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State's share of stadium costs could grow; critics blast plan, supporters say it will pay off

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ATLANTA — Georgia officials are preparing to spend more than $30 million to buy land and build parking for the new stadium that would be home to the Atlanta Falcons.

The decisions are being made after some state lawmakers balked at a plan last year to use state money to issue construction bonds for the $1.2 billion project.

Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to approve a budget this month that includes a $17 million parking deck, a project made public days before the legislative session ended. Records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (http://bit.ly/OOfg17) show that state officials also could spend $16.3 million on land for the site.

Critics say the stadium project has many hidden costs, and they accuse the state of trying to slide the public spending on the stadium past the public.

Voters should reject the "backroom deal-cutting" and call on the governor to veto the parking deck spending, said Wyc Orr, vice chair of Common Cause Georgia.

"Active citizens must reject such anti-democratic oligarchy," Orr told the Atlanta newspaper.

But public officials and team executives say the project will enhance the state-owned Georgia World Congress Center nearby, and the parking deck will be used for other events as well.

"The state's contributions help us achieve our goal of building a new stadium downtown on a site preferred by the partners involved in this project," said Kim Shreckengost, the chief-of-staff to Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

Deal said in a recent interview with the Atlanta newspaper that the parking deck is needed.

"We're in the business of providing what's needed for our World Congress Center campus and this would all be a part," Deal said. "And they tell me that parking is not adequate now. I think the need is justified. We believe this first step is a critical step."


Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com

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