Officials say Mercedes-Benz Stadium ‘in home stretch’

On a Thursday tour of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a visitor snaps a photo showing many seats installed and the installation of panels for the halo-shaped video board underway. (Curtis Compton/

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

On a Thursday tour of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a visitor snaps a photo showing many seats installed and the installation of panels for the halo-shaped video board underway. (Curtis Compton/

Mercedes-Benz Stadium officials provided a media tour of the still-under-construction building Thursday, pointing to signs of progress that they said signal the massive stadium is on track to open for the start of football season.

“We are in the home stretch,” said Mike Egan, senior vice president of AMB Group, parent company of the Falcons and Atlanta United. “We’ve got 2,000 workers a day on the site, working in some cases around the clock in three shifts to get the building finished.”

AMB Group announced in April  that the stadium's opening would be pushed back to a Falcons exhibition game Aug. 26 — the third delay in the opening date, all because of issues with steel work on the retractable roof. Although it was obvious on Thursday's tour that much work remains to be done in the next 86 days, officials involved with the project held firm to the late-August date.

“One thing that people get surprised on is the progress that we can make in a single day,” said Jason Hughes, vice president of Darden & Company, the project-management firm overseeing development of the stadium for Falcons and Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank.

“A lot of people come in here and they look and they go, ‘Wow, there is a lot to finish,’” Hughes acknowledged. But he pointed to several places where considerable progress had been made in just the past day, including work on installing the 63,000-square-foot, halo-shaped video board that figures to be one of the stadium’s defining features.

Work also continues on the roof, which consists of eight movable steel panels, called petals, each weighing 500 tons. The roof was in the open position Thursday, as it has been since April.

“We’re going to start here in the next 24 hours what we call ‘construction move 2,’ which is a closing of the roof,” Egan said. “The roof was largely assembled in the closed position, and then we opened it in order to put the tips on the end of each of the petals.”

Closing the roof at this point is a slow, meticulous process in which workers close the petals a bit, take measurements, fine-tune, close them a bit more, take more measurements, on and on. That process will unfold over the next few days, Egan said, to complete “final alignment.” After that, the next step will be to cover the petals with a translucent plastic-like material called ETFE.

Ultimately, the roof is supposed to open and close routinely in 12 minutes or so.

“Right now, each petal has its own remote control, so when you’re closing the roof now, each petal is being operated on its own,” Egan said. “By the time we get to the opening of the building, there will be, in effect, one button in a control room that will operate all eight of the petals.”

Egan expressed confidence the roof will be fully operable by Aug. 26.

“Everything is in great shape with the roof,” he said. “I know there has been a lot of talk about the roof. It’s a complex structure, as we’ve said many times, but it’s flying along now and in absolutely fantastic position to be done and be ready to go when we get this building opened up.”

Some other parts of the $1.5 billion-plus stadium have been largely completed, including the suites, restrooms, concession stands and the administrative offices. Employees are scheduled to begin moving into the offices next week, with 250 slated to work there full-time by the end of June.

“There is a lot of this building that is complete,” Hughes said.

Almost all of the stadium seats in the upper and middle levels have been installed and have a temporary protective cover on top of them. All lower-level seats are scheduled to be in place by the end of the month. Workers can install as many as 1,100 seats in a night, Hughes said.

Installation of the halo-shaped video board, which rings the roof opening, is well underway, with maybe 100 of the approximately 600 panels that will comprise the board now in place. The finished board will measure 58 feet tall and 1,100 feet around.

Despite the progress, there undeniably is much work to be done in the stadium, from roof to ground.

Cranes and other construction equipment and materials still cover what will become the artificial-turf playing field.

“By late July,” Egan said, “we’ll have a nice, green, shiny field ready to go for the Falcons and Atlanta United to play on.”