New Hawks owner Tony Ressler said Phillips Arena – opened in 1999 – is not good enough.
If he wants to pay for a new arena, that’s fine by me. He’s a businessman, and perhaps it’s a worthwhile investment. It should be his call.
Of course, he won’t have to pay for it himself.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is already expressing a willingness to give public money to the billionaire to aid his multi-billion-dollar business.
Reed said he’s met once with the team’s new owners and repeated his willingness to consider a deal involving the use public funds. The mayor first indicated that option last year in the wake of controversy involving the team’s previous leadership.
“What I’m willing to do is come to the table with a plan that makes sense and is fair to the people of Atlanta,” Reed said. “I’m not closed to participating in a reasonable plan to make sure that the Hawks remain in the city and that’s what I expressed in our meeting.”
Adam Silver has said the Hawks won’t leave Atlanta, and their lease reportedly runs until $124.5 million in bonds are paid off – scheduled to be done in 2028. Plus, the team would have to pay $75 million if the bonds are paid off early.
In other words, the city of Atlanta has a lot of leverage.
There’s also the sticky issue of study after study showing professional sports teams don’t spur economic development – which negates most of the logic behind publicly funding stadiums, leverage or not.
But Reed sounds ready to pony up, which should make Ressler very happy.