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Open air stadium plans changed; new deal in the works | News

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Open air stadium plans changed; new deal in the works
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ATLANTA -- The Georgia World Congress Center Authority and the Atlanta Falcons confirmed Wednesday afternoon that they are working toward construction of a new retractable roof stadium to replace the Georgia Dome.

The new plan would replace plans for an open-air stadium on a site north of the World Congress Center that would have operated in tandem with the existing Dome.

Both the Falcons and the GWCC Authority said it would make more financial and logistical sense to build a single $948 million retractable roof stadium than to retrofit the Georgia Dome.

The GWCC Authority tells 11Alive News the state still owes 118-million dollars on the existing dome. At the current rate of repayment, the Georgia Dome would not be completely paid of until 2020.

The GWCC Authority and the Falcons released a statement late Wednesday afternoon that said they had commissioned a study to determine cost and feasibility factors behind a number of stadium options.

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority and the Atlanta Falcons recently commissioned a study to determine the feasibility and cost of modifying and expanding the Georgia Dome to fit the future needs of the Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center. The study focused primarily on expanding the size of the current facility, reconfiguring the seating to accommodate current NFL fan preferences, and adding a retractable roof to allow for an open-air option.

The results of the study indicate that undergoing a modification and expansion of the Dome presents many challenges. Therefore, the Authority and the Falcons have agreed to now focus on the possibility of building a retractable roof, multi-purpose stadium elsewhere on the Georgia World Congress Center campus. This is all part of a necessary process toward reaching an agreement that satisfies the needs of the Authority and the Falcons.

Both sides remain committed to reaching an agreement in the near future on a long-term stadium solution that is in the best interests of the community, Falcons fans, the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia.

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The new stadium, according to city officials, is the most economically viable option to create a "single multi-use world class stadium and event venue in the city of Atlanta." They said Mayor Kasim Reed supports this new proposal. According to officials, the new plan would use no city tax dollars.

Reed had previously been on the record as being in support of an open-air stadium in the Vine City area of the city near the Georgia Dome. According to a report from sports and entertainment architecture firm Populous, a new location just south of the Georgia Dome may be favored for construction of the new stadium.

Populous said retrofitting the Georgia Dome with new seats, suites and a retractable roof would cost $860 million, adding that the cost of a retractable roof alone would cost nearly $200 million. The report says it would take about four years to add the additional seating, suites and retractable roof. Due to the amount of construction necessary, the Falcons would likely be left without a home during portions of several football seasons, and the GWCC Authority would be left without an arena to stage large events.

Retrofitting the Georgia Dome would not be able to include the amount of higher-priced seating that the Falcons have outlined.

Ideally, according to Populous, the Falcons want a new 1.8 million square foot stadium with 66,000 to 72,000 seats and the capability to expand to 80,000 seats for special events.

Prior to this point, the area most widely assumed to be the location for a new stadium would be an area to the north of the World Congress Center, at the corner of Northside Drive and Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard. A new site being looked at heavily is the area directly to the south of the Georgia Dome, adjoining the area called the Gulch, which, based on prior studies, may be the site of a major regional transportation hub and mixed use complex anchoring that portion of Downtown Atlanta.

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