In a perfect world, the city of Atlanta’s brilliant new jewel, the technological marvel known as Mercedes-Benz Stadium, would be open by now, hosting Atlanta United soccer matches and preparing for the arrival of its primary tenant. But this is not a perfect world, sadly, and the opening date of the new stadium has been pushed back four times, from March 31 to June 1 to July 30 to …
“We’ll be ready to go Aug. 26th,” Falcons general manager Rich McKay told Pro Football Talk Live on Thursday. “The building is in a good place. We’re in the final stretches. With the roof steel complete, now we know we’ll be ready to go.”
They’d better be, because that Aug. 26 date is the Falcons’ first home preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals. The NFL has given Atlanta all the leeway it can, backloading the preseason schedule so that Atlanta doesn’t play its first home preseason game until the third week of preseason. But it’ll be up to the Falcons to get the stadium ready by then. Just in case, the team has halted demolition on the Georgia Dome, which hosted Falcons games for 24 years prior to its finale, the NFC Championship, earlier this year.
The culprit in the stadium delay is the complex retractable roof, which uses multiple enormous plates to open and close in an iris formation. Naturally, this is far more sophisticated than a glorified garage door, and the multiple systems that must work in perfect coordination are requiring far more construction and testing than previously anticipated. Even so, McKay said, the roof will be ready to roll. Or open, as the case may be.
“When we open on the 26th, if it’s a good weather day, it’ll be open,” McKay said. “If not, it’ll be closed. We’ll be able to operate the roof.”
In related news, Falcons receiver Julio Jones weighed in midweek:
The Falcons are aiming high with this stadium, higher than any sports franchise in the world. But when the joint opens, and if it works as expected, it’s going to be one of the marvels of the sporting world. Till then, there will be a whole lot of fingers crossed tightly enough to snap.
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.