Scoring Cash

Such a deal.

Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons, has offered to "invest" $150 million to renovate the Georgia Dome. Hooray for Art.

Two things immediately come to mind.

First, Blank is without a doubt one of the nice guys among pro sports team owners. He really does seem to care about Atlanta, and he puts his moolah where his mouth is in many civic projects - $160 million since 1995. Compared to, say, the bad-tempered owner of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Vince Naimoli; the consummate liar-in-chief of the Buccaneers, Malcolm Glazer, who extorted a stadium based on promises to fund half; or the all-round love-to-hate guy, Yankees bossman George Steinbrenner - Blank is a swell fellow.

That said, we come to the second point, and I cite the greatest of all sports writers, Grantland Rice, who 70 years ago had a prescient observation about what's going on at Falcons headquarters: "Money to the left of them and money to the right, money everywhere they turn from morning through the night; only two things count at all from the mountain to the sea, part of it's percentage and the rest is guarantee."

What Blank is really doing is angling to shake up the percentage and guarantee formula. The Falcons rank 31st of the NFL's 32 teams in net value, and the biggest deficit is paltry stadium revenues. That doesn't mean the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot is sweating balancing his checkbook. According to Forbes' 2004 team financial rankings, the Falcons produced profits of $6.4 million last year.

What's the urgency to spruce up the Georgia Dome? Part of the reason is the nature of the game, and the other part is a bid to land the 2009 Super Bowl.

Here's lesson No. 1 about pro sports. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution already is gurgling about the $300 million "economic impact" a Super Bowl would bring to the Big Peach.

There's an easy way to check that - look at sales tax collections before, during and after other Super Bowls. For example, in Miami-Dade County during the Super Bowl month of January 1999, the tax man pocketed $2.26 million. That was slightly above the $2.1 million collected a year earlier but slightly less than the $2.4 million garnered in 2000.

So, where was the economic impact? Not in Miami's stores, eateries and hotels. The answer is pretty obvious: The NFL, its owners and its star players, such as Atlanta's $62 million man, Michael Vick…

-John F. Sugg

Want to learn more sports lessons? Go to Senior Editor John Sugg can be reached at [email protected].

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