ATLANTA — When the city of Atlanta and the Falcons announced an agreement to build a new arena, Falcons owner Arthur Blank wanted to create something unique.
“If we saw a design and thought it looked similar to another stadium, we threw it out,” said Scott Jenkins, general manager of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “With this facility, we wanted to make something new.”
Blank’s vision was for an architecturally impressive stadium with fan amenities unlike any other in sports. Starting in 2017, SEC fans will get to see for themselves, as the SEC championship game moves to the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the next decade.
“The SEC football championship game is a premier sporting event and is representative of the type of events we will host at Mercedes-Benz Stadium,” Blank said in a statement when the agreement was announced.
Nearly two-thirds of the way into construction, the behemoth is starting to become a presence in the Atlanta skyline. The innovative façade echoes the symbolic geometry of the Sydney Opera House with the grandness and attention to detail of the Bird’s Nest Stadium in China.
Multicolored cranes cover the inside of the structure as the roof is constructed from the inside.
“Because we’re downtown, the cranes can’t be outside; there’s no room,” Jenkins said. “Once the roof is done, the lower bowl will quickly come together.”
In contrast to the closed Georgia Dome, Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be open with a retractable roof. It takes just seven minutes to close it. The stadium also will be largely covered with glass and a clear material called ETFE, which means fans can see out to Atlanta from almost any level of the stadium.
“Even though there is a retractable roof, we plan to play with the roof open as much as possible,” Jenkins said. “We wanted the stadium to have the feel of playing outside.”
Even more than creative design, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is built with fans at heart. Wider concourses and aesthetic appeal have become standard in projects of this size. The stadium also boasts 1,800 wireless access and 4,000 miles of fiber-optic cable, which will allow speedy access to stadium Wi-Fi.
But what should make fans even happier is what management is calling the “fan-first menu.” Hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn and soft drinks — with unlimited self-serve refills — will cost just $2, including tax. Pizza slices, nachos, waffles fries and peanuts are just $3. A 12-ounce domestic beer will cost $5.
To deliver those concessions, the stadium will feature 65 percent more cashier stations than the Georgia Dome to move customers along. The arena promises some of the cheapest and most-efficient concessions in sports. There will also be 32 percent more toilets in the facility.
To complement the product on the field, the stadium will feature one of the most-ambitious digital arrangements in the world. Notably, a 58-foot video board will stretch 360 degrees around the stadium. The Georgia Dome’s video board is 4,000 square feet; Mercedes-Benz Stadium will have a 63,000 square foot display. There will be a 100-foot-tall video column. In all, there will be more than 52 million LED lights in the stadium.
If the stadium sticks to budget, it will be the second-most-expensive football stadium in America, behind only MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. And Mercedes-Benz stadium was built with an increased national profile in mind.
Not only will it host the SEC championship game every year, but the Super Bowl, College Football Playoff championship and NCAA Final Four will take place at the venue by 2020.
“Arthur views this as an investment in the city of Atlanta,” Jenkins said.
After a two-year stint in Birmingham, Ala., the SEC championship game has been held at the Georgia Dome each season since 1994. With the Falcons moving on to a new stadium, the SEC will follow. The league announced an agreement to move to the venue until 2026, with two additional five-year options.
The SEC championship game has brought an estimated $1 billion in economic impact since moving to Atlanta, according to a report from the Georgia World Congress Center Authority.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium is on track to officially open in June 2017. However, construction is being pushed to try and preliminarily open the venue in time for the launch of Atlanta United, an expansion MLS team. The stadium will be ready for the 2017 SEC Championship Game.
- Mercedes-Benz Stadium will seat a little more than 70,000 fans, but with extensions for another 2,000 if demand necessitates it.
- More than 1,500 construction workers have a hand in building the stadium each day.
- The stadium will feature two 600-car parking garages and an 800-car tailgate lot adjacent to the facility.
- There will be a club section on each side of the stadium at field level.
- A significant investment was made in revitalizing the west side of Atlanta. More than 100 people were hired from the local west side neighborhoods for the project.
- There are approximately 10,000 hotel rooms within a mile of the site, which simplifies lodging for the SEC title game.
- A significant investment has been made in curating art for the facility, with the majority coming from the local Savannah College of Art and Design.
- The stadium will be 34 percent more efficient and use 42 percent less water thanks to holding rainwater and using it for irrigation and cooling. The stadium is pursuing LEED platinum certification, which would make it one of the most sustainable stadiums in American sports.