Falcons make it official: South site ‘definite’ for stadium

The Atlanta Falcons made official Monday their choice of a site for the new $1 billion stadium: the spot just south of the Georgia Dome long preferred by the city and state.

“… It is now the definite site for construction of the (stadium),” Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay wrote in a letter to the Georgia World Congress Center Authority.

» MYAJC.COM EXTRA: Falcons affirm 'definite site for construction' in letter (.PDF)

The Falcons’ declaration came on the eve of the contractual deadline for determining the site and more than a week after the choice became apparent when two churches agreed to sell their properties to make room for the stadium on the south-of-the-Dome location.

“This final decision regarding the location for the new stadium is the result of the efforts of many leaders within the city of Atlanta, state of Georgia, Georgia World Congress Center Authority and the two churches on the south-site property,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. “As the preferred site, the south site serves the best interests of many important partners, including the surrounding communities.”

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The Falcons unveiled new architectural renderings of the retractable-roof stadium, including one that incorporates a pedestrian bridge over Northside Drive connecting the facility to the Vine City MARTA station. The Falcons said the designs are still preliminary and subject to change.

The south-of-the-Dome site, located at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. and Northside drives, was favored by the state and city because of its proximity to two MARTA stations, access to downtown and conventioneers, and compatability with a proposed nearby multi-modal passenger terminal.

But the site was thrown into doubt in late July, when the Falcons began a feasibility study of an alternate location one-half mile north of the Dome – near the corner of Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard and Northside Drive – because the churches’ property had not been acquired at that point. Critics of the north site said it was too far from MARTA stations and too close to residences.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office subsequently negotiated deals for the Falcons to buy Friendship Baptist Church’s property for $19.5 million and for the Falcons and the GWCCA to acquire Mount Vernon’s property for a combined $14.5 million.

In the Mount Vernon deal, the GWCCA will be responsible for $6.2 million – the property’s appraised value, which is the most the state agency could pay by law — and the Falcons the remaining $8.3 million.

Mount Vernon’s congregation voted overwhelmingly to accept the offer on Sept. 19, and Friendship’s congregation did likewise on Sept. 22.

The Falcons, though, waited until Monday to make the south site official.

In a letter to the GWCCA, the Falcons declared both the north and south sites to now be feasible for construction of the stadium but said the team chooses the south option.

The Falcons and the GWCCA next must finalize a definitive transaction agreement on the stadium deal. This contract will be more detailed than the memorandum of understanding signed in April and will include site-specific provisions.

Construction on the stadium is slated to begin in April 2014 and to be completed in March 2017. The Georgia Dome then will be demolished.

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