Shortly after the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game, in what was supposed to be the final football game in the Georgia Dome, the team began efforts to start selling off seats to collectors and fans. Initial promotions indicated those seats would be removed from the Dome immediately and shipped to buyers between March 15 and April 15. Those deadlines came and went, and the site now promises the seats will be sent in “Late Summer.”
Hmmm. Why on earth could the Georgia Dome still need seats?
The answer, of course, is that the Falcons are hedging their bets that their new billion-dollar arena, the retractable-roofed wonder that is Mercedes-Benz Stadium, will be ready in time for scheduled games and matches later this year. The stadium was scheduled to be open March 30, and then June 1, and then July 30 … and the prospect now looms that there could be further delays. The culprit, apparently, is the complex retractable roof, which opens and closes in sections — opening in a widening circle rather than like a garage door.
Atlanta United, the city’s new soccer club, have begun playing at nearby Bobby Dodd Stadium on the campus of Georgia Tech, but that stadium’s schedule is getting more crowded as football approaches. The first scheduled event at the new stadium is an Atlanta United match scheduled for July 30, followed by more matches and college football games to kick off September: Alabama-Florida State on Sept. 2 and Georgia Tech-Tennessee on Sept. 4. College football’s national championship will be played in the new stadium on Jan. 8, 2018. The Falcons’ home slate is yet to be announced.
There has been no timetable set for the demolition of the Georgia Dome, meaning that — if worse came to worst — the facility could be used for matches, concerts, and games. Construction delays are no joke, but if nothing else, at least the Falcons have a workable backup plan in place.
[UPDATE: The Falcons announced on Tuesday afternoon that the stadium would open in mid-August, with a Falcons preseason game against the Jaguars on Aug. 26 now the first event to take place in the new facility. Three Atlanta United matches will need to be rescheduled.
Steve Cannon, CEO of AMB Group, which owns the Falcons, Atlanta United, and the stadium, addressed concerns about the stadium’s roof operation: “No concerns about the operability of the roof have ever been expressed to us by the design or construction teams. It is a complex, original design that is going to be spectacular and operate as designed. That’s the bottom line,” he said in a statement. “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.”
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.