Georgia Dome site could become park on non-game days

The foundation of Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and the Georgia World Congress Center want to turn the Georgia Dome site into something more than parking and tailgating space for the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Plans have long called for the Dome site to become a grassy field for premium parking on Falcons and Atlanta United game days after the Dome is torn down.

But foundation and Congress Center officials told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution they now plan for the field to be used as a park for most of the year, and for it to serve as a vital green space link between nearby neighborhoods and downtown.

The plan is still in its early stages, but Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation President Penny McPhee said making the green space open to the public for events such as youth sports, community concerts and a farmers market is part of Blank’s commitment to rejuvenate Westside neighborhoods.

“One of the important values to Arthur and to the foundation as we’ve been doing this work on the Westside is trying to connect the Westside to downtown Atlanta,” McPhee said. To do that, she said requires “making the stadium campus an attractive venue on non-game days.”

The city of Atlanta has committed to $200 million in bonds for new stadium construction backed by hotel/motel taxes. Hundreds of millions more will be committed over three decades for stadium upkeep and interest.

As part of that public support, Blank and Invest Atlanta committed $15 million each for restoration of stadium neighborhoods. Much of Blank’s investment involves education, job creation efforts and support for park lands.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is expected to open next June. Dome demolition is likely to be done by the end of 2017 or early 2018, with the parking area and green space ready later in 2018. A cost of the project is largely included in the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium budget.

The Blank foundation is in conversation with the PATH Foundation and other groups to establish pedestrian connections between the Vine City MARTA station, nearby Mims Park and Centennial Olympic Park, said Frank Fernandez, vice president of community development for the Blank foundation. A sweeping city-built pedestrian bridge over Northside Drive also will be a crucial connecting point.

The congress center plans a high-rise luxury hotel on a little more than an acre of Dome land, but most of the site will be green space.

A Home Depot-backed fan experience and tailgating area will be held on game days, and the Congress Center will use the grassy area for parking for other big events. But the majority of the year, the site can be used for other community events.

The land includes a natural bowl that could serve as an amphitheater, McPhee said. Land is also suitable for mini soccer pitches or flag football fields. Fernandez said the foundation will hire a person to manage and attract events for the park.

Kevin Duvall, the Congress Center’s chief operating officer, said the property will complement the activities at Centennial Olympic Park. Park officials will help guide the Blank foundation in programming the new green space.

“The ideas are still percolating,” he said.

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