ATLANTA -- The Atlanta City Council voted Monday night to approve a financing plan to build a new stadium for the NFL's Falcons, removing one of the last hurdles for the downtown project that will replace the 20-year-old Georgia Dome.
The council voted 11-4 to approve using city hotel-motel tax revenue to cover the $200 million public contribution for the proposed $1 billion, retractable roof stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. The team is expected to provide $800 million and cover any cost overruns.
"The construction of a new stadium will lead to the revitalization of some of the city's most historic neighborhoods, create well-paying jobs and ensure that the City of Atlanta remains a competitive, leading city with world-class attractions," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement following the more than 6-hour long meeting. "I appreciate this vote of confidence from the Atlanta City Council in moving this vital issue forward."
State and city leaders pushed the plan despite statewide polls in Georgia showing that less than a third of residents support a new stadium, even if Falcons owner Arthur Blank covered most of the construction cost. Research has casts doubt on claims that such investments are a good deal for taxpayers because they create jobs and foster economic activity.
Monday's vote came three days after the board of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority voted unanimously Friday to move forward with the stadium plan by entering into an agreement with the city and the Falcons franchise. The final required action is by Invest Atlanta, the city's economic development arm. Officials have said the Invest Atlanta vote could come as soon as Tuesday.
Reed and Blank agreed earlier this month to financing terms of the project. The new stadium would be built near the current dome. Officials hope to build the stadium in time for the 2017 NFL season.
"We're obviously pleased. We're not going to jump up and down and go crazy because we realize we've still got another vote," Falcons president Rich McKay told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
During the meeting, more than 40 people spoke to council during a public comment period. Some said they felt the decision was rushed, and the city should take more time considering the deal and potential impact.
Steve Carr, who has lived in Atlanta for more than 30 years, urged the council to note the impacts a new stadium could have on surrounding neighborhoods.
"We have 150 years of the business community running this city," he said, according to the newspaper. "They displaced people to build Turner Field. They displaced people to build the Atlanta Civic Center. And they displaced people to build the Dome, which is already serviceable. This city has a long history of being unfair."