Atlanta residents are about to have “a big public conversation” about the plan to build a new $1 billion downtown stadium for the Atlanta Falcons, Mayor Kasim Reed promised Friday.
Reed told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s editorial board an information offensive is in the works, starting with a public briefing Wednesday before the City Council’s finance/executive committee.
“You’re going to get more transparency,” Reed said. “We’re going to give the public every piece of data that we can possibly give them. Everything is going to be known. Questions are going to be answered in public and on television.”
Officials from the Falcons and state have been invited to the Wednesday meeting, and Reed said he will be there.
The move comes after two years of closed-door talks between the Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, a state agency. Those talks produced a plan to tear down the Georgia Dome and build a retractable roof stadium nearby, with about one-third of the cost funded with state-issued bonds backed by city hotel-motel tax revenue.
The public funding component has proven unpopular with state politicians. That has boosted the city’s role as backers of a new stadium - including Reed - try to salvage the plan. Under one scenario, the city could be involved in issuing bonds through its development authority.
Reed said he has not made a decision about the financing. But he insisted that Atlanta must move forward with “a permanent solution” for the Falcons. Failure to do so would jeopardize Atlanta’s status as a “first-tier’ city, he said.
Reed said his administration is assembling a finance and legal team focused on a stadium deal; he expects that team’s analysis to be delivered within two to three weeks. Then, there could be one or two more public meetings in addition to Wednesday’s, “so that there is no sense that this transaction happened…behind closed doors,” Reed said.
In a 90-minute interview Friday, Reed said he is confident the idea of using public money in the form of local hotel-motel taxes to partially finance the stadium enjoyed support of at least 50 percent support inside Atlanta. That’s far higher than across the state of Georgia.
About 72 percent of respondents statewide either opposed or strongly opposed using hotel/motel tax collections in Atlanta and unincorporated Fulton County to help finance a stadium, according to an AJC poll.
City involvement in bonds for the stadium could require City Council approval, and Reed said he won’t take that for granted.
In a separate interview Friday, City Council President Ceasar Mitchell said the council is ready to fully vet a stadium proposal.
“We’re prepared to take a more meaningful and active role in structuring a deal,” Mitchell said. “We want to make sure this doesn’t linger, that we don’t have a conversation that lasts forever. We want to make sure we get all the issues on the table and get everyone aligned.”
Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.