Atlanta Falcons officials expect to have an update within seven to 10 days on the construction timeline for Mercedes-Benz Stadium — an update that should shed light on whether the retractable roof will be completed in time for the downtown stadium’s scheduled opening.
Issues with the complex roof already have delayed the opening twice, first pushing back the target from March 1 to June 1 and then pushing it back further to July 30, and appear to threaten another delay.
In a statement provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Steve Cannon, CEO of Falcons parent company AMB Group, said the organization hasn’t changed the July 30 opening date at this point but is “working through the construction timelines.”
“No announced event dates have been changed, and work is moving forward at a rapid pace,” Cannon said. “Many areas of the building are finished, and others are nearing completion. We are routinely working through the construction timelines with our partners, and with any building this size, scope and complexity, adjustments to construction timelines are expected.”
The possibility of further such “adjustments” raises many questions, including whether the Falcons could play in the stadium before the roof is operable or whether they might have to play elsewhere.
Brett Jewkes, AMB Group’s senior vice president and chief communications officer, declined to speculate on such questions, saying the project schedule will be updated in seven to 10 days.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s first scheduled event is an Atlanta United soccer match on July 30, followed by two more soccer matches in August and two Chick-fil-A Kickoff college-football games in early September: Alabama vs. Florida State on Sept. 2 and Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee on Sept. 4. Dates for Falcons home games are expected to be announced next month by the NFL, along with the rest of the league’s 2017 schedule.
The earlier delays caused Atlanta United to schedule the first eight home matches of its inaugural season at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. It isn’t known if Tech could accommodate matches after July.
One obvious candidate to host football games if the new $1.5 billion stadium isn’t ready would be the Georgia Dome, which officially closed after a Monster Jam trucks show March 5 amid plans to demolish it this summer.
A spokeswoman for the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which operated the Dome and on whose campus the new stadium is being built, said preparations for demolition have begun, such as removing the turf. But “until the Dome is demolished it could be utilized,” Jennifer LeMaster said Wednesday.
GWCCA Executive Director Frank Poe said in a statement that the state agency “has recently been made aware that construction sequencing related to Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s retractable roof is currently being evaluated.”
Echoing the timetable provided by the Falcons, Poe said GWCCA officials “anticipate having an update on the project schedule in the next 7-10 days.”
The new stadium’s roof, the first of its kind, consists of eight petals, each to be installed in four pieces. The roof is designed to open or close in about eight minutes with what architects have described as a “camera lens-like” effect. A 58-foot-tall, halo-shaped video board will hang from the circumference of the roof opening, encircling the field.
The GWCCA’s latest project status report, dated Feb. 28, did not address the stadium’s completion date. The report said “the mid-section of the petals on the operable roof are currently being erected” and that installation would continue over the next 30 days on the “operable petal tracks.”
When the first delay was disclosed last year, Falcons and Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank said: “It’s a complex building. Particularly, the steel is complicated, the roof is complicated, the halo scoreboard is complicated.”
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