The Atlanta Falcons and owner Arthur Blank seem closer than ever to securing a brand-new, sparkling, $1 billion football stadium. It might not be a perfect scenario for all involved, but the fans seem excited that they’ll get to attend Falcons games in a beautiful, new palace in the near future and, theoretically, not have to pay a dime for it.
I’m not ready for that move yet, though.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for whatever will get the Falcons to the Super Bowl and win a title. Or seven. If they feel a new stadium will boost the number of butts in the seats, which will make the franchise more money and keep a home-field advantage as raucous as possible, I support that. If we desperately need to host a Super Bowl, and the NFL won’t let us do that in the Georgia Dome, then tear up some run-down areas around the current stadium and put a new stadium in there. At least we’re not moving out of the city.
But not once during this ordeal have the Falcons asked the fans what they really want.
I’ll tell you what I want — I want the team to stay in the Georgia Dome. They’ve been selfish during this stadium battle, so now it’s time for me to think about myself. I grew up a little in that building. Since I was 11 years old, I’ve been going to Falcons games — more than 40 in the last 15 years — and I have a lot of Sunday memories in there.
I saw the 1998 team destroy the Miami Dolphins in Week 17, my first Falcons game ever, en route to an NFC title. I saw the hapless bunch in the early 2000s, even when most of the stadium was empty. I saw the last few years of great success, when the team rarely ever lost in the Dome.
The new stadium would be a part of growing up, I guess, but I don’t want to forfeit those memories for a new stadium.
And it’s not just about the Falcons. In March 2009, I sat courtside to one of the greatest college sports memories I have — Florida State’s magical run to the ACC Championship game, where they were the last team to beat eventual national champion North Carolina. I’ve covered an SEC Tournament and a Chick-Fil-A Bowl in that building (the game where alma mater FSU beat South Carolina, no less).
So do what you need to do for your legacy, Mr. Blank. If you have to have a stadium that lives on, even after you’re gone, there’s nothing I can do to stop you.
But the fan in me is a little hesitant, and there’s no way the 11-year-old version of me would ever support this.
(Also read: Pixar’s rules of storytelling)