BRADENTON, Fla. - A Georgia Superior Court judge continues hearing arguments Thursday in the validation of $278.3 million in revenue bonds to support financing of the Atlanta Falcon's new stadium.
People who live near the stadium site are opposing court approval of the bonds. Their attorney is John Woodham, who challenged the application of the Atlanta BeltLine's tax allocation district to public schools, and other bond validation actions.
Some of Woodham's cases have gone to the Georgia Supreme Court, and taken years to resolve.
The intervenors have cited 15 objections to validating the bonds. They all lack merit, argued a March 27 brief filed by Hunton & Williams partner Douglass Selby, who represents the city and its development authority, Invest Atlanta, which will issue the bonds.
The opponents cite a number of procedural and contractual problems to support reasons why the bonds should not be validated, including whether the state and city of Atlanta properly enacted the local hotel-motel tax that would secure the debt.
Selby said at least five objections raised by the intervenors "are not material" to the validation proceedings.
Those objections include whether the project development agreement is legal. That agreement is between the team and the Georgia World Congress Center, the state agency that owns the land where the $1.2 billion National Football League stadium will be built.
"Intervenors have the burden to prove their objections," said Selby. "They cannot do so. Thus the Series 2014 bonds should be confirmed and validated in all respects."
The judge presiding in the case must evaluate the security for the bonds, and if procedures of the issuer authorizing the bonds were proper in order to determine if the debt is "sound, feasible, and reasonable," he said.
In addition to proceeds from 30-year bonds, the stadium's remaining cost will be paid through the NFL's G-4 loan program, team debt, equity, and personal seat licenses.
City officials have said they expected the debt to be sold before the end of fiscal 2014.
The next stage in the validation case comes as reports surface that Atlanta will be named to receive the next Major League Soccer franchise on April 16.
Falcons' owner Arthur Blank has talked with MLS officials about basing the team at the new stadium when it opens in 2017. It is not clear if a delay in the stadium financing could impact the franchise announcement.
The Georgia General Assembly, which refused to assist in the stadium financing several years ago leaving it up to the city, forwarded a 2015 budget to Gov. Nathan Deal in recent weeks totaling $42.4 billion.
The budget includes about $900 million in state general obligation bonds, of which $17 million would finance a parking garage at the Georgia World Congress Center where the new retractable-roof stadium will be built.
The Falcons currently play in the 22-year-old Georgia Dome at the World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta. The Dome will be razed after the new stadium opens.