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LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium Set to Open

 

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After 39 months of construction, the 71,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Stadium is set for its first dress rehearsal Saturday night as the Atlanta Falcons host the Arizona Cardinals at 7 p.m. in NFL preseason action.

The 2 million-square-foot venue will be home to the Falcons, Atlanta United FC, the SEC Championship Game, the GHSA state football championships and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. The venue is expected to host over a million visitors in its first 60 days for Falcons games, United matches and two Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classics, featuring Florida State vs. Alabama (Sept. 2) and Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee (Sept. 4).

Atlanta will host the College Football Playoff Championship in January, the Super Bowl in 2019 and the NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2020 at MBS. The stadium has the ability to expand its seating to 75,000 for those marquee events.

 

The stadium cost $1.5 billion to build, with a mix of public and private funds used. The Georgia Dome cost $214 million, all of which was public funds, when it was built in 1992.

“We think we’ve built the finest sports entertainment complex in the United States today,” Falcons and United owner Arthur Blank said last weekend during a fan preview of the building. “I think as you travel around and look at it, live in it, spend time in it, I think you’ll feel that way.”

Darden and Company was the project management company that oversaw the building’s construction. It was a task that president Bill Darden said wouldn’t have been possible five, or maybe even three, years ago without today’s technology. Many of the angles used in the building just wouldn’t have been possible without three-dimensional models used by constriction firms now.

It took 27 tons of steel and 150,000 cubic yards of concrete for the building’s structure alone. The 14.5-acre roof, which opens and closes like a camera lens, took another 28 tons of steel.

The complexity of the roof was one of the reasons the building was delayed opening until this month, forcing Atlanta United to play the first half of its inaugural season at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. While operational, the roof still needs 40 days without a construction move to become fully mechanized, at which point it will be able to open and close in 11 to 12 minutes. The roof is expected to be opened this football and soccer season for both teams.

“It’s been an unbelievable project,” Darden said. “We’ve had lots to overcome, but fun things. Sometimes things were more fun than others. The roof grew from about 12,000 tons of steel to the 28,000 tons … and that in and of itself was a challenge because every time you add weight you add complexity and you tax other members and you have to account for that. That was really a challenge.”

Cutting edge

The roof was not the only state-of-the-art technological advance inside the building.

Thanks to technology partner, Daktronics, the building features 82,500 square feet of LED video displays, highlighted by a 63,000 360-degree HD halo video board, 1,800 wireless access points and powered by 4,000 miles of fiber wiring.

If rolled out, the halo board would be the 10th tallest building in America. It’s made up 37.1 million LEDs. The stadium also features a mega column video board that is 101 feet tall.

In total there are 460 LED sports lights used to light the field. There are mounted ribbon boards featuring 6.7 million LED lights throughout the stadium. Because of the large number of LED displays, and the class structures around the building, MBS will be able to be lit up differently for each event it hosts.

The technology is also designed to be more sustainable than average sports venues. It currently is tracking to be the first LEED Platinum certified stadium in the NFL, using 29 percent less energy and 47 percent less water than a typical stadium of its size. There are also 4,000 solar panels on the stadium, with enough energy to power 10 Falcons games.

Fans-first food

The stadium was designed with fans in mind. It’s octagon design will allow for maximum traffic flow when fans are entering and leaving the venue. All three levels of the stadium concourse are accessible with any ticket, and fans can move 360 degrees around the stadium on each level.

Traditional stadium food such as hot dogs ($2), bottled water ($2), cheeseburgers ($5) and refillable sodas ($2) all cost $5 or less. Each level of the stadium will also have specialty concessions that come in under $12 for a bit more upscale stadium bite.

Local favorites, Fox Bros. BBQ, The Varsity, Sublime Doughnuts, Antico’s Pizza and Iberian Pig are just a few of several restaurants that will have spaces in the stadium. In the AT&T perch on the 200 level, which features television lounges and tables for fans, you can visit “Top Chef” winner Kevin Gillespie’s Game Changer restaurant serving the Closed on Sunday chicken sandwich, since you know the Chick-fil-A kiosk won’t be open on Sundays.

The 300 level features West Nest, a concession stand also featuring chicken sandwiches, is run and operated by the Westside Works Culinary Academy. The 300 level also features the 100 Yard Club, a 100-yard-long bar that mirrors the MBS field.

On the 100 level is Molly B’s, a restaurant named for Blank’s mother. When the Falcons play it will be open to members three hours prior to kickoff through the end of the first quarter. From that point on it will be open to non-members until two hours after the final whistle. During United matches, members can access it three hours prior to kickoff, and non-members can access it once the match has begun.

Seat fees

While the concessions are priced with fans in mind, tickets to Falcons games are another thing. In addition to the season ticket fees, fans must purchase a personal seat license, or PSL, for each seat. PSLs start at $500 for the 300 level and can cost as much as $45,000 (which are all sold out) in the 100 level.

Because the team has sold so many PSLs, single game ticket sales may not be available at all this season through the team, forcing Dirty Bird fans to the secondary market. Tickets start at $235 on SeatGeek for the regular season home opener against Green Bay on Sept. 17.

Soccer specific

Atlanta United supporters won’t feel like they’re visiting the Falcons’ stadium during the club’s home matches, the first of which is Sept. 10 against F.C. Dallas. MBS is designed to give the Five Stripes their own atmosphere.

The 300 level will be closed off with United-branded curtains for home matches with a 40,000 seat set up. Occasionally the stadium will be opened to full capacity for MLS matches. The field 100 level stands are designed to be pushed in at the corners, which will allow for a full FIFA regulation pitch to be used.

MBS is expected to host World Cup matches in 2026, should the North America bid be selected. Atlanta leads the MLS in attendance this season with an average of 46,318 fans at Georgia Tech.

“There’s been a lot of talk about Bobby Dodd, it’s been fantastic,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said. “Everyone is sort of saying, ‘Will you be able to recreate that at Mercedes-Benz, and will it be as good?’ Our fans are coming with us. We’re not losing our fans. It’s the same fans that make the noise. When you think about (MBS), with the roof where sound gets refracted down — at Bobby Dodd you lose that noise out — it’s going to sound three, four times as loud with the roof here.

“With the facilities, you’ll actually be able to get a beer. You’ll be able to have more beers before a game, it’s going to be even rowdier. We’ve got no concerns about the atmosphere. It’s just going to be taken to that next level, so we’re really excited about Sept. 10, our first game here against F.C. Dallas.”

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