Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reed on stadium: there are times 'you have to make a 10-, 20-, 30-year decision'

Posted By on Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 3:20 PM

Mayor says Westside TAD, funding tool to revitalize blighted neighborhoods, wont be used
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
  • Mayor says Westside TAD, funding tool to revitalize blighted neighborhoods, won't be used
We're apparently days away from the announcement of a deal between the state, city, and Atlanta Falcons to fund a new football stadium.

According to reports, the Falcons are willing to cough up an extra $100 million to pay for the estimated $1 billion project. Gov. Nathan Deal has made clear that state lawmakers won't vote on raising the borrowing limit of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. The state authority would have issued bonds to help fund the stadium but might now only provide land.

That means the city - or more likely, one of its associated entities - will likely issue bonds to provide the public financing.

Which leaves open the question: What will that look like?

Perhaps it'll include the Westside Tax Allocation District, a lucrative financial tool operated by Invest Atlanta, the city's economic development arm, and which is aimed at revitalizing a large swath of land that includes Vine City, English Avenue, and downtown?

"Absolutely not," Reed told CL after yesterday's 25th annual Buckhead Coalition luncheon. "Not one dime - I hope you'll write it in bold - not one penny of the Westside TAD's $53 million is going to be used for the stadium." (See what we did there?)

What about the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority, which oversees Turner Field, Philips Arena, the Olympic Cauldron, and John White Park?

"I don't want to guess at all until we spend time with Council," he said. "What I've been working real hard to do is to not get in front of Council, because this is a genuine decision we need to make together. We need to make an up or down decision in partnership about whether this is something we're going to do."

The mayor did say that he expects the deal to be similar to the agreement that created Philips Arena. The $213 million facility was financed with revenue bonds, a car-rental tax, and a cash contribution from Time Warner. Philips also signed a 20-year deal reportedly worth as much as $180 million for the naming rights.

Whatever's ironed out, he said that "any debt offering would not impact the city's credit worthiness" because the hotel-motel tax is a reliable and consistent source of funding.

The mayor said he understands that "folks are concerned" about using the hotel-motel tax, which by law can only be used to fund a new stadium on GWCCA property, to build the facility. And that to many Georgians, the Dome seems perfectly suitable for hosting sporting events, concerts, monster truck rallies, and whatever other affair you can stuff into the covered arena, for decades to come.

But Reed said that if the new stadium deal doesn't go through, the Dome will still need as much as $350 million in additional needed repairs.

"While the stadium looks good, it's not what people think," he said. "When you talk to the people who are responsible, they will tell you that they can't tell you when the roof needs to be replaced. That's a big deal."

He added: "I read the polls and I understand that folks are concerned. But there are times when you're leading the city that you have to make a 10-, 20-, 30-year decision. I don't enjoy pain. I don't enjoy hearing folks saying some of the things they're saying. But there must be a genuine need to get this done."

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