Mount Vernon Approves Stadium Deal, Friendship Baptist Votes Sunday
From News Services | 9/20/2013, 2:21 p.m.
The membership of Mount Vernon Baptist Church overwhelmingly voted to accept a $14.5 million offer to sell its property to make way for a new Atlanta Falcons stadium, church leaders announced Wednesday night.
The membership of Friendship Baptist Church which also sits on the proposed south site for the new stadium will vote on Sunday. The board has already approved a $19.5 million offer but it still needs the approval of the membership.
If the membership votes no, then the Falcons and the Georgia Congress Center Authority will look at building the $1 billion stadium on the north site on Northside Drive just past the Georgia World Congress Center.
Friendship’s membership is expected to accept the deal.
The meeting at Mount Vernon was described by its members afterwards as emotional. The vote was 116 to 16 in favor, said one member who voted against the deal. It mostly the members who voted no who were talking to reporters after the vote.
“I think it’s an abomination in the sight of God for the city and the Falcons to consider bringing down two historic black churches for a stadium for a second rate football team,” Vickie Johnson said.
“For a team that is going to have a new stadium every 20 years you just can’t give away history,” added James Sellers, whose family had Sellers Brothers funeral home in the area for 80 years.
“The people are the church, not the building,” said one unidentified member who voted for the deal.
Mount Vernon Baptist pastor Rodney Turner who supported the deal was pleased with the vote. “There’s still a lot to be done, but we’re excited about what has happened tonight,” he told reporters after the vote.
The Falcons had no immediate comment about the vote. Mayor Kasim Reed said he was glad that it would “all be over” this week.
Reed and representatives from Mount Vernon Baptist Church and Friendship Baptist Church announced last Friday at a press conference that the an agreement had been reached after the Atlanta Falcons offered an extra $8.3 million to purchase the land of Mount Vernon.
The total package is $14.5 million which includes $6.2 million from the Georgia Congress Center Authority.
Talks had stalled with Mount Vernon officials after Reed and the city negotiated a $19.5 million deal with Friendship. The state authority was limited in the amount it could negotiate with Mount Vernon, but that church is closer to the current Georgia Dome than Friendship.
Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young was instrumental in the negotiations with Mount Vernon Baptist, Reed said. The mayor stressed his desire to avoid using coercive tactics with both churches, noting that he took the use of eminent domain off the table early on.
"We really think we've accomplished what we have accomplished today in the Atlanta way,'' Reed said. "Folks are here because they want to be here. Folks are going to sell their property if the congregation decides it's in their best interest to sell their property.''