ATLANTA, Ga. -- Falcons owner Arthur Blank showed up at the Governor's office Monday morning, looking for the political backing he'll need to build a new football stadium partially with hotel-motel tax money.
He had NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with him. Goodell has been a vocal backer of new football stadiums across the land, and is supporting efforts to replace the Georgia Dome with a retractable-roof stadium.
Polls have shown the project is unpopular in Georgia. Goodell says backers of the project will have to overcome that. "That's what leadership is all about and I think that's what we all have to do. And look to the long term view." And Goodell says the long term view is to make the Falcons economically competitive with other NFL teams.
Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed, a new stadium backer, was also part of the forty minute meeting in the Governor's office. "When folks realize it's not a new tax, it's not a tax increase, and that it's paid by the 37 million people who visit the city of Atlanta, that that will have an influence on how people feel," Reed said after the closed-door meeting concluded.
But Reed acknowledges a new stadium may be a tough sell at the Capitol, where he worked as a state senator before becoming mayor.
"The fact of the matter is, this is corporate welfare at its worst, subsidizing billionaires and millionaires lifestyles," said Sen. Vincent Fort, a stadium critic.
We asked Goodell if that was a reasonable conclusion.
"No," he said. "What this is, is a public private partnership. The public is making an investment in a facility that will help the community into the future."
We also asked Blank if "this uses tax money to maximize revenue for the owner of the Atlanta Falcons." Blank told us to refer to the commissioner's answer. When pressed if it was a "fair characterization," Blank said "No I don't. And I think you've already gotten the answer from the commissioner."
Gov. Deal was unavailable for comment after the meeting.
Goodell emphasized that the NFL and Blank would pay the majority cost of a new stadium, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.