Always money for stadiums

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On this page before, we have noted the profusion of stadiums in the Washington area, from Consol Energy Park in North Franklin Township, where the Washington Wild Things play, to the football fields where high school athletes make bids for glory in the fall. And we have lamented how there always seems to be money for stadiums, even while needs in education, infrastructure and social services go wanting.


There is perhaps no better example of how stadiums, athletics and ego trump all other concerns than what is happening in Atlanta right now.


Lawmakers in the city have approved a plan calling for the construction of a new stadium just a stone’s throw from the Georgia Dome, the current, 75,000-seat home of the Atlanta Falcons. The 1994 and the 2000 Super Bowl games were played there.


Most fans feel it’s a sturdy, reliable structure. The Falcons’ team president, Rich McKay, even said, “The Georgia Dome is a good building.”


And yet the wrecking ball will soon be puncturing its sides and reducing it to rubble.


We would understand the need for a new stadium if, like Civic Arena or Three Rivers Stadium, the structure was outmoded and aged. But the Georgia Dome is just 20 years old.


But Arthur Blank, the Falcons’ owner, put the proverbial gun to the head of Atlanta city officials. He wanted a stadium with a retractable roof and, if he didn’t get it, he was going to take the team elsewhere. City officials balked. Blank is going to fork over $700 million of the estimated $1 billion cost, but $300 million will come from the city through a hotel tax.


A century hence, when Atlanta has undoubtedly built and torn down yet more stadiums, our descendants will question our priorities.


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