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Pricey new stadium project makes billionaire smile | News

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Pricey new stadium project makes billionaire smile
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ATLANTA -- "That's a small hat," muttered Arthur Blank as he squeezed a hard hat onto his scalp Thursday morning.

Small may describe the fit of Arthur Blank's hard hat. But it's the wrong word to use to describe his stadium, an expansive construction project that has the size and power to brighten the mood of the serious-minded Atlanta billionaire.

"Every time I have a down day for any reason, I come down here and I walk away with a big smile on my face," Blank said. He was standing near what will become the 50 yard line, where his Atlanta Falcons will play for the first time in the summer of 2017.

The construction project is scheduled to take roughly 900 days total. Blank's portion of the cost is $1.3 billion. The math says he's spending more than $1.4 million per day, although the actual spending pattern is undoubtedly much more complicated than that.

Blank says he visits every couple of days to drink it all in, to watch eleven hundred workers plow through a project that's less than halfway complete.

"I treat his money like I treat my own money. And my wife knows I treat my money pretty tight, " said Bob Evans, who is the project manager.

On one hand, Evans is building a stadium that Blank wants to be world-class. On the other hand, he engages in what he calls "value engineering" to keep Blank's costs down to a dull, industrial strength roar.

"You can value engineer things and get the same thing, but give it a different look. But it's done all the time," said Evans, who also helped build Philips Arena and the Georgia Dome.

Falcons president Rich McKay said the contractor frequently presents schemes to cut costs. "I would honestly tell you we've taken some (value engineering cuts), but not every many," McKay said.

Blank says the daily costs of the project don't weigh on him. "I don't think of it every night," he said. "We've got a big budget for a big project and we're staying on budget and it means we've got to make choices like everybody else does."

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