Near completion in August 2017
|Former names||New Atlanta Stadium (Planning/construction)|
|Address||1 AMB Drive NW|
|Public transit||Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit AuthorityVine City|
Dome / GWCC / Philips Arena / CNN Center
|Operator||AMB Sports and Entertainment Group|
|Capacity||American Football: 71,000 |
(Expandable to 75,000)
(Expandable to 71,000, standing room to at least 73,019)
|Record attendance||American Football: 78,347 (2019 Peach Bowl, December 28, 2019) |
Soccer: 73,019 (2018 MLS Cup, December 8, 2018)
|Field size||American Football: 120 yd × 53.333 yd (109.7 m × 48.8 m)|
Soccer : 115 yd × 75 yd (105 m × 69 m)
|Broke ground||May 19, 2014|
|Opened||August 26, 2017|
|Construction cost||US$1.6 billion (Projected)|
Goode Van Slyke
Stanley Beaman & Sears
|Project manager||Darden & Company|
|Structural engineer||BuroHappold Engineering/Hoberman|
|General contractor||HHRM JV (Comprising Hunt Construction Group, Holder Construction, H. J. Russell & Co. & C. D. Moody Construction Co.)|
|Atlanta Falcons (NFL) (2017-present)|
Atlanta United FC (MLS) (2017-present)
Peach Bowl (NCAA) (2017-present)
Celebration Bowl (NCAA) (2017-present)
Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game (NCAA) (2017-present)
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 (NFL) and Atlanta United FC of Major League Soccer (MLS). 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. In June 2016, the total cost of its construction was estimated at US$1.6 billion.
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 (as Atlanta United held home field advantage), and it hosted Super Bowl LIII in 2019.
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.
Architect Bill Johnson explained that the circular opening in the roof was inspired by the Roman Pantheon ("Pantheon" was also the working name for the building design). The roof was designed to be made of a clear, lightweight polymer material that can adjust its opacity to control light, and much of the exterior is clear polymer or glass to allow views to the outside. The middle concourse and upper bowl were eliminated in the east end zone to allow for an unobstructed view of the Atlanta skyline.
Below the roof is the "Halo", an 58-by-1,100-foot (18 by 335 m), ring-shaped video board around its rim. Covering a total area of 62,350 square feet (5,793 m2), it was described by manufacturer Daktronics as being "three times as large as the current largest single display board in the NFL" installed at EverBank Field in Jacksonville (also built by Daktronics). Daktronics also installed more than 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) of other LED boards, including field-level advertising boards for soccer games.
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.
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 (most NFL teams, including the Falcons, do not have bands). 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.
The stadium incorporates contemporary art into its interior and exterior design, with over 180 commissioned works, including pieces by Nari Ward, Hank Willis Thomas, and Steven and William Ladd. The centerpiece of the art collection is Gábor Miklós Sz?ke's stainless steel sculpture The Atlanta Falcon, which the artist said is the largest freestanding bird sculpture in the world. The falcon, perched atop a 13 foot (4.0 m) tall bronze football, is 41 feet (12 m) high with a wingspan of 70 feet (21 m). The over 73,000 pounds (33,000 kg) artwork stands in front of the stadium, and as tall as a four-story building.
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 (designed as being of interest to fantasy football players), and the "Budweiser Biergarten". Several "neighborhood bars" also operate within the stadium. The former Georgia Dome site between the stadium and the Georgia World Congress Center was redeveloped as "The Home Depot Backyard"--an 11-acre (4.5 ha) green space used as a tailgating area. It also features a 3-tier, dual-level, shaded deck pavilion.
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 (rather than added at the time of purchase ). The practice helped to increase the venue's revenue, as the lower prices have been offset by increased spending on concessions by attendees.
In March 2019, following a trial in 2018, the stadium became one of the first major professional sports venues in the United States to only accept "cashless" payment methods for transactions at concessions inside the stadium, such as credit or debit cards, and mobile payments. This only applies to concessions; cash is still accepted for ticket sales and any third-party merchandising that may operate during events, and kiosks are provided for loading cash onto prepaid debit cards (with no transaction fees charged). At the same time, the stadium raised all menu prices, by adding tax at the time of purchase but maintaining the same posted price values as before (besides five items, such as hot dogs, whose list prices were discounted by 50 cents).
To reflect local culture, the stadium also partnered with Atlanta-based restaurants, chains, and chefs to have presences as concessions under the "Best of Atlanta" banner, including Chick-fil-A, The Varsity, Kevin Gillespie, and others. In consistence with the fan first pricing policy, these partners agreed to not mark up their prices in comparison to their standalone locations. As with all other locations under a long-standing corporate policy, the Chick-fil-A does not operate on Sundays, with no exception, even though the stadium's main tenant primarily plays on Sundays. During Sunday events, the Chick-fil-A stand is replaced by an unbranded "Fries Up" stand operated by Levy Restaurants.
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. The stadium was also pursued as a possible bid for a venue of an upcoming FIFA World Cup. Kansas City-based architectural firm Populous released comprehensive plans for the proposed stadium in February 2011. Populous' early cost estimate for the project was US$700 million. According to the master plan, the stadium would have a maximum capacity of 71,000, but can expand to 75,000 for special events such as the Super Bowl. It will also feature multiple club levels, suites and exhibition area.
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. The proposed location of the new stadium is a large parking lot in Atlanta's Vine City neighborhood, which is less than a mile north of the Georgia Dome's current location. Once construction was complete, the Georgia Dome would subsequently be demolished.
On August 24, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that an official deal could be reached on the construction of a new stadium by the end of 2012. They also reported on September 10 that Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed said site improvements could likely bump the total cost to US$1.2 billion; however, that does not increase the actual building cost, which still remains at an estimated US$948 million.
On December 10, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, in a unanimous decision, approved the blueprint and most of the agreement terms for the new stadium plans. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, the term sheet is non-binding and changes could be made at any time as regards stadium construction. Stadium location, however, is yet to be worked out; proposed locations being reported are within walking distance of the Georgia Dome, with one site located one-half mile north, and the other one block directly south, at the one of the stadium's existing parking lots. The project made national headlines for the first time in 2012 on December 15, with team owner Arthur Blank stating in The New York Times that he would rather have a new stadium be constructed than a "remodeling job" of the Georgia Dome. During a January 10, 2013 press conference, mayor Reed expressed his optimism and confidence in the construction of the new stadium; he also mentioned the possibility of the new stadium helping the city compete for its first Major League Soccer team.
On March 7, 2013, the Falcons and the city of Atlanta agreed to build the new downtown stadium. The maximum public contribution for the project was US$200 million, coming from the hotel-motel tax in Atlanta and unincorporated Fulton County. The Atlanta City Council officially approved the stadium on March 19, 2013. The council voted, 11-4, in favor of the use of city hotel-motel taxes to pay US$200 million toward construction costs and potentially several times that toward costs of financing, maintaining and operating the stadium through 2050. On May 21, 2013, the NFL approved a US$200 million loan to the Falcons organization for the purpose of building the stadium.
The Falcons unveiled a conceptual design for the new stadium on June 18, 2013, with a proposed capacity of 70,000 spectators, 7,500 club seats, and 180 luxury suites.
Arthur Blank indicated the groundbreaking of the stadium would be conducted the last week of March 2014. Just after Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive was closed permanently, the Mount Vernon Baptist Church held its last Sunday service on March 9 before the historic church was demolished. Friendship Baptist, the birthplace of both Spelman College and Morehouse College, was also demolished and relocated to make room for the stadium. Due to legal issues surrounding the issuing of bonds, the stadium did not break ground until May 19, 2014.
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. Steve Cannon, CEO of the Atlanta Falcons' parent company AMB Group, stated that the Falcons' preseason schedule and the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Games would not be affected by the new opening date; however, three of Atlanta United's matches would be affected. The July 30 game against Orlando City SC was moved to Atlanta United's interim home of Bobby Dodd Stadium for July 29 while two home matches scheduled in August were moved to later dates. Additionally, the Georgia Dome's demolition was put on hold until the new stadium's certificate of occupancy could be issued. On June 9, 2017, stadium officials announced that they were confident that Mercedes-Benz Stadium would open as scheduled, and demolition of the Georgia Dome had resumed, and the Dome was imploded on the morning of November 20, 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. Falcons' President Rich McKay also stated that the roof would remain closed whenever outside temperatures exceed 80 °F (27 °C). On August 16, 2017, WXIA reported that construction of the retractable roof system was intentionally delayed by stadium and construction officials to ensure the roof's long term operability and to ensure that other parts of the stadium would be completed on time.
On September 10, 2017, the Falcons announced that, contrary to earlier plans, the stadium roof would in fact be open during the Falcons home opener on September 17 against the Green Bay Packers if weather permitted. On October 6, 2017, stadium officials announced that the roof would be opened, weather permitting, for Atlanta United's regular season finale against Toronto FC on October 22; stadium officials also stated that the roof would remain closed for the remainder of the Falcons' regular season as well as for any home matches hosted by Atlanta United during the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs as contractors continue to worked on fully mechanizing the roof.
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. Fans attending the College Football National Championship game reported significant delays in both entering and exiting the stadium, with some reporting wait times that exceeded 45 minutes to get out of the stadium at the completion of the game.
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.
The bridge is criticized for its immense cost, originally only planned to cost $13 million, but swelling to $33 million in part to expedite construction so it would be completed for Super Bowl LIII. However, the bridge was not open for the Super Bowl as it was deemed a security risk. The bridge is also criticized for its inequity and siphoning funds from the 2016 Renew Atlanta TSPLOST; the bridge was not originally on the project lists, so other projects originally on the list had to be removed. Critics argue the original projects would have accomplished more and served more people.
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. Bill Hancock, College Football Playoff Executive Director, said that he and his team had been made aware of the issue concerning water leaking from the roof and that he believed that the issue did not affect the field of play during the game. Neither team competing in the game reported any issues with the playing surface.
Stadium officials clarified after the initial leaks that were reported back in October 2017 that the issue was not a "leak" but rather a "few drops of water" that were falling from the roof around isolated parts of the stadium. Officials stated that the issue was due to the fact that the roof was still not fully mechanized yet, and that the issues would be fixed before the Falcons' 2018 season. They also stated that the issues were common for newly constructed stadiums with retractable roofs.
Since the retractable roof was one of the major features and design points of the stadium, some of the problems with the roof were magnified in the stadium's first year of operation. The roof, which is supposed to open in as little as 12 minutes with the push of a button, was not fully operational by the time the stadium's primary tenants, the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta United FC, seasons began. The roof was required to be mechanically opened, which was a very time-consuming process. As such, the roof was only opened twice in its first year of use, once for an Atlanta Falcons game - a Sunday Night Football game against the Green Bay Packers on September 17, 2017 and a nationally televised MLS soccer game, when the Atlanta United FC hosted Toronto FC in a sold-out game of more than 70,000 fans on October 22, 2017.
Falcons president Rich McKay told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he expected all issues with the roof to be completely resolved before the 2018 season. On May 29, 2018, the roof was opened for the first time since October 2017 for construction purposes. Stadium officials stated that the roof would be open for 10 days, regardless of weather, to complete work on automating the roof. After the 10-day construction period, an unspecified time frame would be required for final commissioning work, after of which, operation of the roof would be turned over to stadium officials. Work on the roof was completed on July 14, 2018. On July 25, 2018, in a demonstration to members of the media, the roof was opened and closed for the first time as intended, with both procedures taking approximately eight minutes each.
In 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.
In January 2015, the Falcons announced the sale of personal seat licenses (PSL) costing up to US$45,000 per seat, depending on the section of the stadium. The most expensive tickets are priced at US$385 per game, in addition to one-time PSL fees, for the first three years. The total revenue generated from PSL sales was $273 million.
On August 21, 2015, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Mercedes-Benz would acquire the naming rights for the stadium, and this was later confirmed by a press conference at the stadium site on August 24. Under the stadium deal with the city of Atlanta and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, the Falcons organization controls the stadium's naming rights and receives all related revenue. Then-Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon, who would subsequently join the Falcons' organization in 2016 as CEO of AMB Group, stated that the sponsorship would last 27 years, calling it the largest marketing deal in Mercedes-Benz' history, but Cannon would not disclose the full value of the deal; however, Sports Business Daily reported in February 2016 that the naming rights contract was valued at US$324 million. Mercedes-Benz also holds a 10-year naming rights contract for the Louisiana Superdome signed in 2011.
Total sponsorship sales for Mercedes-Benz Stadium have reached $900 million.
While the stadium is owned by the state, it is operated by AMB Group, the parent organization of the Falcons and Atlanta United. All operating profits of Mercedes-Benz Stadium go to AMB Group and not to the state. In addition, AMB Group does not currently pay any property tax on the stadium.
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 (either the State Farm Arena or the McCamish Pavilion, home of the Final Four's host school, Georgia Tech) in any case, as the tourney was closed to spectators the day before. Due to contract obligations on the future Final Four schedule, the earliest Atlanta can host another Final Four is in 2027.
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.
The 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship was hosted by Atlanta and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In their first national championship game since 1982, the Georgia Bulldogs were defeated in overtime by the Alabama Crimson Tide.
On December 8, 2017, the stadium hosted the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) football championship games for Class 1A Private School and Class 3A. The remaining two championship games scheduled for that day, Class 5A and Class 6A, as well as the four games originally scheduled for the next day were postponed and relocated to campus sites due to a major snowstorm to hit Atlanta that weekend. The 2018 GHSA football championships were held on December 11 and 12 due to Atlanta United hosting MLS Cup 2018 on December 8 as well as the 2018 Celebration Bowl scheduled for December 15. In May 2019, the GHSA announced that the football finals would be moved from Mercedes-Benz Stadium to Georgia State Stadium (a redevelopment of Turner Field) starting in 2019, citing the higher costs of renting Mercedes-Benz Stadium compared to the former Georgia Dome.
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.
Since the first concert, efforts were made to improve the acoustics in the stadium. New speakers were added to suites, the angle of the bowl speakers was adjusted and delays introduced in order to reduce echo. During a concert in May 2018 featuring Kenny Chesney, reports were that the sound quality had improved since the first concert. Chesney's concert attracted 51,312 people and grossed $5.068 million.
Following concerts by Garth Brooks and Kenny Chesney, the venue hosted Taylor Swift for two nights in August 2018 as part of Taylor Swift's Reputation Stadium Tour. Over the two sold-out nights, Taylor performed to an audience of 116,746 people and grossed $18.089 million. She was the first music act to headline the stadium for two consecutive nights.
Ed Sheeran performed at the venue as part of his ÷ Tour in November 2018. The show was attended by 50,906 people and grossed $5.021 million. This show marked the end of the 2018 leg of the tour, which was billed as the Top Tour of 2018.
In March 2019, George Strait performed a one-off concert at the venue, joined by musical guests Chris Stapleton, Chris Janson, and Ashley McBryde. The concert was attended by 55,255 people, and grossed $11.9 million. This became the highest grossing single night concert in the venue's history, and became George Strait's third show to earn over $10 million.
After being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenny Chesney will return to the venue on May 22, 2021 as part of his Chillaxification Tour. Chesney will be joined by Florida Georgia Line, Old Dominion, and Michael Franti & Spearhead.
Called the "halo board" by everyone involved in the project, the 360-degree screen is 58 feet tall and 1,075 feet in circumference, totaling 62,350 square feet of light-emitting diodes.