Falcons plan to open roof for home opener if weather cooperates

The Falcons plan to open the retractable roof of Mercedes-Benz Stadium for next Sunday night’s home opener against the Green Bay Packers if weather conditions are favorable.

It would be the first time an event is held in the new $1.5 billion stadium with the roof open – and the first open-air Falcons game in Atlanta since Dec. 15, 1991, the team’s final game at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

The Falcons played their home games indoors at the Georgia Dome from 1992 through last season.

The first five events in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium – two Falcons exhibition games, two college football games and one soccer match -- have been played with the retractable roof closed as work continues to fully automate the complex, eight-panel roof.

The construction team has moved the roof eight times so far, all on days when no event was scheduled in the stadium. Although the roof ultimately is supposed to open or close in about 12 minutes, it so far has taken more than an hour and, in most cases, much longer to allow for adjustments.

While work on the roof is expected to continue through the fall, enough progress has been made for the Falcons to decide to open it, weather permitting, for their nationally televised home opener against the Packers on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”

Team officials previously had said the roof would be closed for that game.

The roof is designed to open with the eight panels, called petals, moving in unison from the center. (A video of the roof opening can be seen here.)

While retractable roofs on other NFL stadiums have two massive moving pieces, Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s eight are four different sizes and must move on tracks at slightly differing speeds because they travel slightly differing distances. On average, each petal is more than 200 feet long and weighs almost 500 tons. The petals move shorter distances than the pieces of the NFL’s other retractable roofs, but that hardly makes up for the overall increased complexity.

The Falcons haven’t specified the weather parameters for opening the roof, but both the chances of rain and the temperature will be considered.

The Falcons-Packers game is an 8:30 p.m. start.

The roof will remain closed for Atlanta United home matches Wednesday and Saturday this week.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium hosted its first event Aug. 26 after construction problems related to the roof caused the stadium’s debut to be pushed back three times for a total of almost six months.

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Check out these past AJC stories:

ExploreWhy the roof was closed for the stadium’s first five events
ExploreTake a trip to the roof of Mercedes-Benz Stadium