How much of the bill for the proposed new stadium does Arthur Blank expect the taxpayers to pick up? Did I hear $300 million just from the state of Georgia?
$300 million. I wonder what the state of Georgia could do with $300 million. We could hire a lot of teachers with which to staff our overcrowded classrooms. Or here's a novel idea. We could actually give a raise to the classroom warriors that are taking home less now than they were nine years ago when Sonny Perdue, the self-proclaimed education governor, took office. I thought I heard Sonny say that he was going to be a servant to the teachers. He must have meant that he was going to service the teachers. There's quite a difference, you know.
Don't like the idea of spending the money on education? Then we could spend it on prisons and welfare, which are unhappy alternatives to a well-educated populace.
And you and I both know that if the Georgia General Assembly agrees to pay $300 million that the actual cost to taxpayers will be much, much more. I don't know of a single building project that has come in under budget since 1965.
That was the year of the Miracle on Capitol Avenue, you might recall. Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was built on a handshake in 51 weeks for $18 million. Those are not misprints. We had leaders back in those days that knew how to get things done. From first turn of the shovel to play ball -- 51 weeks. $18 million. You can look it up.
And we built a great stadium, too. I had some great times at that old ball park. I saw the first game ever played there -- an exhibition game between the Braves and Detroit Tigers -- and the last game -- a World Series contest between the Braves and the New York Yankees. I saw a lot of good -- and even more bad -- baseball in between.
I also saw Three Dog Night perform in the stadium and the Beach Boys. I saw Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and Pete Rose and Hank Aaron play in the stadium and Gaylord Perry best Fernando Valenzuela. I saw the great Karl Wallenda walk a tight-wire strung across the field from one side of the top of the stadium to the other. I watched a Peach Bowl game there and carried the flag across the Atlanta Stadium turf in a Scout Show, and on a cold September night in 1991 I watched David Justice hit a World Series homer into the left field stands.
The Boston Red Sox play in a ball park built in 1912, but we tore ours down in 1996 and we built a domed stadium for our NFL team in 1992. We've used it 20 years and now Falcons team owner Arthur Blank and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and a number of politicians are insisting that the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia cannot continue to prosper unless we replace that $214 million facility with one that will cost five times as much in 2013 dollars.
I don't see it. I just don't. I watched the Olympics in that stadium in 1996 and the gymnasts seemed to flip and twirl and fly through the air just fine. I've seen NCAA basketball games there, along with half the state of Kentucky -- they call it Rupp Arena South -- and while I have never watched a Falcons game in the Dome -- nor wanted to -- I have seen several college football games including a couple of Chick-fil-A Bowls, a Sugar Bowl and the recent BCS National Championship game (between Georgia and Alabama).
It seems fine to me. And I think the Falcons fans should be perfectly satisfied to watch mediocre football there. Or, if Arthur Blank just has to have a new stadium with all the bells and whistles, then he should build it himself. After all, it is his business. It does not belong to the city, as do the Green Bay Packers, or to the state.
I don't want to hear about the economic boon a new stadium will be to the state. Very little of that money trickles down to the average Joe who will be asked to foot the bill. You do realize that the state of Georgia is contemplating spending millions of dollars to replace a perfectly adequate sports arena that is 20 years old while about a third of Georgia public schools aren't adequate.
And consider this. Sanford Stadium, on the campus of the University of Georgia, was built in 1929, is still in operation and is, in fact, one of the finest arenas in the land. More than 92,000 fans crowd into the stadium on game day and all the improvements made to Sanford Stadium over the past 80 years have been paid for by the Georgia Athletic Association -- not by soaking the taxpayers.
This is just my opinion, of course, but mine is the only one I have. I am certain that I won't be invited to Arthur Blank's next cocktail party or given box seats to a Falcons game next year -- but, then again, I don't get to vote on the new stadium proposal, either.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.