Fans filled the stadium to watch Georgia Tech play Tennessee in Chick-fil-A Kickoff game Monday night.  
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

LEADOFF: Mercedes-Benz Stadium looks to improve egress after complaints 

Good morning. This is LEADOFF, the early buzz in Atlanta sports. 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium officials said they’ll look for ways to improve egress after fans reported difficulty getting out of the stadium at the end of Monday night’s Georgia Tech-Tennessee game

Some fans complained on social media of clogged concourses and backed-up gates as they tried to walk out of the stadium, with several raising potential safety concerns. One said it took more than 30 minutes to get from his seat to outside the gates. 

“We are aware of the congestion,” Mercedes-Benz Stadium General Manager Scott Jenkins said Tuesday. “We are looking at ways to relieve some of that. We’re going to watch carefully and see what kind of improvements we can make and share ideas with folks to make it easier to get out.” 

He said the down-to-the-last-play nature of Monday’s double-overtime game, which resulted in almost all of the 75,000 fans attempting to leave at the same time, and unfamiliarity with the new stadium contributed to the problem. 

The stadium has four main gates -- three of which are adjacent to the “Front Porch” area on the east side and the other on the west side -- plus entrances for suites and clubs on the north side. In addition, Jenkins said, there are other ways to exit the stadium that fans may not have been aware of, such as two stair towers on the west side. 

“While we had congestion … we also had areas that were underutilized,” he said. “So we need to figure out how to distribute that load. I think the staff will learn a little better and the folks coming to the stadium will learn a little better as time goes on. 

“We’ll look at video and see where we had underutilized capacity and try to get people to go there. We have exit modeling we have done, and it does take a long time to empty 70,000 people.” 

The weekend’s two Chick-fil-A Kickoff games drew crowds of 76,330 and 75,107, far more than had been in the stadium for either of two Falcons exhibition games. 

Jenkins, who previously ran stadium operations for the Seattle Mariners, Philadelphia Eagles and Milwaukee Brewers, said congestion should be expected in any stadium when so many fans leave at the same time. He compared the situation to rush-hour traffic. 

But he walked behind the departing crowd late Monday night to observe the exit flow, and he acknowledged improvement is needed. 

“We’re all learning how the building operates and how we can make it more efficient and make it a better experience for everybody,” Jenkins said. “And the exiting is one of those areas we’re going to look at and find ways to improve.” 

The stadium’s next event is an Atlanta United soccer match Sunday. A crowd of about 40,000 is expected, with the upper deck closed off. 

Suggested video:

Future Chick-fil-A Kickoff matchups 

RELATED … 

Alabama will be in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game for the seventh time and Miami for the first time when the programs meet in the 2021 event. See story here.

Click here to see how the Georgia Tech-Tennessee game rated on Atlanta and national TV.  

How did the Tennessee game answer Georgia Tech’s preseason questions? Ken Sugiura examines that here

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