Friday, March 15, 2013

C  I  T  Y    O  F    A  T  L  A  N  T  A

Atlanta City Council tackles stadium proposal

 ATLANTA – Today the Atlanta City Council’s Finance/Executive Committee called in a number of academic, accounting, and legal experts to discuss the financial and community impact of a new retractable roof stadium in downtown Atlanta.

 This session comes following a tentative agreement between the administration of Mayor Reed, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority reached late last week.

The meeting also comes following the administration’s release of the New Stadium Project (NSP) financing proposal.  Sent to members of the Atlanta City Council last night, the financing proposal provides an executive summary of the proposed terms of the project, including agreements on funding, development, and operations & maintenance.  The proposal includes a draft resolution putting these agreements into legislative language.

 Thursday’s panel of experts included Dr. Benjamin Flowers, professor of architecture at Georgia Tech; Michael Coleman, attorney at Epstein Becker Green; Dr. Bruce A. Seaman, professor of economics at Georgia State University; and Marshall Mitchell of Marshal Mitchell & Associates.

 Members of council inquired the panelists on the potential direct community benefit impact, broader economic impact, and the history of public contributions for major athletic facilities both locally and nationally.

 “The City Council expects to receive the proposed legislation on Monday,” said Atlanta City Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell.  “From there, I anticipate the council will review the agreements in an effort to finalize the legislation and put it up for a vote in the very near future.”

 Councilman Ivory Lee Young, Jr., whose district includes the Vine City and English Avenue neighborhoods surrounding the proposed stadium sites, stressed a commitment to transparency and public accountability.

 “The administration has continued to work cooperatively with our neighborhoods to ensure that we get it right this time,” said Young. “These investments will not be taken lightly.  What is most important right now is that we get a stadium that is better than the one we have.  Everything that has presently been presented to us reveals that this is the case.”

 Young specifically addressed the potential community benefits a new stadium might provide.

 “The financial commitment offered to date is a good start toward the next steps in revitalizing the surrounding areas and empowering human capital,” said Young. “Funding has been defined; infrastructure issues and how we respond to them have been defined.  The Georgia Dome has been and the new stadium will continue to be an asset too good for this city to pass up.”

 Finance/Executive Committee Chair Felicia Moore announced that the committee will hold another work session at 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 21 in the Council Chamber at Atlanta City Hall to specifically discuss the NSP proposal.

 Commenting on the council’s efforts to move towards legislation, Mitchell said, “I remain encouraged by the efforts thus far to create a public-private partnership that includes taxpayer investment.  I look forward to the council’s deliberation during the upcoming NSP meeting.”

 “After we hold this comprehensive work session on the NSP, it is my plan to host public information and public input sessions prior to any final action on legislation,” said Moore.

About the panelists:

 Dr. Benjamin Flowers joined the Georgia Institute of Technology’s faculty of architecture in 2005. His work examines architecture as a form of social activity situated within the intersecting spheres of politics, culture, and economy. Looking in particular at skyscrapers and stadiums, he focuses on the ways these structures are constructed, the ends to which they are used, and the nature of public reaction to them.

 Michael Coleman is an attorney with Epstein Becker Green. He is member of the firm in the corporate services practice, in the Atlanta office. His practice focuses on general corporate issues, mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, healthcare, corporate internal investigations, public/private transactions, and business litigation.  Coleman’s past experience includes representing the City of Atlanta in connection with the development and financing of Atlantic Station.

 Dr. Bruce Seaman is associate professor of economics, former department chair, and a research associate at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. His research includes models of arts industry funding and other cultural and sports economics issues.

 Marshall Mitchell is the CEO of Marshall Mitchell & Associates.  A certified public accountant, Mitchell specifically addressed the funding mechanism through the hotel/motel tax.