Those who’ve ventured into the completed Mercedes-Benz Stadium – I haven’t yet – emerge goggle-eyed. Common description: “Better than Jerry World,” meaning AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. That palace is my yardstick. If you trump Jerry Jones’ place, you’re the new champion building.
Saturday’s Falcons-Cardinals exhibition will be my first look at MBS, and I’m fully prepared to be impressed. At $ 1.5 billion, it better be nice. (And maybe the retractable roof will someday retract.) I do, however, offer this caveat: I’m not sure I’ll ever be as impressed by a sporting edifice as on Aug. 23, 1992.
That was Opening Day for the building that now sits next door to MBS, empty and facing imminent demolition. Words typed by these fingers that Sunday: “The Georgia Dome is a wonder, a marvel, a sensory delight. It will be a source of pride for this city for the next 30, 40, 50 years. With the single exception of hiring John Schuerholz as the Braves’ GM, the Dome is the best thing to happen to Atlanta pro sports since the big-league franchises set up shop.”
Warning: I was just getting going. “The Dome is to other stadiums as a Ferrari is to your granny’s clunker. The Dome is spacious but not far-flung, enclosed but not dark, high-tech but not gimmicky. Even if you hate domes as a concept, you’ll like the reality of this one. And if your sensibilities aren’t offended by the notion of football indoors, you’ll think you’ve wandered into Disney World.”
Let the record show that I overshot: The Dome lasted not 50 years but 25. As for the rest of my gushing … well, at the risk of sounding immodest, I got that right. The Dome changed Atlanta and Atlanta’s sports. The Dome made us a destination for every major event. Without the Dome, there’d have been no Super Bowl here, no continuing SEC championship, no Final Four beyond the Omni’s 1977 one-off. There’d have been no Olympics.
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