The Republican governor, Democratic mayor and billionaire NFL team owner shared the stage – and shared plenty of credit – at Saturday’s soft opening of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. You could almost sense the relief.
“I’ll tell you, I sure am happy now. It’s certainly one of the happiest days I’ve been on this job,” said the aforementioned mayor, Kasim Reed. “Because the process to get today – it was pretty tough.”
When the Falcons first sought public support for the $1.5 billion facility, state lawmakers staunchly resisted pumping taxpayer dollars into the new stadium. And the public perception was souring - one AJC poll showed nearly three-quarters of voters were against using hotel/motel tax collections to finance the deal.
Around that time, five years ago, a partnership was solidifying. Gov. Nathan Deal and Reed already had a famous bipartisan friendship, and soon Falcons owner Arthur Blank was meeting regularly with the political leaders to hash out the plan.