DeKalb County scraps deal for soccer complex

Posted by Decaturish.com November 6, 2015
CEO Lee May discusses the professional soccer proposal with DeKalb Commissioners. Photo from DeKalb County.

CEO Lee May discusses the professional soccer proposal with DeKalb Commissioners. Photo from DeKalb County.

This story has been updated. 

DeKalb County has decided to end an agreement with Atlanta United FC to build a $30 million soccer practice complex and headquarters in the county.

On Friday afternoon, Nov. 6, the county said in a press release that, “Atlanta United and DeKalb County mutually concluded today that they will not proceed with plans to build Atlanta United’s headquarters and training facility on the 41-acre site near Kensington Road and Memorial Drive in DeKalb County. The decision followed discussions and a mutual conclusion that the site is not a viable location for the complex due to higher-than-anticipated site preparation and remediation costs necessary for a project of this nature.”

The agreement, which was approved in August, caused a major uproar due to the secrecy surrounding the vote and the tax incentives offered to team owner Arthur Blank. The county would’ve provided 41 acres of land and would’ve paid the cost of clearing the land. It would also have paid Blank $7 million for the county’s use of 5,000 square feet of office space.

The public was not allowed to comment before the agreement was approved.

In the press release, the county said problems with the project had arisen during the due diligence process.

“Under the terms of the non-binding memorandum of understanding between DeKalb County and Atlanta United, DeKalb County would incur site preparation and remediation costs, which are now estimated to exceed $20 million, making the site not financially feasible for the county, its taxpayers or Atlanta United,” the press release said.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the team will instead develop a site in Marietta.

Here is the full text of the press release from DeKalb County regarding the Atlanta United deal:

Decision on training facility site reached

Site analysis reveals costs too high for project to remain feasible

DECATUR, Ga – – Atlanta United and DeKalb County mutually concluded today that they will not proceed with plans to build Atlanta United’s headquarters and training facility on the 41-acre site near Kensington Road and Memorial Drive in DeKalb County.  The decision followed discussions and a mutual conclusion that the site is not a viable location for the complex due to higher-than-anticipated site preparation and remediation costs necessary for a project of this nature.

The land due diligence process, which included environmental and geotechnical site analysis, was directed by the county and began in early September.  Under the terms of the non-binding memorandum of understanding between DeKalb County and Atlanta United, DeKalb County would incur site preparation and remediation costs, which are now estimated to exceed $20 million, making the site not financially feasible for the county, its taxpayers or Atlanta United.

As is common with due diligence work, both parties knew uncertainties existed entering into the memorandum of understanding, but were not able to accurately predict site preparation challenges and costs for the complex until the detailed analysis was completed.

“As Interim CEO, I always am looking for opportunities for collaborations where all sides come out winners.  After reviewing the reports with Atlanta United FC, we decided together that the numbers going into it have changed so much that proceeding would not be a responsible decision for either party, and certainly not the DeKalb taxpayers,” said Interim CEO Lee May.  “We hope to work with Arthur Blank on another project in the future.”

The Atlanta United plan for developing the entire 41-acre site, in addition to the specific requirements of a Major League Soccer facility, made the remediation challenges unique to the project and factored into the significant additional costs for ground preparation. The site would be less challenging for many other commercial development projects requiring different uses for the land. The county remains committed to the vision of a robust, vital and thriving Memorial Drive corridor.

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