Above: Less than a year before the scheduled opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, cranes fill the construction site.
In less than a year, the grand vision of Arthur Blank will be realized when Mercedes-Benz Stadium opens its gates. The state-of-the-art building, due for a June 1 opening, aims to set the standard for multipurpose stadium design while taking the fan and guest experience to a new level.
Replacing the Georgia Dome, which has been the home of the Atlanta Falcons since 1992, Mercedes-Benz Stadium will also be the home of Atlanta United FC, a Major League Soccer expansion team beginning play next spring.
The AJT was invited to tour the stadium construction site Thursday, June 23, as part of a hard-hat media tour. Here are a few things we learned about the stadium.
Westside on Rise
Besides the promise to spur economic growth throughout the city, the team behind Mercedes-Benz Stadium has pledged to revitalize the long-neglected Vine City and English Avenue neighborhoods across Northside Drive from the building.
That revitalization includes the establishment of the Westside Neighborhood Prosperity Fund by the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, which will make strategic, philanthropic investments in the neighborhoods. In addition, the site of the Georgia Dome will become a park built as a “gateway to the Westside.”
An Architectural Wonder
Mercedes-Benz Stadium will stand some 30 stories high and will be a striking feature of Atlanta’s skyline. The building’s retractable, eight-petal roof, designed to open or close in less than seven minutes, will be the first of its kind in the world.
Another feature will be the stadium’s “window to the city,” a glass wall that stretches from the main plaza to the roof and looks over the Atlanta skyline.
Lights, Camera, Action
The fan experience will start before people enter the stadium. The entire exterior of the building is covered in LEDs that can change color on demand.
Inside the building, a 58-foot-high, 360-degree, high-definition halo video board will be the largest video board in the world at 64,000 square feet and will be complemented by a 110-foot-high “mega column” video board adjacent to the window to the city.
Need more screens? The stadium will house around 2,000 flat-screen TVs.
The field will be lighted by LED sports lights rather than traditional metal halide lamps. This setup will be more energy-efficient and easier to control and will enable all the lights, interior and exterior, to be part of the show.
“When the Falcons score a touchdown, the entire city will know,” said Mike Gomes, the senior vice president of fan experience for Blank’s AMB Sports & Entertainment Group.
Inside Mercedes Benz Stadium – Photos by David R. Cohen
The Falcons have widely publicized the stadium’s fan-first pricing — $2 hot dogs, soft drinks with free refills, $3 nachos and $5 domestic beers — but Gomes told the stadium tour group that fan-first pricing will extend to all concession items and all events at the stadium, including the 2018 college football national championship, the 2019 Super Bowl and the 2020 NCAA Final Four.
The stadium’s concession stands were designed by Gomes, whom Blank hired from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to oversee the fan experience.
Gomes said a crucial part of that experience is minimizing wait times. Mercedes-Benz Stadium will have more than 650 locations for concession sales. Each station was designed to get fans out of line and back to the game quicker through such features as self-service soda fountains for fans to refill their own drinks and prices calculated to be whole dollar amounts with tax included to cut out change in cash transactions.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium is attempting to become the first professional sports arena to earn LEED Platinum certification, the highest level for the environmental performance of a building. The sustainable features include a rainwater collection facility and solar panels to power electric vehicle charging ports, as well as the LED lighting, which will reduce energy use by as much as 50 percent.
According to Falcons President Rich McKay, the first event at the stadium is likely to be an Atlanta United soccer match.
The Georgia Dome’s last event will be in March. Demolition is planned to be completed by the end of 2017.