In 1785 a Scott writer Robert Burns penned these words: “The best laid schemes of mice and men go often awry”. The same thing could be said for the proposed Atlanta Falcons stadium that is scheduled to open in 2017. The Falcons intend to build a state of the art facility that will rival both Reliant Stadium in Houston Texas and Jerry Jones’ Cowboy Stadium in Arlington Texas, and doubtless they will… But where?
The proposed location was carefully chosen for a vast amount of reasons, but mostly due to economics. Let’s face it. Almost any construction problem can be overcome by funding, but at some point common sense rules. The present plan for the Atlanta Falcons stadium makes the best economic sense. The problem is they have to gain title to the all the land in question, and although most of the landowners are taking their windfall offers with a smile there are two that are quite reluctant to turn over their deeds.
There are two historic churches said to be holding up the start of construction, but not much documentation can be found to establish the age of the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church. There is a $1.4 million offer pending on the property. The Friendship Baptist Church however was built in 1880 and predates the Civil War. Members of the 150 year old church have been reluctant to move for the sake of football. They see it as entertainment put ahead of worship at the cost of the services the two churches provide the surrounding community.
Tracy Coakley to WXIA-TV:
"“I think going to church is more important than having a stadium personally. I like football, we have athletes in our family, but I like my church more.”"
Lloyd Hawk is the chairman of the board of trustees for the Friendship Baptist Church. Even the $15.7 million offer made by the Atlanta Falcons hasn’t enticed the congregation to start packing up their hymn books. ChristianPost.com reports that Hawk told the local news station:
"“The congregation will, at some point, sit down and hold what we call a church conference, and that would be the opportunity for the congregation to discuss and make a decision as to what our official position will be.”"
Meanwhile critics say the City of Atlanta is “muddying up the waters of public disclosure”, namely the real cost to the taxpayers for the stadium. While the city’s website is said to show a $200 million cost to the city, an additional $200 million has been added for what is seen as operating expenses: maintenance and the cost of hosting national political conventions, concerts etc. No matter what the state of the economy $200 million is a lot of et cetera.
On a side note the city’s final vote was held up by two particular entities who had to approve the project: The Georgia World Congress and “Invest Atlanta”. It appears that those two squeaky wheels were greased by donating the use of a stadium suite, 20 extra seats at no cost, and access to tickets to Super Bowl games in any city that hosts the event. Hmmm… Expensive grease indeed.
While both the Mayor of Atlanta and the AMB group, the parent company of the Atlanta Falcons have said the two churches won’t be forced to move, their refusal to do so will require the relocation of the new stadium to a site North of the Georgia Dome. What’s unknown is the additional cost to taxpayers for repeating the process, what new problems and construction delays the Falcons might face with another set of property owners, and how the process might affect the projected date of the grand opening: 2017.