Falcons secure $850M in stadium financing

The Falcons organization has closed on $850 million in permanent financing for the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, team officials said Monday.

The new financing from Bank of America, SunTrust Banks and 18 institutional investors converts construction loans to long-term financing about a year earlier than the team had projected, according to Falcons executive vice president and chief financial officer Greg Beadles.

Beadles said in an interview that approximately 1/3 of the financing is from the two banks and the other 2/3 from private placement with institutional investors such as large insurance firms and pension fund managers. The debt will be repaid to the institutional investors over 26 years and to the banks over a shorter term, he said.

Some contractually obligated revenue from stadium naming rights, other sponsorship deals and suite sales are pledged toward re-paying the debt, Beadles said.

“The timing of getting this done early … speaks really well of the project overall,” Beadles said. “Typical of what we had modeled was for the permanent financing to take place after the construction was done (in 2017) and maybe even into the operation (of the stadium) a few months.

“We let the banks (and) these institutional investors take a peek under the hood and so think of it as some outside validation on what we’re doing from the marketplace that is familiar with these kind of projects and deals. They came back resoundingly and said, ‘We feel great about the project … and can move forward with this permanent financing.’ So that is what we chose to do.”

The financing, which closed late last week, involves the Falcons organization’s portion of stadium costs and does not affect the taxpayer portion of the funding.

“I’m very pleased to see this significant milestone being reached so early,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in a prepared statement. “… What the team has accomplished puts the project in a very strong position moving forward.”

Beadles said “very favorable” interest rates were obtained because of overall conditions in the credit market as well as investor confidence in the project. He declined to reveal the specific interest rates.

“We had really high demand from the marketplace” of institutional investors, about five times as much demand as needed, Beadles said.

“That allow(ed) us to really push on them in terms of pricing,” he said. “We didn’t have to accept everybody’s bids, and we didn’t, and we were still able to get a diversified group that wanted in at the rates we were able to put out there.”

Beadles said the private-placement debt was issued with a “green bond” designation, reflecting the stadium’s expected LEED Platinum certification for sustainability.

The total cost of building Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which will be home to Blank’s Atlanta United soccer team as well as to the Falcons, is currently projected to be $1.5 billion. In addition to the $850 million in loans, $200 million of the construction cost comes from bonds backed by Atlanta hotel-motel taxes, $200 million from the NFL and a yet-undetermined amount from sales of personal seat licenses. Blank is responsible for cost overruns.