ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia World Congress Center Authority officials voted Friday to move forward with a plan to build a $1 billion stadium in downtown Atlanta.

The agency’s board of governors voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Falcons to build the new retractable roof stadium.

The board’s executive director has drafted a memorandum of understanding between the authority and the Falcons, and a second memorandum that includes Invest Atlanta, said authority spokeswoman Jennifer LeMaster. The executive director has also prepared a funding and development agreement between the authority and Invest Atlanta, and an operation and maintenance agreement between the authority and the city.

“The Board’s vote to allow us to finalize the new stadium transaction is a direct reflection of a mutually beneficial and sustainable business relationship crafted by all parties,” GWCCA Executive Director Frank Poe said in a release. “This is a very significant step forward for our campus.”

Board chairman Tim Lowe said the development will reinforce Atlanta’s position as a top-tier sports and entertainment host and is in the state’s best financial interest.

The Congress Center plans to retain control over events annually hosted at the Georgia Dome — including the SEC Championship football game, NCAA basketball tournament rounds and Georgiahigh school football championships, among others.

Mayor Kasim Reed and Falcons owner Arthur Blank last week agreed to financing terms of the project, which would replace the 20-year-old Georgia Dome.

Reed said the city would provide $200 million for construction costs through hotel-motel tax revenue and the Falcons would provide $800 million. Officials have said the public investment is less than what would have to be spent on Georgia Dome upgrades in the next few decades. The franchise is also responsible for providing up to $50 million to cover infrastructure costs, and will pay for any cost overruns.

The authority will own the stadium and officials hope to build it in time for the 2017 NFL season. The agreement calls for the Falcons to lease the stadium for 30 years, paying the state $2.5 million annually in rent.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)



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