Falcons owner speaks to clubs on Braves move
by Haisten Willis
April 10, 2014 04:00 AM | 10108 views | 6 6 comments | 54 54 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank answers questions from Rotary Club of Marietta former President Mitch Rhoden during the Rotary Club of Marietta and Kiwanis Club of Marietta luncheon Wednesday at the Hilton Marietta Hotel and Conference Center. <br> Staff/ Kelly J. Huff
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank answers questions from Rotary Club of Marietta former President Mitch Rhoden during the Rotary Club of Marietta and Kiwanis Club of Marietta luncheon Wednesday at the Hilton Marietta Hotel and Conference Center.
Staff/ Kelly J. Huff
MARIETTA — Though he’s in the early stages of building his own new stadium in downtown Atlanta, Falcons owner Arthur Blank admitted he’d probably move to Cobb, too, if he was in the Braves’ situation.

During an appearance at a joint meeting of the Marietta Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, Blank was asked a host of questions, but perhaps the most interesting response came when he was asked about the Braves move out of downtown Atlanta and into Cobb.

“I want to be thoughtful about my answer,” Blank said after hesitating for a moment. “I think the Braves ... I think they were stuck between a rock and a hard place. I think their current site is not served by public transportation. It’s obviously not easy to get downtown during the week for a game fighting that traffic … I probably would have ended up doing the same thing, but I know they worked hard to try to stay in the city.”

Blank pointed to key differences between the Braves’ Turner Field and the site of the planned new Falcons stadium. Namely, the lack of development near Turner Field, the lack of a MARTA station nearby and the difficulty of getting cars to the site.

Though Blank said he’s “an Atlanta guy” and would have worked hard to keep the team in the city, he acknowledged the Braves tried to work with Atlanta leaders.

“I don’t think they were thrilled about making a move,” said Blank, 71.

“But I think they’re thrilled about coming to Cobb County. Cobb County will be a great address for them. It is only 12 miles from where they were before. It’s still Atlanta.”

Finishing his answer, Blank also couldn’t resist making a joke about former Braves owner Ted Turner, who said just a few weeks ago he would have kept the team downtown if he was still the owner.

Blank said Turner probably realized the new stadium wouldn’t be named after him and that might be the reason for his opposition.

Blank’s new stadium for the Falcons will be right next to the Georgia Dome, and while groundbreaking is set for May, construction is already well underway.

Both stadiums were announced around the same time, and both are set to open in 2017. He said the new Falcons stadium should cost $1.2 or $1.3 billion.

The event was held at the Marietta Conference Center, with former Rotary president Mitch Rhoden asking the questions.

Blank built his wealth as a co-founder of Home Depot along with Bernie Marcus. He left the company to purchase the Falcons in 2001 and has been focused on his NFL team ever since, though he might be adding a second pro sports team soon.

MLS franchise coming to Atlanta?

The other big topic of the day was the swirling rumors that a Major League Soccer expansion team will be awarded to Atlanta in the next several days, playing in the same stadium as the Falcons with Blank as the owner.

Former Marietta Mayor Bill Dunaway brought up the subject when he was introducing Blank.

Dunaway said he wouldn’t speculate as to what kind of new pro sports team Blank might own soon, but added he was a big fan of the Atlanta Chiefs, a pro soccer team that played here in the 1970s.

Blank first brought up soccer when talking about his kids.

“My kids all have an interest in soccer and the sport Bill alluded to earlier was soccer,” he said.

“I’m not going to tell him anything he doesn’t already know. We are very close to making an announcement on a professional MLS soccer franchise in Atlanta.”

Blank’s words met loud applause from the audience.

“There are a couple of little issues left that we have to get resolved, but we’re close to getting those resolved. When we do announce it, we will announce it in Atlanta. It will be a very exciting event for our city, the region and the state.”

At Blank’s side during his appearance was Angie Macuga, a woman he recently got engaged to who had worked for Dunaway during her high school days.

Is football safe for kids?

Of course, there were also plenty of questions about Blank’s existing team. He said he would not be worried about his teenage sons playing football and said the NFL has been on the cutting edge of new safety technology.

Blank also acknowledged he makes no football decisions as owner, focusing on the business side of the team.

“I have the power, because I own the team, to essentially do whatever I would like,” he said. “But that’s a dangerous position to be in. I don’t put myself in a position where I make any football decisions. My football decisions are to hire the best personnel folks I can, the best coaching staff I can, given our financial resources.”

He also promised the Falcons will have a better record than their dismal 4-12 in 2013.

“We’ll certainly have a better record than we did last year,” he said.

But Blank also noted the Falcons had never had back-to-back winning seasons before he became owner in 2001, and they had five straight from 2008-12. Three minor coaching changes were made in the off season, and the Falcons have 10 picks in the upcoming NFL draft.

“I’m sure we’ll be back to where we have been.”

As a thank-you for his appearance, Blank was given a caricature of himself drawn by local artist Mary Stoddard.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Marietta resident
April 12, 2014
Official Code of Georgia Annotated O.C.G.A. 16-12-1(b)(3)

Anyone under the age of 18 who is not supervised at all times, either their parents or guardian or babysitter or whoever the state deems responsible is guilty of a misdemeanor. Since babysitters are typically under 18, their parents are subject to arrest and prosecution.

Picking and choosing targets of opportunity is arbitrary and capricious, it is a violation of equal protection of the law.

Since so many football, soccer, baseball, tennis, clubs and every day school bus stops have unsupervised humans that are less than 18 years old humans, perhaps under the law as it is in Georgia :the police can arrest, charge, jail, imprison millions of people - rather than selecting whoever for political reasons, police quota reasons, DFCS taking $90,000 per year per minor according to the Governor of the State of Georgia, a former Juvenile Court judge.

Does this law make sense to you? I suggest contacting the Judicial Committee in the State of Georgia to vacate this law.
LC 11
April 10, 2014
Mitch looking very concerned....
April 10, 2014
Yeah well, he doesn't have to live or drive in the traffic mess and increased crime this is going to bring to our area. None of the people pushing this move have to live in the area. They all live in mansions far away and don't have to work or drive in it.
Mike In Smyrna
April 10, 2014
What statistical data are you basing your reference to increased crime? Or, is it just your opinion?
April 10, 2014
Increased traffic can be mitigated by new infrastructure, which this project will bring by virtue of the Cobb GOP's long standing connections with the GOP leadership of the state (the governor's office, the DOT, the legislature). Getting money for this isn't exactly the equivalent of getting money for the Beltline or MARTA that would primarily benefit the ITP black ledaership class, OK? Funneling pork to GOP areas has never been considered a betrayal of small government conservatism, particularly since southern and midwestern GOPers have long known to be the most successful at directing special projects to their districts.

As far as crime goes, well that is enforcement. Rudy Giuliani proved it in New York City. And though he will never get any credit for it from the suburban conservative crowd, Kasim Reed is proving so in Atlanta. Ever since he fully staffed the police department and stepped up patrols, crime has significantly dropped in the city, and the city has been rewarded with a bunch of new development and residents to gentrify it.

Cobb's problem is that it has not made the same increases in public safety spending the past few years as the Reed administration has, which some Cobb LEO leaders have stated while resigning in protest. Hire more cops and have them concentrate their patrols around the new stadium and there will be no increase of crime. (As a matter of fact, despite the claims that the area was unsafe, I do not remember a single incident of a person getting robbed or assaulted while attending a Braves game.)

So relax. The Braves moving will be a boon to the Braves and to Cobb. And since it appears that Georgia State University is going to buy the Turner Field area to convert it into classroom and housing space - and vastly increase the size of their student body to make it one of the largest universities in America - losing the Braves will help Atlanta more than keeping them would have. So it is a win, win, win for everyone.
Cobb Countian
April 10, 2014
I agree Hotinatlanta!

It does not take a Rhodes scholar or statistical data to know that the more people in an area usually brings more crime and traffic.

Mikey in Smyrna is wrong.
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