Home base for the Falcons moved farther north of Atlanta Wednesday with the announcement the team's new training facilities will be built in Hall County near Gainesville, Ga.
Construction on a $15 million headquarters will start soon on a 50-acre site at Flowery Branch, Ga., off the third exit on Interstate 985, about 12 miles north of the current complex in Suwanee.
The defending NFC champs have been looking during the past year to either expand their current facility or move to a new one. After hearing offers from several communities, including Stone Mountain Park, the team settled on the town of 1,400 residents.
It will take up to 15 months to complete the project, which means the Falcons will continue to use the complex at Suwanee for the rest of this year and during the 2000 season. Some corporate offices in Suwanee are in the 20-year-old complex, while others are in portable trailers. The new facility in Hall County will incorporate all offices under one roof.
The value of the land in Suwanee, including the adjacent Falcons Inn Motel, which was closed last year, is estimated to be worth about $20 million.
Flowery Branch won the bidding war by offering $1.4 million in tax incentives, city officials said. Residents of Flowery Branch welcomed the team with a lot of fanfare during Wednesday's formal announcement. Once built, the facility at Flowery Branch will have four practice fields, including one inside a dome.
Also Wednesday, running back Jamal Anderson, who led the NFC with 1,846 yards last season and set an NFL mark with 410 carries, was placed on the injured reserve list.
Anderson will miss the rest of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the first quarter of Atlanta's 24-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys Monday night.
The Falcons announced the signing of running back Winslow Oliver, who was cut by the Carolina Panthers two weeks ago. Oliver had spent three years with the Panthers and was used mostly as a punt returner.
The father of Barry Sanders says his son should return to the Lions long enough to break Walter Payton's rushing record, and plans to make the pitch this weekend. The elder Sanders said the two will visit this weekend.