Tide’s potential home-away-from-home in Atlanta will be a masterpiece
HOOVER, Ala. – They weren’t trying to replicate the Georgia Dome.
That’d be downright silly to mirror that quarter-century old arena that some of us, well, thought was perfectly fine and it was a bit silly to replace, just like they’ve done with Turner Field. (Atlanta’s Unofficial Motto: “Don’t like our skyline? Then check back tomorrow.”)
What they’ve done with the Mercedes-Benz Stadium is apparently replicate the best of every new stadium, look into a crystal ball to see what stadiums will be in 2117 and get inspired by the Sydney Opera House. The Mercedes-Benz Stadium, from what we were shown Tuesday at the SEC Media Days, is what would happen if the Taj Mahal and Cowboys Stadium were to get married and have a baby.
“We really wanted to change the game and do it for a long, long time,” said Rich McKay, president and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons. “That’s kind of what was behind the building itself.”
The only flaw may be that it didn’t get built to be closer to Alabama. There’s a good chance the Crimson Tide will play there nearly as often as the Atlanta Falcons.
The Tide opens the season in the 75,000-seat stadium on Sept. 2 against Florida State. It’s already a sellout, but StubHub can find you a pair of seats in the far upper corner for $460 apiece.
The SEC Championship Game is there on Dec. 2, and Alabama is favored to be there to represent the SEC West. Then comes the College Football Playoff championship game on Jan. 8, 2018.
McKay is a driving force behind the stadium. (He’s also the son of former coach John McKay, who may have been in the top five funniest football coaches ever; asked once about his woeful team’s execution, he responded, “I’m all for it.”)
“We tried to create a really completely different fan experience,” McKay said.
The first wow! moment will be the building’s unique architecture, with all sorts of angles and panels, and a retractable roof that looks sort of like the underbelly of a flying saucer.
Inside, the eyecatcher is the “halo” board, the video board that wraps all the way around the inside of the stadium. Stand it on end, McKay said, it’d tower over the tallest building in Atlanta. The square footage of the two video screens in the Georgia Dome: 4,800. The square footage of the halo board: 83,000.
“I hope the first time you’re in it, yeah, you’re wowed by the architecture but more wowed by the fan experience and what we’re trying to provide,” McKay said.
That experience does not include taking out a second mortgage just to buy stadium food, a mistake the Falcons’ crosstown neighbors are making at the new SunTrust Park.
Soft drinks will be $2, a draft beer $5, popcorn is $2 and nachos with cheese goes for $3.
All of a sudden, that $460 ticket is sounding affordable…
Mark McCarter, a four-time Alabama Sports Writer of the Year and a reporter and columnist for 35-plus years, is a special contributor for WHNT.com at the 2017 SEC Media Days. Follow his columns and live blogs this week on WHNT.com.