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Atlantans want more info on stadium deal

Participants at a public forum on a potential new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons pushed for more information on the project and an opportunity for “meaningful public input.”

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority and the Atlanta Falcons have been negotiating a deal for a potential new stadium for the past two years. The facility, which would cost a minimum of $948 million but is expected to surpass $1 billion, would replace the 20-year-old Georgia Dome.

More than 100 people came to the Monday evening forum organized by Common Cause Georgia, which featured Georgia World Congress Center executive director Frank Poe on the panel.

“Our focus has been to try to get the best deal possible for the authority and the state of Georgia” for a new stadium, Poe said.

Common Cause Georgia board member Wyc Orr, a panelist, said more information is needed on what infrastructure or other costs the city of Atlanta, the state and Fulton County could be responsible for. “Those are critical details that we think should be known in advance,” Orr said.

Georgia Tech associate professor Benjamin Flowers, another panelist, called for more discussion on what the public could get in return for its investment.

In 2010, the Georgia Legislature agreed to allow Atlanta and unincorporated Fulton County to continue dedicating a portion of hotel-motel taxes they collect to paying off bond debt on a stadium as long it is built on GWCCA property. Part of the stadium’s costs will be paid with about $300 million from those hotel-motel tax collections, while the Falcons are expected to pay for the remainder.

The GWCCA is considering two sites for the facility. It’s eyeing property it owns about one-half mile north of the Dome on Northside Drive, or an undisclosed site generally believed to be across the street from the Dome at Northside and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

The use of the hotel-motel taxes has proved controversial. Some legislators, including state Rep. Rashad Taylor, D-Atlanta, and state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, said it would bring jobs and is a good deal for the state since a private organization is paying two-thirds of the cost of a new economic generator. Others, such as Rep. Mike Dudgeon, R-Johns Creek, and Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, said the state shouldn’t ask school systems to tighten their budgets but then spend tax money on a stadium.

A poll commissioned by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in July found that 67 percent of respondents oppose using hotel-motel tax money for the building.

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