ATLANTA -- With construction already underway in the footprint of the new stadium project and a projected 2017 opening, the need for more parking became urgent, according to the director of the Georgia World Congress Center.
In a letter written to Gov. Nathan Deal and other state officials nine days ago, executive director Frank Poe says, "the need for additional on-campus parking is crucial...for NSP [new stadium project] and GWCCA [World Congress Center] events," among other reasons.
State officials say two new underground garages will cost some $35 million -- half of which abruptly appeared in a budget delivered a day ago to members of the General Assembly. Speaker pro-tem Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton) supports the new spending.
"I am first and foremost a fiscal conservative," Jones said. "This is one of those (expenditures) that's -- we'll get more in return than what we put in."
Jones says the new parking decks will benefit the GWCCA far more than it will the Falcons, which will make money off it only for NFL events, according to the letter to the governor.
"The legislature slipped this in the midnight hour," said William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia. He is among the critics who say the new tax money undermines already shaky confidence in a stadium project that has had little public support from the get-go.
"As Channel 11 said in their polls, 75 percent of Georgians oppose public funding of the Falcons stadium," Perry said. "Therefore, the legislature slipped it through so there was no public debate about it."