More than Fun and Games
And the new stadium? It is a stunner. Inside is a whole new world of sports-watching experience: the 360-degree halo board with video displays of game action, replays and statistics; the retractable roof; the food and beverage options; the multiplicity of restrooms.
Fans love it. “Oh, my gosh!” is a pretty common reaction from first-time visitors. Civic leaders are beside themselves. “It’s a big, big win for everyone,” says longtime Atlanta champion A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District. “Atlanta always punches above its weight.”
And, he points out, it doesn’t hurt that the two teams that call the stadium home have had great success there.
In fact, the biggest on-the-field surprise has been the tsunami that is Atlanta United, which qualified for the playoffs in its inaugural year and has set MLS attendance records in its first two seasons. United has brought out a whole new group of sports fans, including a host of millennials and newcomers to the city. The stadium that works so well for devoted Falcons fans is equally welcoming to the high-spirited and diverse soccer spectators.
“I think people, before the stadium was conceived and constructed, had some well-founded skepticism about whether we really needed it,” says Robinson. “Arthur Blank and [Falcons President and CEO] Rich McKay and their teams had the foresight. It’s much more than a football stadium. It was built for Atlanta and Georgia to really take the next step. People tend to think of stadiums for sporting events, but there’s a lot broader impact.”
Indeed, Mercedes-Benz Stadium has another life as a concert venue – it had a bit of a rough start with some sound problems, but those have apparently been addressed – and a place for business meetings and community events.
“We look at these spaces in a different way,” Robinson says. “Because of the way we have gone about it, the quality of the product, the care that the Blank Foundation has taken and the attention paid to the surrounding neighborhoods – there are a lot of firsts here.”
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