Good morning. This is LEADOFF, an early look at Atlanta sports.
Friday’s news that Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s retractable roof won’t be open for any more Falcons games this year means the Roof Question will extend at least into the stadium’s second season.
So: What is the organization’s current level of confidence that the roof will work as intended by the start of the 2018 Atlanta United and Falcons seasons?
In a response to that question Monday, a spokesperson for AMB Group – parent company of the Falcons and United – wrote: “A lot of variables, United making a run through the (MLS) Cup, long Falcons playoff run, etc., that can add to date blocks, but very confident of getting it done to work as planned.”
“Date blocks” refer to dates on which work can’t be done on the roof because of events in the stadium.
AMB Group announced Friday that the roof will be open for Atlanta United’s regular-season finale Oct. 22, weather permitting. The bigger and more ominous news was the revelation that the roof will be closed for all events the rest of this year other than that one soccer game.
The announcement cited the “ongoing work to fully automate” the roof, the “sequencing of the work” and the stadium’s events schedule.
Translation: The retractable roof isn’t ready for regular use. And it won’t be anytime soon.
The one Falcons game at which the roof was open, the Sept. 17 regular-season home opener, was timed for an NBC “Sunday Night Football” telecast. But even then the roof wasn’t opened in the way it is designed to work. It is supposed to open in about 12 minutes with eight retractable petals, which weigh about 500 tons apiece, moving in unison with the push of single button. Instead, the Sept. 17 move required about two hours, with the petals controlled separately.
The roof will be opened for the Oct. 22 soccer game, weather permitting, in essentially the same way.
And then it will stay closed until next year.
Until late July, Falcons and stadium officials had said publicly that the roof would be fully operable by the stadium’s first event Aug. 26.
Asked Monday to describe the issues that have made automation of the roof take longer than projected, the AMB Group spokesperson replied by email: “Event schedule, date holds, load-in for events, construction scheduling amongst all of that.” To some extent, roof work will continue around football and soccer games: “Yes, work is ongoing … when they can get in there.”
For background on the problematic roof, click here for a story from August.
The Falcons appear to be near full strength heading into Sunday’s game against the Dolphins, D. Orlando Ledbetter reports. See his story here.
The Braves should not refer to themselves as a “gold standard” franchise again anytime soon because they’ve effectively lost that right for the time being, David O’Brien writes. Read his blog here.
If Georgia finishes the regular season 12-0 and loses to Alabama in the SEC Championship game, could the Bulldogs make the four-team College Football Playoff? Read Mark Bradley’s column here.