Falcons Want Stadium Deal Before 2013

4:02 PM, Sep 4, 2009   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay said Friday the team's ownership will aim to strike a deal for a new stadium probably within three years.

His comments come one day after Forbes released its latest NFL valuations, ranking the Falcons No. 30 out of 32 NFL teams and giving the team a value of $857 million.

Forbes said the valuation and the poor economy put the chances of Falcons majority owner Arthur Blank getting a new stadium at "close to zero."

"That's probably a general statement that reflects the economy, but it doesn't deal with our situation," McKay said. "We're much more confident than that."

McKay is helping lead a search for a new stadium site, as the Georgia Dome is no longer in the team's long-term plans.

Atlanta Business Chronicle reported Sept. 4 The Sembler Co. is trying to secure the General Motors Plant in Doraville, where the developer would set aside 100 acres for a new open-air stadium for the Falcons.

Downtown will also court the Birds, with at least three possible sites, including one on the Georgia World Congress Center campus and two other sites near the Georgia Dome.

Arthur Blank began talking openly about the desire for a new stadium in 2006, saying it often takes eight years to get a deal done.

Asked if the team would try to have a new stadium deal in place by 2013 or 2014, McKay said, "No, earlier than that."

"You want something done four years prior to opening," McKay said. "It will take at least one year to design and about three years to build."

The Falcons have to stay in the Georgia Dome until they pay off the bonds that helped finance it.

That still could happen well before 2020 -- the original expectation for payoff, McKay told the Chronicle earlier this week.

The Forbes valuation likely reinforces ownerships' argument for a new stadium, as the nearly 17-year-old revenue-sharing agreement between the team and the state-run Dome is not the most advantageous for the Falcons.

The Georgia World Congress Center has worked with the Falcons to help boost revenues.

Still, the majority of NFL teams have significantly renovated old stadiums or built new ones since 1992, mostly through public-private partnerships.

New stadiums can be a huge boost for revenues. Most teams now expect at least an 85 percent share of revenues generated by ticket sales, club seating, suites and parking. The Falcons get nowhere near that percentage.

McKay said the team expects to improve its value, but it will be a slow process.

"You won't see big movement," he said. "But, you shouldn't get too caught up in the Forbes valuation. We were coming off the [Michael] Vick hit. Even though the Vick situation took place in '07, the effects were still felt in '08, along with the effects of the economy."

(The Atlanta Business Chronicle)

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