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New stadium approved by Atlanta City Council

12:43 AM, Mar 19, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- The Atlanta City Council approved the issuance of bonds for a new retractable roof football stadium, all but assuring the project's completion.

The council voted Monday 11-4 to pass a resolution introduced by Councilman Michael Julian Bond and backed by Mayor Kasim Reed. The city released a detailed agreement on the stadium late last week.

Howard Shook, Kwanza Hall, Felicia Moore and Alex Wan voted no.

Although some council members wanted more time to study the document and ask questions, Reed said that delaying a vote could hinder Atlanta's effort to bid on events scheduled in 2017 and beyond. The new stadium is scheduled to be complete in time for the Falcons' 2017 season.

After the vote, Reed took the podium to sustained applause. "We have a five year opportunity to get it right," Reed said, referring to commitments made to help the stadium's surrounding neighborhoods.

The stadium would cost nearly a billion dollars to build. The Falcons have agree to pay for all but $200 million of the construction cost. The $200 million will come from Atlanta hotel-motel tax money, which was used to build the Georgia Dome. The Georgia Dome would be demolished under the plan.

The Falcons could potentially benefit from hotel motel tax revenue collected in a "waterfall" arrangement once the $200 million is paid off.

The council took the vote in spite of complaints raised during a public hearing that the vote was proceeding too quickly. Councilwoman Felicia Moore echoed those objections. She had scheduled a committee hearing on the project for Thursday.

But Bond said that Reed had requested the vote Monday, even though the project wasn't on the council's calendar.

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority board approved the project Friday. A board vote by Invest Atlanta, the city's economic development agency which will issue the bonds, is considered a formality.

The biggest question now is surrounds the location of the stadium. The GWWCA is expected to begin negotiating in earnest with property owners south of the Dome, including two churches. The state, city and Falcons have said they prefer the south site, wedged alongside Northside Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Two church properties are on the site now. Reed has said the stadium would move to a less-desirable site north of the Dome if the churches aren't willing to sell.

One of the churches is Friendship Baptist Church, an African-American church founded by slaves during the Civil War.

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