Mercedes-Benz Stadium opening delayed until Aug. 26 for Falcons preseason game

By Maria Saporta and Amy Wenk

The opening of the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium has been delayed again.

The new stadium is now scheduled to open with two Atlanta Falcons preseason games – one against Arizona on Saturday, Aug. 26, and the other versus Jacksonville on Thursday, Aug. 31.

The revised schedule will have the greatest impact on previously-scheduled matches in August of the Atlanta United soccer team. It is not known when or where those two games will be played.

Steve Cannon, CEO of the AMB Group LLC, said that in the meantime, the decision to demolish the Georgia Dome has been delayed just in case it is needed as a back-up.

stadium

A view from the top floor stands of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Photo by Maria Saporta)

“We have put that on hold until we have received a Certificate of Occupancy (for the Mercedes-Benz Stadium) and we have 100 percent certainty,” Cannon said in a press briefing earlier today. “We do not expect to use the Georgia Dome.”

Cannon denied speculation that the delay was related to the complicated roof design, which is a series of petals that are supposed to open and close in a span of less than 10 minutes.
“Yes we have a complex design,” Cannon said. “There’s not any concern about the operability of the roof.”

In the release, Cannon elaborated on the issues related to the roof:

“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.

“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.”

In the teleconference briefing, Cannon said the roof is three-quarters complete, and he said contractors would begin installing the tips of each of the eight roof petals later today.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, now under construction, is now scheduled to open in late August (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

But later, in response to a question about when the Georgia Dome might be demolished, Cannon said they would reach a milestone in June when “we are very confident we will have that 100 percent certainty about the roof and the petal alignment.”

The revised schedule will have the greatest impact on the Atlanta United soccer team.

The AMB team has worked with Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium to reschedule one of the matches from July 30th to July 29th. That match against Orlando will be held at 5 p.m. and will be broadcast nationally on Fox.

But two games, previously scheduled to be the first two matches in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Aug. 13 and Aug. 19, now will need to be changed.

“Those dates are to be determined ,” Cannon said, adding that they wanted to share that info with the season ticket holders. He said Major League Soccer has been a helpful partner – understanding the complexities of trying to play in a new stadium.

The rest of the Falcons season and the Chick-fil-A Kick-off Classic “will continue as planned” in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The National Football League regular season schedule has not yet been announced.

Tommy Holder, CEO of Holder Construction and the managing member of the HHRM, Joint Venture echoed Cannon’s comments in the release.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium

The Mercedes-Benz Stadium has a complicated design, which is contributing to the delayed opening (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

“Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a spectacular building the people of Atlanta are going to be very proud of for a long time,” Holder said. “Any one-of-a-kind original project like this inevitably sees schedule adjustments along the way. The complexity of the design has taken longer than planned for a variety of reasons, but there is not a concern about the roof operating as designed once construction is complete. Work continues around the clock to deliver the building as soon as possible and great progress is being made every day.”

The release also addressed the “decommissioning of the Georgia Dome,” which has been put on hold until certainty of receiving a certificate of occupancy for the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The release stated that “holding off the decommissioning process is an extraordinarily conservative approach being taken because there is nothing to gain in the overall timeline by expediting demolition. The decommissioning process is expected to resume in late June and a future date for demolition.”

Doug Sams, real estate writer for the Atlanta Business Chronicle, contributed to this report.

Amy Wenk is the hospitality and retail reporter for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

New Mercedes-Benz Stadium – now under construction – sits next to the Georgia Dome, which will be torn down (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

New Mercedes-Benz Stadium – now under construction – sits next to the Georgia Dome, which will be torn down (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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