Officials narrow list of firms for new stadium

Despite uncertainty, design finalists chosen for stadium

Amid continued uncertainty about funding for a new downtown stadium, the Atlanta Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority selected five finalists Monday to design the proposed facility.

The architectural firms chosen as finalists, from 10 applicants, are Philadelphia-based EwingCole, Dallas-based HKS, Kansas City-based Populous, Atlanta-based tvsdesign (in partnership with Heery International and Gensler) and Kansas City-based 360 Architecture. All have experience on high-profile sports and entertainment projects.

The GWCCA said the finalists will be asked to prepare proposals that include the first conceptual designs of the stadium. Interviews with the finalists will be scheduled in the next 30 days.

The finalists were selected, based on their statements of qualifications, by a committee consisting of four representatives of the Falcons and four of the GWCCA. The Falcons and the GWCCA took the step despite the stadium project having fallen into flux this month.

The GWCCA, which is a state agency, approved on Dec. 10 a non-binding “term sheet” with the Falcons that spelled out the framework of a potential deal on a retractable-roof stadium to be built on Congress Center property. The process of selecting a lead architect began the same day. But the December deal was contingent on the Georgia Legislature increasing the GWCCA’s borrowing limit by $100 million to enable it to issue up to $300 million in construction bonds backed by Atlanta’s hotel-motel tax.

The prospects of legislative approval grew increasingly cloudy with public-opinion polls continuing to show strong opposition, and backers of the project now are trying to re-craft the deal to avoid a legislative vote. An option being pursued is the possibility of issuing some or all of the bonds through the city of Atlanta, rather than the state.

Among the questions up in the air is whether the original plan for the GWCCA to own the stadium would remain the case if the city issues the bonds.

The GWCCA and the Falcons declined to discuss the reasoning behind their decision to proceed with the architect-selection process amid the larger questions. GWCCA spokeswoman Jennifer LeMaster said the parties are in a “quiet period.” Gov. Nathan Deal said last week they had been “asked to take about a 15-day period in which a silence (is) imposed and all the various players in the perhaps potential agreement will assess where they are and whether or not this is something that can move forward.”

High-profile projects on which the finalists have worked include the Georgia Aquarium (tvsdesign and Heery), the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium (HKS) and the London Olympics stadium (Populous).

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Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.