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Official: Georgia Dome would stay, even if Falcons have new home

ATLANTA -- Falcons president Rich McKay said Friday the team wants a new stadium within seven years, but it doesn't appear the Georgia Dome is going away.

Frank Poe, the executive director of the Georgia World Congress Center, which manages the Georgia Dome, told The Associated Press on Friday that the facility might be renovated, but it won't be torn down. He said the dome simply is too valuable as a revenue-producer.

Poe said a new open-air stadium for the Falcons would complement, not replace, the Georgia Dome, which opened in 1992.

"If there is a second stadium, we still have to keep the Georgia Dome in operation," Poe said.

Poe said the Georgia Dome must be kept to draw such events as the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Southeastern Conference football championship game and the 2011 and 2014 SEC basketball tournaments. The Georgia Dome has been home to two Super Bowls and will host its third Final Four in 2013.

The Georgia Dome also hosts an annual matchup of SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference teams on the first week of the college football season. Beginning this year, it will serve as the home for Georgia State's football team in its inaugural football season.

"We can't lose our positioning for those types of events beyond the Falcons, which have value as well," Poe said. "The football championships, the bowl games, the other entertainment still serve our mission as an economic driver and bringing in visitors to the city."

Added Poe: "We have a solid group of clients ... who have been in an enclosed environment and have not expressed interest in an open-air stadium."

Just 10 of the 106 Georgia Dome events in 2009 were Falcons games, including eight regular-season contests, according to the GWCC. In terms of total attendance at the Georgia Dome, the Falcons drew 524,500 of more than 1,335,000 for all events in 2009, according to GWCC statistics.

The SEC has a contract to stage its football championship game in the facility through 2015.

McKay said the Falcons would support playing in a second facility while the Georgia Dome continues to host other events.

"There's been a suggestion made of an outdoor stadium, and it certainly interests us, but it also interests us from the potential of the dome remaining active and open in housing events," he said.

McKay said a new open-air stadium could increase revenue by "attracting new events and growing the pie as opposed to shrinking the pie."

The Georgia legislature recently passed a bill extending the hotel-motel tax for the Georgia Dome until 2045. The bill is awaiting the signature of Gov. Sonny Perdue.

"The governor's final signature is a key which helps unlock the door toward really seriously considering major renovations," Poe said.


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McKay said it might be too expensive to put a retractable roof on a new stadium or the Georgia Dome. Poe called a retractable roof on the dome "a consideration" that "probably has some challenges that would have to be overcome architecturally."

McKay said Falcons owner Arthur Blank prefers to have a new stadium near the Georgia Dome or at least near downtown. McKay said it would be difficult to find room for a new stadium near the dome.

"Those limits are just created by the availability of land, but I think Arthur is definitely focused on doing a deal downtown, and in doing it, we know we've got to work within some limits that are going to put some constraints on a project. That includes parking and the size of the stadium."

McKay said other sites away from downtown are still being considered. He also acknowledged that he expects opposition to using tax dollars with private funds.

"Everybody is extremely sensitive to the current economic environment, but this is a project we've been working on for a couple of years and we will work on for more years," McKay said. "It's not as though this is a stadium that will be built in the next three or four years. This is something we're talking about in the next six or seven years."

Note: The Falcons will hold combined practices with the Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots during training camp. The Jaguars will be at the Falcons' suburban complex for practices Aug. 9-10. After the Falcons' preseason opener, the Patriots will travel to Flowery Branch for practice Aug. 17, two days before meet in a game at the Georgia Dome. Falcons coach Mike Smith is the Jaguars' former defensive coordinator, and general manager Thomas Dimitroff is the Patriots' former director of college scouting.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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