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Politics likely to slow stadium timetable

ATLANTA-- A new stadium with a retractable roof made of fabric is envisioned in an agreement reached after 18 months of talks between the Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority.  It would make the new football stadium, envisioned as a replacement for the Georgia Dome, unique in professional sports.

But progress on the stadium project will likely stall after its tax funding hit a political wall in the Governor's office Friday.

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Gov. Deal's decision to seek a smaller state contribution to a new downtown football stadium makes a vote on the agreement questionable.  The vote was tentatively planned for a GWCCA meeting January 29.

RELATED:  Governor asks Falcons to change stadium deal

The agreement, called a Memorandum of Understanding, sets the price of the project at $950 million, and specifies a fabric retractable roof.  It also expresses a preference for a site south of the existing Georgia Dome.  The Dome would be demolished for parking.

The GWCCA hasn't completed acquisition of two property parcels in the south site.

The MOU seeks to confirm the project site by March 15, and to hire an architect by March 31.  It calls for preliminary schematic drawings of the new project to be completed by October 31.  Backers of the project want the Falcons to be able to play in the new stadium in 2017.

The MOU was completed days before Falcons president Rich McKay met with officials in the Governor's office, where he was asked to re-draw the agreement to reduce by one-third the state's contribution to the project. 

GWCC, Falcons and officials in the Governor's office are expected to meet this week to discuss the Governor's request.

The MOU calls for the state to contribute $300 million from the state hotel-motel tax, which would require the legislature to approve the GWCC's borrowing authority.  The Governor wants to reduce the hotel-motel tax contribution to $200 million, which is the current debt limit.  

If the Falcons agree to the reduction, it would potentially eliminate the need for a politically troublesome vote by the legislature.  A vote would be required to raise the GWCC's borrowing authority.


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