Members of the Mount Vernon Baptist church in Atlanta, Ga. voted on a resolution last night to sell their church site to the city for $14.5 million to make way for the Atlanta Falcon's plan to build $1 billion high-tech, retractable roof stadium.
During a press conference, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said that the $14.5 million includes $6.2 from the state and $8.3 from the NFL team, while assuring that no taxpayer money will go towards the stadium project.
"The decision tonight ensures that the Atlanta Falcons can continue pursuing their goal of building a best-in-class sports facility that will also expand economic development not only in the city, but also in the surrounding neighborhoods. This step forward also will allow this historic church to relocate and continue to serve its congregation and our community,"said Kasim, according to Atlanta-based WSB-TV.
The vote by Mount Vernon's congregation was upheld in a decision of 116 to 16 to sell their property, but those who opposed the vote said the city was destroying the 98-year-old history of their church.
"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," said Vickie Johnson, a member of Mount Vernon, reported Atlanta-based WSB-TV.
The second historic church Johnson refers to is Friendship Baptist Church, which sits directly across from Mount Vernon, that also struck a deal with Atlanta to possibly sell their locale to make way for the stadium for $19.5 million last month.
However, the majority of members who voted for the sale of Mount Vernon held a different outlook than Johnson's.
"We have enough to build another church and start again.The church is within us not a building," said Damon Britton another member at Mount Vernon, reported WSB-TV.
Sealing the deal was based on more than just an increase in money, according to Pastor Rodney Turner, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"We've been in prayer," Turner said, referring to the decision. "We're a church, not a business."
Now that the acquisition of a new property is in process, Turner says they are shifting their focus on where to build their worship site.
Prior to reaching a deal, the city offered Mount Vernon $6.2 million which they considered an "insult. At that time, the church had asked for $20.4 million but Atlanta city officials said their offer aligned with a state law that prevented them from going higher than the church building's appraised value.
The NFL team hopes to break ground at the church site during the 2017 football season. However, Friendship Baptist Church members will first have to meet to vote on a final decision to sell their building for the proposed $19.5 million offer, which will take place this Sunday.