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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  • DecaturMax

    Just how polluted is this land? I assume the county did not get a copy of the report, so it does not have to be released.

  • Here’s the question to ask, and if I had access to my home email account I would ask it right now: what did the failed deal cost DeKalb County? How much site survey development cost did the county incur before calling this off? When the county says it was a “mutual” agreement, does that mean that no break-up fee was paid to Atlanta United or other parties? Are we completely off the hook, or do we have lingering obligations?

  • Tom Doolittle

    Ummm…$20 million for site prep and enviro. Will that be the case for ANY future development. At what point would anyone be able to develop the land? What’s it good for? Parking deck?

    • Marjorie Snook

      It won’t be the case for anything. Cleaning up a site to be greenspace–where people can have direct contact with soil–is much more expensive than cleaning it up to industrial standards OR covering the soil.

      Atlantic Station would have been desperately expensive as a greenspace. But the lead contaminated soil all got covered in concrete when the constructed the paeking deck. Then they put the mall on top.

  • CMR

    I guess that puts a little dent in that “Downtown Dekalb” plan. Sorry Lee, no feather for your cap. At least you and the 4 commissioners that shut out the public on this “deal” get to keep those fly scarves.

  • travelingfool

    Really like for SOMETHING! to be put there. Who the heck is going to build next to a jail without some type of incentive? To get something built it will need government incentive. There are two developments in development that are going up across the street on the other side of Kensington Station. One has started and the other is going to be built starting 2016. These are separate from “Downtown DeKalb) So development has started. If we could get another mixed use on the former Atlanta United FC site that would really make a positive difference with that area. An Avondale townhome project just slightly further down road is selling fast in the high $200’s. Surely you nawsayers WANT this area to develop so the County can have a larger tax base. http://goo.gl/sLzEDc

  • BlankCanPayIt

    Whew! Dodged a bullet there…
    See folks, pollution can be a good thing.

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