Lawmakers Say ‘No’ to Public Funding of Proposed Stadium Project

A new Atlanta Falcons stadium is still a distant dream, but a group of lawmakers is already sending a loud message to developers.

They don’t want a single dollar of public funds to go to the project. 

If the proposed state budget for 2013 is approved in its current form, the World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta would get $15 million in bond money so it can purchase nearby vacant property.

The site is currently being discussed as a possible location for a new open-air football stadium.

But State Representative Mike Dudgeon is strongly against any use of public funds for the stadium. The Forsyth lawmaker has introduced a resolution that discourages the World Congress Center from pursuing the project if it uses the bond money.

“We do not believe it is a proper use of taxpayer funds,” says Dundgeon.  “We think that any deals or contracts that take place should be done with free market principles and if any land is used that it be done at fair market value.”

Dudgeon says it’s not the right use of public money given the sluggish economy. More than 20 other lawmakers have expressed support for the resolution.

However, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a vocal supporter of the stadium project, says public funds would almost surely have to be involved. 

“It is a long standing tradition that you build stadiums with some form of public private partnership.  That is the way that the best stadiums in the country have been done and I believe that we should continue in that tradition,” says Reed.

One funding source that’s been widely discussed is Atlanta’s hotel tax, which could generate as much as $400 million for the project.