Above: Arthur Blank and WSB-TV’s Dave Huddleston chat at the Atlanta Press Club’s Newsmaker Luncheon Aug. 17. (Photo by David R. Cohen)
Speaking at the Atlanta Press Club’s Newsmaker Luncheon on Wednesday, Aug. 17, Blank, who also owns the Atlanta United FC Major League Soccer franchise, said the stadium remains on track for a June 2017 opening.
That date leaves a three-month window between the start of the MLS season in March and the date Atlanta United can play in the stadium, meaning that unless the team plays its first 12 games on the road, a temporary stadium must be found.
Despite delays, Blank said the organization has collected 31,000 deposits for Atlanta United season tickets, a number he attributed to Atlanta’s interest in the sport and the fact Mercedes-Benz Stadium was designed for intimate soccer viewing.
Blank also touched on concerns for the renewal of the historic Vine City and English Avenue neighborhoods west of the stadium, saying the organization has been committed to revitalizing the area since embarking on a plan to build a replacement for the Georgia Dome eight years ago.
“We believe in making a difference in people’s lives,” Blank said. “We felt in that location downtown that could be a catalyst to help jump-start some of the issues that the area has faced for many, many years.”
Among his plans for the area around the stadium are a community gathering place similar to Midtown’s Piedmont Park and a transit system that will run from downtown through the stadium area into Vine City.
Blank said he hopes the location will become a place where events are held every weekend of the year.
As for the Falcons, who will kick off their 2016 season in a few weeks, Blank said he is positive about this year’s team and pointed to the free agent signings of center Alex Mack and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu as big improvements.
“I like where we are as a team,” he said. “We’re a faster team than ever, and we didn’t have a lot of injuries in camp. We have work to do, but I have confidence.”
The Falcons begin the season Sept. 11 against Tampa Bay at the Georgia Dome and are scheduled to play their first game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium next fall.
Stadium to Make Madden Debut
We’re still a year away from the Falcons’ opening game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but gamers playing “Madden NFL 17” won’t have to wait that long. The game, set for an Aug. 23 release, will allow players to face off in the new stadium. The stadium will be playable using the Play Now feature or in Franchise Mode after completing one season with the Falcons.