonds are issued to get up-front money for construction.
“Others (options) include tax breaks or incentives for the project or an attempt to route some of the bonds through Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm,” the AJC reported.
So, perhaps the real pocketbook pinch of this will be felt by those staying in swanky downtown hotels. But I’m kind of skeptical that the funding burden stays at the Ritz-Carlton.
Most of all, I’m just amazed at how tone deaf our state leaders are by seriously negotiating with the Falcons over a mega purchase on an entertainment matter when we’ve been through several years of deep financial woes.
This is the equivalent of a cash-strapped family doing its best to finance a new Lexus when an older, functioning Honda Accord would do.
Some say the Dome needs a new roof. And a new stadium is thus necessary. Where’s the logic in that? So, the next time your house needs a new roof, I suppose you’ll take a bulldozer to your living room, your kitchen, your bedroom — just start all over, right?
The Louisana Superdome sure suffered some roof damage in Katrina in 2005. That structure opened in 1975 and it’s still the home to New Orleans Saints and quite an imposing place to play. The Georgia Dome opened in 1992. It’s funny. But I still think of it as new.
Nevertheless, if Blank used Falcons money to cover all the costs, this would be a non-issue. Let him buy his own Lexus. But when public financing becomes a factor, then his high-dollar game becomes worthy of public debate.
And didn’t we just wrap up a doozy of a public financing debate this past summer on T-SPLOST? Well, that proposal “T-SPLODED” on state legislators. State voters shot down plans for a 10-year, one-cent sales tax to fund road improvements. Madison County actually stood to bring in a handsome share of tax money because of its considerable road miles and its grouping with other, more sales-tax rich neighboring counties.
But many local and state voters angrily denounced the imposition of the tax for something we use every day. We need good roads as much as we need good teeth.
Roads are vital. Stadiums are not. We don’t drive on a retractable-roof stadium to work every day. (Picture that.) But this has received far less attention from tax opponents. Obviously, the road tax was a significantly grander plan. It involved billions versus millions.
But the symbolism of today’s replace-the-Dome talks is powerful. Isn’t it funny how entertainment spending is so much easier politically than putting funds toward infrastructure?
What does that say about us?
And does Atlanta really need to keep up with the Joneses?
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.