Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s retractable roof was closed for the Super Bowl, but the famous roof did get a role in the pregame show.
After a week of uncertainty, the NFL decided early Sunday afternoon to close the roof for the big game but to open it briefly for pregame festivities, including the national anthem and a flyover by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.
The roof began opening a couple of minutes past 6 p.m. and by kickoff a half-hour later it had been re-closed, its role in the night’s action complete.
For months, NFL officials had said they hoped to play the Super Bowl with the roof open, weather permitting. The Falcons strongly wanted that to happen or at least to be able to display the roof in action during pregame ceremonies.
“We want the world to see it,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said a few days before the game, later adding: “I want to show that hardware off – eight petals (meaning roof sections) opening and closing in eight minutes.”
After the NFL decided to open the roof to reveal the sky for pregame festivities Sunday, Blank spokesman Brett Jewkes described stadium officials as “thrilled.”
The outdoor temperature at kickoff was 59 degrees, with forecasts calling for it to drop to about 50 during the game.
Barring precipitation, the Falcons typically will consider having the roof open for their games if the temperature is forecast to stay above 52 or 53 degrees, perhaps a bit higher for night games, team president Rich McKay said recently. However, the roof decision for the Super Bowl was not the Falcons’ or stadium officials’ call to make. It was up to the NFL.
Peter O’Reilly, NFL senior vice president of events, said in an interview with the AJC earlier in Super Bowl week that the league would consider possible late-game temperature changes in ultimately deciding whether to have the roof open or closed for the game.
“I think it’s more likely that we’re closed,” O’Reilly said, “given that the reality is even if the temperature is (high enough to open the roof during the day) you’re going into the night in that game, so the temperature will dip down. You could end up with a pretty different condition from pregame to end-of-game.”
Not an option for competitive reasons was opening the roof for part of the game and then closing it. “We want the game to be played in like conditions throughout,” NFL senior director of event operations Eric Finkelstein said.
The timing of the NFL’s decision to have the roof closed for the game was the same as at Super Bowl LI in Houston two years ago, when the league also decided about five hours before kickoff to have the NRG Stadium roof closed.
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