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Lawsuit Seeks $700M In Exempt Property Taxes From Mercedes-Benz Stadium

The interior of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta

A lawsuit claims the Atlanta stadium about to host the Super Bowl should not be exempt from paying up to $700M in property taxes.

Atlanta attorney Wayne Kendall is suing the Fulton County Board of Assessors over an arrangement the city has with the Georgia World Congress Center that gives the $1.5B stadium a property tax abatement for 30 years, according to a story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Those taxes could add up to $700M, or $26M a year, in taxes using the 2018 tax rate.

Kendall's argument has to do with the nature of the agreement with the ownership of the Atlanta Falcons compared to a previous deal for the now-demolished Georgia Dome. At the Dome, the Falcons leased the facility for 20 days a year, collecting its ticket and concessions revenues. The rest of the year, the property was controlled by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority.

Under the Mercedes-Benz Stadium agreement, the Falcons control and collect revenues of all events the entire year, even though the stadium is still technically owned by the GWCC.

According to the AJC, Kendall claims the arrangement has the Falcons as a long-term leaseholder, which is a taxable party under Georgia state law. While a Fulton County Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit last year, a state appeals court revived it again.

Officials with Fulton County and the Falcons maintain that the team is a license holder to use the stadium property, which is exempt from taxation, according to the AJC. This is the latest high-profile project in recent years to garner public consternation at property tax breaks.

The city of Atlanta and new Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms battled opponents of the record-setting incentive package that was ultimately approved for CIM Group to redevelop the Gulch, a few steps from Mercedes-Benz Stadium.