Falcons get serious about new stadium, hosting Super Bowl

ATLANTA -- The stadium playing field is shifting.

The Falcons are closely watching as the Vikings and 49ers close in on new stadiums and the Steelers and Packers work on renovations/expansions.

The Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority have been in negotiations for about two years on a new stadium. The parties last month vacated their talks about an open-air stadium, which would have operated along with the Georgia Dome. The parties have turned their focus to a retractable-roof stadium, which would replace the Dome.

However, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in Atlanta for a meeting of the league's owners Tuesday, said he would advise the city to bid for another Super Bowl if a new stadium is built here. But he said that a new stadium wouldn't guarantee a return of the Super Bowl.

"The issue that we always raise -- and this came up in Minnesota (where) they're building a closed-roof stadium, it appears, and have the same interest -- (is that) the reality of what's happening is it is becoming more and more competitive to host a Super Bowl," Goodell said. "But these stadiums are our stage, and they are one of the key components in hosting a Super Bowl, along with having, obviously, the infrastructure. So certainly, if (a new stadium) gets done (here), we'd encourage them to apply."

Atlanta has hosted two Super Bowls, in 1994 and 2000, and failed in subsequent bids for the game, in part because of the ice storm that virtually shut down the city before the 2000 event and the bad publicity surrounding two murders in Buckhead and the arrest and trial of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. The NFL, though, often awards the Super Bowl to new stadiums.

The most recent Super Bowl was played in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Goodell said the league's owners heard updates about four ongoing stadium construction projects -- new homes for the Vikings and 49ers and renovations/expansions of the Steelers' and Packers' stadiums.

The owners did not get an update on the Falcons' stadium efforts "because no action was required," Goodell said.

But he has monitored the Atlanta stadium situation closely.

"I've had some informal conversations with both (Falcons owner) Arthur (Blank) and (team president) Rich (McKay)," Goodell said. "It's like any of our stadium projects -- there's a process of working through (and) finding a solution that works in the community that will also work for the club. Those discussions seem to be going along in a way where there's good give-and-take."

Blank said the Falcons are "making progress" toward a stadium deal.

"We have a great relationship with the Congress Center, and we're getting support from the right kind of political leadership and the public," Blank said. "We're trying to please a lot of stakeholders -- the fans, the communities, our franchise."

The Georgia Dome was completed in 1992. In addition to the two Super Bowls, the venue regularly hosts the SEC football championship game and the other major college events.

"It's not an easy process, and it shouldn't be an easy process," Blank said. "There's a lot involved financially. There's a lot involved community-wise, politically, personally. ... It's a big project, so we need to do it correctly. It's not a matter of speed."