The planned opening of the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium has been delayed by ongoing roof construction.
The CEO of Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank’s businesses says there are no concerns about the “operability” of the roof. Steve Cannon says the delay is a “timeline” issue with ongoing steelwork.
The Falcons’ Aug. 26 preseason matchup against the Arizona Cardinals is now scheduled to be the first event to open the new stadium. A team official said the Georgia Dome will be left open as an insurance policy, although the Falcons are not expected to return to their former home.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium was supposed to open with a July 30 MLS soccer match featuring Atlanta United and Orlando City, but construction issues — including problems related to the retractable roof — have altered those plans. Atlanta United will play the scheduled match at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium instead and will have three matches affected by the new timetable.
Cannon said there were discussions with the NFL regarding the delays, which led to a request for the Falcons to host the final two preseason games rather than opening the preseason at home.
“We asked for (preseason games) three and four,” Cannon told ESPN. “We just knew that gave us a little bit of extra time to make sure that we [don’t] run into any issues with the NFL. … We were very happy that they accommodated that request for us to have preseason three and four.”
Cannon said there were no discussions with the NFL regarding the regular season as related to the new stadium.
“We’ll be ready for the regular season because we’ll be ready for the preseason,” Cannon said. “It was just about the preseason and just making sure. We want to have not only the building ready, but we want to have our team and our processes ready. That little bit of extra time that the NFL gave us will allow us to shake down the stadium, to have the team trained up for us to accommodate an NFL crowd of what we expect to be in excess of 50,000-60,000 people for those early preseason games, knowing there is a lot of pent-up interest in the market to get into the stadium.”
When pressed on whether any more unforeseen construction delays could move the Falcons back to the Georgia Dome for either the preseason or the start of the regular season, Cannon dismissed any such talk.
“We are very confident that we are not going to be moving the preseason games anywhere,” Cannon emphasized. “That’s why we went with (preseason games) three and four, so we have that little bit of flexible buffer to be 100 percent ready.
“We have no plans. We expect to recommence decommissioning (of the Georgia Dome) in June. We do not have any contingency plans to play anything in the Georgia Dome.”
Cannon addressed rumors about how the retractable roof might cause further delays. Cannon said the roof would be tested Tuesday as construction progresses.
“No concerns about the operability of the roof have ever been expressed to us by the design or construction teams,” Cannon said. “It is a complex, original design that is going to be spectacular and operate as designed. That’s the bottom line. The reason for a revised timeline is quite simple: normal surveying and analysis of the roof structure, as well as steelwork in the roof, have both taken longer than planned. Those two things have had a cascading effect on overall workflows related to the roof and that is the reason for the new timeline.
“We’ve worked very hard over the last few weeks to find any possible avenue to meet the July 30 timeline, but have not been able to do so. Our construction partners have now worked through re-sequencing the remaining work and are very confident we’ll be ready for live events beginning with the Falcons game on August 26.”
No changes have been made to plans to host the Chick-Fil-A-Kickoff games — Alabama-Florida State (Sept. 2) and Georgia Tech-Tennessee (Sept. 4) — over Labor Day weekend.