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Practice Fields for Atlanta United FC – Here are the details – What are your thoughts?

As reported in the media, DeKalb County has been in talks with Atlanta United FC regarding a location for their practice fields and headquarters building. Atlanta United FC is a professional soccer team owned by the Home Depot co-founder, Arthur Blank. This week, the administration presented the Board of Commissioners with details of a proposed agreement between Atlanta United and DeKalb County. The Board of Commissioners is being asked to vote on this agreement on Tuesday, August 4th.

I have many concerns about this matter. In no particular order, they include:

1) What return on investment can the taxpayers of DeKalb county reasonably expect from this agreement?

2) Has the county performed any economic analysis regarding expected economic activity generated by this land use?

3) How reasonable is the county’s expected land preparation cost of $3-$5 million? Based on the the requirements presented to the board, the preparations include, demolition, entrance construction, detention ponds, irrigation systems, and sod.

4) Why is the county proposing to use money from the General Fund to pay for this? Is not the correct fund for this, the Parks and Recreation fund?

Here are the details of the potential deal:
Land to be used is unused County-owned property adjacent to the jail, juvenile court, Bobbie Burgess building, and the former Recorders Court.

Phase I – 30 acres – Atlanta United (“Arthur Blank”) to build 15,000- 20,000 square foot corporate headquarters for Atlanta’s major league soccer team, 3 outdoor practice fields, and a 3,500 seat outdoor stadium, including the County’s parks department offices of approximately 6,000 square feet to be located in the outdoor stadium (the “Soccer Complex”).

Phase 2- 11 acres – If needed, the land will be used to build additional fields, and perhaps an
indoor training facility.

County enters into a long term ground lease of approximately 40 acres with the Development Authority of DeKalb County (“Decide DeKalb”). Decide DeKalb enters into a management and Operating Agreement with Arthur Blank for 20 years with two 5 year automatic renewals. At the end of the 30 year ground lease, the 40 acres, the buildings, fields, and stadium and any other improvements on the 40 acres revert to ownership of the County at no cost.

County contribution
Total cost of land preparation/demolition of 40 acres, estimated at between 3 and 5 million dollars. 7 million dollars paid to Arthur Blank over 3 years beginning on date the County’s parks department occupies its new offices as annual Facility Use Payments for the County’s use of the fields, the stadium and its new parks department offices. Annual payment will be 2.33 million dollars for first 3 years and then $10.00 per year for the remainder of the ground lease. County acknowledges that no property taxes are to be paid by Arthur Blank for the life of the ground lease because it is a usufruct and agrees to waive all permitting fees for the Soccer Complex. County agrees to seek funding for pedestrian improvements from the Soccer Complex to the Kensington MARTA Station. County agrees to demolish the current animal shelter by 12-31-2016 and allow Arthur Blank the right to consult on other compatible uses, if County develops land. County agrees to fund its share of maintenance and Capital Repairs for its parks department offices during the term of the ground lease. County agrees to seek designation of the area which includes the Soccer Complex as a State Opportunity Zone. County agrees to allow Arthur Blank and the public limited use of the Juvenile Justice Center parking lot on a first come first served basis. County agrees to seek Board of Education participation in the Kensington TAD.

Atlanta United FC contribution
Construction of corporate headquarters, 3,500 seat stadium, parks department offices, and 3 soccer fields, at its sole cost, with some design input from the County and Decide DeKalb. Arthur Blank agrees not to relocate during the term of the ground lease, so long as County and Decide DeKalb are not in default. Arthur Blank to fund its share of Capital Repairs and Improvements to the Soccer Complex during the term of the ground lease. Arthur Blank agrees to pay the County 15% of net revenues received by Arthur Blank for naming rights and branded events held at the Soccer Complex. Arthur Blank agrees to allow the County to use the fields and the stadium at no charge other than the Facility Use Payments, on a mutually agreeable basis, when not in use by Atlanta’s major league soccer team. Arthur Blank agrees to use commercially reasonable efforts to hire DeKaib residents for at least 10% of construction, maintenance and operation jobs.

Decide DeKalb
Bidding and overseeing the land preparation/demolition process.
Receiving 15% net revenues for naming rights and passing it through to the County.
Collaborative design review of construction of the Soccer Complex.
Establishing necessary capital repair accounts for County and Arthur Blank and ensuring funding of such accounts, as necessary and allowed by law.


  1. Nancy Porter says:

    Thank you Nancy for your thoughtful work here.

    Is there adequate time for those voting on the proposed soccer deal to understand all the implications?

    I really like how you didn’t support the Dekalb Budget because it needed other issues addressed that weren’t.

    Count me a fan of yours.

    Nancy 404 556 6277

    Nancy J. Porter

  2. W. Johnson says:

    Vote no!! These corporate welfare schemes for sports conglomerates seldom pay off. All costs of sporting events should be paid by ticket sales and tv rights. No such costs should be paid by the taxpayers.

  3. Rick Simpson says:

    Wish Brookhaven would have done public comment before they encumbered the fields at Blackburn to a long term lease.

  4. The devil is always in the details. If a proforma has been performed please share it as well as the source of who performed it. As mentioned above these sports venues are often a tax burden to the government that sponsors these opportunities. If it were a real money maker they wouldn’t have any desire to “cut” anyone in on the deal! At the end of the day we need to understand the $$$.

    Thanks Nancy for your approach to governing!

  5. Lisa C Victory says:

    What happens to the animal shelter if it’s demolished? Will it be rebuilt elsewhere?

    Sent from my iPad


  6. William Crichlow says:

    I have never seen anything so convoluted in my life (except, of course, the federal government). The county should not be partnering up in commercial enterprises. If DeKalb County owns the property, then simply sell it to Blank (for suitable land uses), then assess appropriate property taxes. The county shouldn’t be speculating with taxpayer money. Perhaps there is some benefit to the county, but it isn’t outlined above.

  7. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Looks like the winner here is the parks department employees that get a brand new office space, state of the art, I am sure. I can’t even begin to think about the naming of this facility.

    This comes from what pile of cash? Honestly if we have this kind of money laying around, isn’t their a pothole, water main, street sign, rec center, drainage ditch, sewer line, park renovation, road resurfacing to be done? Can’t we put the citizens in Dekalb at the front of the line?

    I get the commissioners are really looking for a win in the “We are bringing business to DeKab” column but they should have been a little more concerned about that when they ignored the School Board and Superintendent issues over that last 10 years. These two entities go hand in hand in the success of a county. I did see the school board got a nod in this contract too.

    Reading further online there was a market assessment done for Dekalb by Angelou Economics, pg 28-35 “Dekalb County Market Assessment”.2014. This area and three others were highlighted. Several pro/cons of adding project to this Tax Allocation District. Much of this area is owned by the county or Marta and as the county is considered “friendly” , I suspect it will most likely go thru. It will put a strain on local access to I285/Memorial Drive and the highway itself. I get we need an investor in the area, but does it have to be the taxpayers of Dekalb? Sell the property, someone suggested. HAH! They will never sell land. Look around, there’s piles of it, undeveloped and gone to kudzu or ruin. In fact, let’s buy some more, call it “green space” and do nothing with it. OH wait, we do that all the time.

    So that is 5mil to a contractor for demolition and land prep, then 7 mil to Mr. Blank. Ok, what about the lack of access from 285 or the relocation of the animal facility or the terrain differences or the pedestrian traffic/road width to support the facility. Who pays? All of which was sighted as issues in the Market Assesment. To be completely fair, there were some reasonable pros for building here.

    I think the reason they are using the General Fund is because there is no real plan to make this a park/rec investment for DeKalb. This is simply following thru on what commission had already planned for this area. This document clearly spells all of this out. Blank just came a calling or they went a courtin. Doesn’t matter who, just matters it gets done.

    Believe me Commissioner Jester, parks and rec is the farthest thing from this county’s mind when it comes to spending money. Look around, then go out to Gwinnett and take a gander at their parks. But it might be a nice place to hold graduations, do you think they would wave the fees for the schools too?

  8. Stan Jester says:

    The board of commissioners are currently discussing United FC soccer fields. You can watch the discussion online at DCTV.

    Currently a number of people are asking to make public comments. Commissioner Larry Johnson regrets that there has been no scheduled time to give the public a chance to provide public comment. Jeff Rader moved to allow the public to speak now and create time to hear the public. Nancy Jester seconded the motion. Unfortunately, a majority of the commissioners don’t want to hear from the public and voted it down (I guess Commissioner Johnson doesn’t regret it that much).

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