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Stadium Project Must go Better Than Season

Posted October 30, 2013

The team in the Atlanta Falcons' corporate offices and the one down on the Georgia Dome turf need to coordinate their timing better. Because together they're giving us some of the worst PR since the Big Three automakers took separate company jets to Washington to plead for hundreds of billions in corporate welfare. The latest dispatch out of Atlanta is that the projected price of a new stadium for the city's National Football League franchise has gone up 20 percent, or about $200 million more than the previous estimate. And speaking of corporate welfare, $200 million just happens to be the amount of it taxpayers will fork over in the form of a lodging tax to build a facility many of them won't be able to afford to use. The "good" news, such as it is, is that the price hike hasn't (yet) upped the taxpayers' share of the cost. But the public has still had no say -- and quite obviously at this stage of the process will have none -- in helping to build this newest sports cathedral. The news about the stadium's inflated price comes, as most Falcons fans are all too aware, in the middle of a trashcan fire of a season. The Falcons are 2-5 and headed toward the league landfill along with NFL sad sacks like Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. The original plan called for an open-air stadium, perhaps with a retractable roof for particularly harsh weather. The new design, according to team President Rich McKay, is for "an open-air stadium that can be climatized … there's a lot of expense behind that goal." So the organization has opted for the best, and most costly, of both worlds. Aside from the aggravated assault on English committed by "climatized," there's little doubt that the increased cost will be borne, if not by taxpayers, then at least in part by paying customers. Fans will have to ante up more for individual games and "PSLs" -- personal seat licenses, the NFL's successor to what we quaintly used to call season tickets. That's probably fairer as a user fee -- you pay for going to an actual game instead of just for staying in an Atlanta hotel -- but it will only hasten the accelerating trend of big-time sports pricing themselves out of the average fan's budget. Fortunately, the Falcons' contract with the Georgia World Congress Center Authority and the city of Atlanta makes owner Arthur Blank and the franchise responsible for cost overruns. (If something goes badly wrong, at least Blank won't be taking a corporate jet to Atlanta; he's already there.) By the start of the 2017 football season, the Atlanta Falcons expect to have a brand-new stadium. A running game, an offensive line, a pass rush and a few more wins would spiff it up nicely. Read more here: