ATLANTA — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Atlanta likely will have to build a new stadium if it wants to host its third Super Bowl.
Goodell was in the city Thursday night to attend the Falcons' game against the Baltimore Ravens at the 18-year-old Georgia Dome.
The 72,000-seat stadium hosted the championship game in 1994 and 2000, but Falcons owner Arthur Blank has since been rebuffed twice in efforts to land another Super Bowl.
"The bar has been raised because you're getting great facilities around the country in great communities," Goodell said during a reception before the game, held on a rooftop overlooking Centennial Olympic Park. "These games are a tremendous value to the communities, so there's a lot of competition for it. So I think a new stadium with this great community would be beneficial to bringing another Super Bowl to this community."
The Falcons have been pushing for a new facility to replace their longtime home, contending the Georgia Dome no longer produces sufficient revenues to keep up with newer stadiums around the league. The state, which owns the downtown stadium along with a massive convention center next door, has proposed a major renovation and even discussed the idea of installing a retractable roof to meet the team's desire to have an open-air facility.
Georgia's Gov.-elect Nathan Deal planned to attend the game Thursday and ask Goodell to bring the Super Bowl to Atlanta, said Brian Robinson, a Deal spokesman. Robinson said the newly elected Republican will be working with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to make a case for hosting the championship game because Deal thinks it would boost the economy.
Goodell said contentious talks with the players toward a labor agreement are linked to the owners' desire to keep a greater share from revenue-sharing, funding that could be used to help finance new stadiums. Minnesota, San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego also are looking to replace aging facilities.
"That's one of the reasons we're focused on restructuring the collective bargaining agreement, to make sure that we have the kind of structure that will allow us to make those kind of investments in the game and the communities which allow the game to continue to grow," Goodell said. "That is good for the players, good for the teams, good for the communities. That's something we want to continue to focus on."
The contract with the players runs out in March. If a new agreement can't be reached, the 2011 season could be in jeopardy.
Goodell said the labor talks and steps to protect the players from serious injury are his primary concerns. The league already has cracked down on helmet-to-helmet hits with hefty fines.
"I am relentless on this point," the commissioner said. "It's important we do everything we can to make our game safe. That goes to our rules and our leadership. We're promoting safety for our players and other people who play our game. We all know that what happens in the NFL moves on down" to colleges, high schools and youth leagues.