The Associated Press
The Atlanta Falcons are offering an extra $8 million to purchase a church property that sits at the site of a proposed $1 billion, retractable roof stadium that the NFL team wants to build, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said Friday.
Team owner Arthur Blank agreed last week to put up the extra funds to clinch the deal after negotiations stalled last month with Mount Vernon Baptist Church, one of two churches that will have to be relocated if the stadium is to be built on the city’s preferred site, Reed said at a news conference. The Falcons will provide $8.3 million, while the Georgia World Congress Center Authority will kick in $6.2 million, for a total payout of $14.5 million.
The Democratic mayor last month helped broker a preliminary $19.5 million deal with Friendship Baptist Church.
Reed said he’s optimistic that the deals with the churches will clear the final hurdle next week when the congregations of each church meet to vote on the proposed agreements.
Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young was instrumental in the negotiations with Mount Vernon Baptist, Reed said. The mayor stressed his desire to avoid using coercive tactics with both churches, noting that he took the use of eminent domain off the table early on.
“We really think we’ve accomplished what we have accomplished today in the Atlanta way,” Reed said. “Folks are here because they want to be here. Folks are going to sell their property if the congregation decides it’s in their best interest to sell their property.”
Reed was joined at the news conference by the Rev. Rodney Turner from Mount Vernon Baptist and Lloyd Hawk, chairman of Friendship Baptist’s board of trustees. Both men said they believe the proposed deals are fair and that they will recommend that their congregations approve them. Both churches said they are considering several sites, and Reed said the city will be willing to provide some assistance and advice for their relocation.
The churches have been the main obstacles to a site south of the Georgia Dome, the Falcons’ existing stadium. Reed has repeatedly said that site is preferable to an open site on the north side of the Georgia Dome because it would be better served by two public transit stations, lessening game-day traffic jams and making it easier for fans to access the games using public transportation.
But if the congregations vote against the new proposals, Reed said he won’t push it. Instead, he said he will join the Falcons in preparing for the north site.
There are six other parcels of land that will still remain to be purchased even if the churches agree to sell their land, but Reed said that, unlike the churches, none of those pieces is essential. Building the stadium without any of those parcels would be more difficult but not impossible, he said.