Nightly News   |  April 30, 2013

Atlanta offers millions to churches standing in path of new stadium

Two historic Atlanta churches, Friendship Baptist and Mount Vernon Baptist, are both located where the city wants to build a new stadium to replace the 20-year-old Georgia Dome. NBC’s Ron Allen reports.

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>>> we are back with a classic urban battle about the past and the future and the cost of giving way and letting development come through. it's going on in one of our biggest cities with its own unique history. it is pitting churches against a fancy new sports stadium . there are millions of dollars at stake. the story tonight from nbc's ron allen in atlanta .

>> reporter: while the baptist church celebrates 151 years in the same community, the congregation faces a monumental decision.

>> thank you, jesus!

>> reporter: it's one of two historic churches in the path of a new $1 billion dome football stadium , the atlanta falcons and the city want to build. and they're offering millions of dollars if the churches agree to move.

>> i don't think the church should move.

>> reporter: juanita jones ab abernat abernathy, widow of ralph abernathy , believes her church should stand firm on what she considers sacred ground , where slaves were shipped in a boxcar during the civil war , where historically black colleges spellman and morehouse once held class in the basement.

>> the church is a landmark in the community. and it needs to remain there as a landmark.

>> reporter: the city's first offer to friendship, nearly ten times its appraised value, about $10 million. the pressure to move is obvious. you see the white top of the georgia dome stadium and how it looms over the churches. the new stadium would sit where that church is now. and over here, there would be a new roadway around the new stadium. the falcons' owner says no one is interested in force says the church off their property and that he will invest millions in the community. atlanta 's mayor says he'll accept the church 's decision but hopes they'll take the offer.

>> and they will be a stronger church , a stronger organization that is more capable because of the millions of dollars that we're going to pay for that church .

>> reporter: adding, there is another location for the stadium nearby. that's less desirable if both churches don't agree to move. the congregations will make their decision in the coming weeks with faith and prayer guiding the way.

>> we go to god in prayer.

>> reporter: ron allen , nbc news, atlanta .