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Mount Vernon approves deal to sell property for stadium

Channel 2's Steve Gelbach reports.

The Mount Vernon Baptist Church congregation approved a $14.5 million deal to move, potentially making way for the new Atlanta Falcons stadium to be built on land just south of the Georgia Dome, church leaders announced Thursday night.

The decision, by a vote of 116-16, came after about 90 minutes of discussion among church members, who learned just last week that their pastor, the Rev. Rodney Turner, struck a tentative deal with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to sell the historic property.

State money will fund $6.2 million of the deal — the most officials say they can pay according to a state law preventing them from going higher than appraised value — and the Atlanta Falcons have agreed to pay the rest.

A second church located on the site south of the Georgia Dome, Friendship Baptist, plans to vote on an offer to sell its property on Sunday.

Earlier Thursday, a state agency discussed other aspects of the project – including the planned demolition of the Georgia Dome in 2017.

The plan, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority board was told at a meeting at the Barnsley Gardens resort in Adairsville, Ga., is for demolition of the Dome to begin in March 2017, the same month that construction of the new stadium is scheduled to be completed. The Dome will be 25 years old at the time.

Carl Adkins, general manager of the Georgia Dome, said the challenge will be “to gracefully wind down operations while managing a full event load and keeping our team fully engaged to serve our customers.”

“We want to go out on top,” Adkins said.

The plan is for the Falcons to begin playing in the new stadium in the 2017 NFL season and for many other Georgia Dome events – the SEC Championship football game and the Chick-fil-A Bowl among them — to also move into the new venue.

The Georgia Dome site will be converted to surface parking for the new stadium.

The GWCCA board also was briefed Thursday on the latest designs for the new stadium, including plans for its signature retractable roof. GWCCA Chief Operating Officer Kevin Duvall said the Falcons have settled on the size of the roof opening: approximately 100,000 square feet, the middle of three sizes considered by the team, in the center of the stadium.

To help the Falcons arrive at that decision, curtains were hung from the Georgia Dome roof to replicate the size of the opening. The plan is for a series of 60-foot-tall video boards to encircle the new stadium’s roof opening.

The board was updated on a series of stadium contracts being negotiated with the Falcons that are more detailed than the memorandum of understanding signed in April. Some of these contracts are due to be signed by Oct. 1.

“I think things are pretty much on schedule,” said Franklin Jones, an attorney representing the GWCCA. “I think October 1st is still a realistic date unless we hear something different from the Falcons.”