Seven months after Mayor Kasim Reed made renovation of Philips Arena part of the deal to keep the Atlanta Hawks downtown, the Atlanta City Council has signed off on a way to pay for the work.
The Council on Monday approved a deal between the city and College Park to extend car rental tax collections beyond their 2038 sunset to raise at least $110 million to fund a $192.5 million update of Philips, the city’s downtown Atlanta sports and entertainment complex.
Now the city and College Park will collect the tax through 2047. College Park was required to sign off on the deal because it is home to the car rental facilities at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the source of the revenue.
“I want to thank you for your support for this important motion,” Mayor Kasim Reed told the council in a rare live appearance after the vote. “In the next 10 to 15 days we should be coming forward with a proposal for an additional billion dollars in investment as a result of the decision you all made today.”
The renovation of Philips is the latest overhaul of a metro Atlanta sports stadium to receive millions in taxpayer funding. The city of Atlanta is contritubing $200 million in hotel/motel taxes for the construction of the $1.4 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. Cobb County borrowed $378 million for the construction of SunTrust Park, the Atlanta Braves’ new $672 million ball park.
In addition to the car rental revenue, the city will kick in $32.5 million for the Philips renovation from other sources, including part of the funds received from the $30 million sale of Turner Field and from two bond issuances, the city said. The Hawks will invest $50 million in the project.
The deal to renovate Philips should not be confused with a separate agreement between College Park and the Hawks to build a $20 million to $40 million facility in that south metro city for a minor league basketball team affiliated with the franchise.
City Councilwoman Felicia Moore said she is supportive of sports teams and the tourism and tax dollars that they generate. But she said residents don’t feel leaders are as invested in everyday ordinary citizens.
“What I’ve heard from people over and over again is, ‘What about us?’” Moore said. “Priority matters. And people are not feeling that they are part of the priority.”
Georgia State University student Tim Franzen said he didn’t understand the city’s love of stadiums.
“It’s insane,” he said. “We are not in a crisis of resources. We are in a crisis of moral authority.”
An exasperated Reed pushed back, saying he was tired of the council and his administration being beat up for what he sees as a record of accomplishment, including cutting the unemployment rate in half and millions in investment in the city.
“You are not going to come in here and question our hearts,” he said.