Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium located in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. Opened in August 2017 as a replacement for the Georgia Dome, it serves as the home stadium of the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League and Atlanta United FC of Major League Soccer. The stadium is owned by the state government of Georgia through the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, and operated by AMB Group, the parent organization of the Falcons and Atlanta United.
The stadium officially opened on August 26, 2017 with a Falcons preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, despite the retractable roof system being incomplete at the time. Several events formerly held at the Georgia Dome moved to Mercedes-Benz Stadium following its completion, including the SEC football championship game and the Peach Bowl. In 2018, it hosted the College Football Playoff National Championship and the MLS Cup, and it hosted Super Bowl LIII in 2019.
- 1 Mercedes-Benz Stadium Design
- 2 Mercedes-Benz Stadium Interior
- 3 Mercedes-Benz Stadium Amenities
- 4 Mercedes-Benz Stadium History
- 5 Construction delays, opening
- 6 Additional construction and renovations
- 7 Pedestrian bridge
- 8 Playing surface
- 9 Retractable roof
- 10 Costs and funding
- 11 NFL
- 12 College and high school football
- 13 Concerts
Mercedes-Benz Stadium Design
The stadium’s signature feature is its retractable roof, which features a pinwheel consisting of eight translucent, triangular panels. Each of the eight panels operates on two straight, parallel rails; one rail is responsible for moving the panel while the other rail stabilizes the panel. Closing the roof takes slightly less time than opening the roof, since the roof has to disengage the seals at the start of the opening procedure and slow down towards the end to prevent the panels from getting derailed. When opened, the panels are designed to create the illusion of a bird’s wings extended.
The stadium’s roof can be kept open under light precipitation, as the electrical systems for all video boards in the stadium are outdoor-rated, and the field has a drainage system. AMB Group senior executive Mike Egan went as far as describing Mercedes-Benz Stadium as an outdoor stadium with a roof over it due to these characteristics, but that other factors such as humidity and outside temperatures would be taken into consideration on whether or not the roof would be opened.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium Interior
The stadium also includes features specific for college football use. It opened with two oversized locker rooms, each capable of housing 100 players, reflecting the much larger size of college football rosters compared to those of the NFL. However, the stadium did not initially include another feature important in that context—staircases connecting the seats to the field, making it difficult for bands to enter the field for halftime shows. It also has a soccer-specific configuration, with retractable lower bowl seats to widen the field, and mechanized curtains that limit the capacity to about 42,500.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium Amenities
The upper concourse includes an area known as the 100 Yard Club, a concession and gathering area that stretches the length of the football field. Other noted areas include the AT&T Perch a gathering area with televisions and video walls airing other games, and the Budweiser Biergarten. Several neighborhood bars also operate within the stadium.
For its concessions, Mercedes-Benz Stadium focused primarily on the quality and speed of service, variety, and pricing; the stadium includes at least 670 points-of-sale, and has a policy of “fan first pricing” for all concessions—with lower menu prices in comparison to other sports facilities during all events regardless of stature, such as a $2 beverage cup with free refills, and a $5 beer. To increase the speed of service, all items were priced at whole dollars only, with the 9.3% sales tax already included in the posted menu prices.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium History
In May 2010, it was reported by multiple news outlets that the Atlanta Falcons were interested in replacing the Georgia Dome with a newly constructed open-air stadium, although at the time it was planned to retain the Georgia Dome to continue hosting non-NFL events. The team was pursuing a new stadium because of the team’s desire to play outdoors, as well as Falcons team owner Arthur Blank’s interest in hosting another Super Bowl.
In April 2012, Populous released a new price estimate of US$947.7 million, which was significantly higher than the previous proposal of US$700 million. In April 2012, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that if a deal was reached, the new stadium’s construction would be expected to begin in 2014, with the Falcons to begin regular-season play in 2017.
Construction delays, opening
The stadium’s projected opening date was delayed three times due to the complexity of the eight-panel retractable roof. The stadium was originally intended to open on March 1, 2017; however, the opening date was later delayed to June 1, 2017, then to July 30, 2017, and then to August 26, 2017.
On July 25, 2017, stadium officials reported that the roof would be in the closed position during the Falcons’ preseason games and the Chick-fil-A Kickoff games while contractors continue to fine tune the roof to allow all eight panels to work in sync.
Additional construction and renovations
Hoping to address concerns of overcrowding at the ingress and egress areas of the stadium, stadium officials announced that they plan to add several more doors to the stadium. Overcrowding and congestion was a frequent concern and complaint from fans attending major events during the stadium’s first year of operation.
A pedestrian bridge was planned but not originally opened when the stadium first opened. The bridge was completed in January 2019 at a cost of ~$33 million. It features a serpentine like structure on both ends, and a cover over the main span with customizable LEDs. The bridge connects gameday parking lots and the Vine City MARTA Station to the northwest side of the stadium and The Home Depot Backyard, allowing pedestrians to avoid crossing the busy, 6 lane Northside Drive.
On February 7, 2019, stadium officials stated that the artificial turf would be replaced prior to the Falcons’ 2019 season as part of nearly $2 million in capital improvements to the stadium; stadium officials also noted that the turf would be replaced approximately every two years given the number of events, both private and public, held annually at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Several reports of the roof leaking during the stadium’s inaugural season caused some issues for the stadium’s design team. During the College Football National Championship Game in January 2018, several media outlets reported a significant leak that appeared to be occurring just over the field of play near the 25-yard line.
Costs and funding
n December 2014, the Georgia World Congress Center’s board of governors approved a resolution to raise the cost of the stadium to US$1.2 billion. The stadium was initially slated to cost US$1 billion, then rose to US$1.2 billion in October 2013. The city has agreed to contribute US$200 million in stadium bonds, but with additional tax revenues and with the state of Georgia contributing US$40 million for parking expansion, public spending is expected to eclipse US$700 million.
On May 19, 2015, Mercedes-Benz Stadium was awarded Super Bowl LIII in 2019, marking Atlanta’s first time hosting the game since Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000. The stadium was to host the 2020 NCAA Final Four. On March 12, 2020 it was completely cancelled outright due to the coronavirus pandemic, though it would have likely shifted to a smaller Atlanta venue.
College and high school football
The Peach Bowl, Celebration Bowl, SEC Championship Game, and Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game moved from the Georgia Dome to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the 2017 season. The SEC Championship has a long-term deal with Mercedes-Benz Stadium through 2027. On February 26, 2019, it was announced that the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets had agreed to play one home game annually at Mercedes-Benz Stadium from 2020 through 2024.
On October 12, 2017, the inaugural concert at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, featuring Garth Brooks, received widespread scorn, including demands for refunds, due to the reported abysmal acoustics that many attendees deemed unfit for concert sound. The stadium authority stated that plans are underway to help improve the acoustical quality of the stadium.