Roof to remain closed for openers at Atlanta's new stadium

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ATLANTA (AP) — The retractable roof for the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be closed when the facility debuts for an Atlanta Falcons preseason game next month.

There's no date set on when the roof will be open for an event, even though the roof petals were open on Tuesday when Falcons and MLS Atlanta United officials led a media tour of the stadium.

Issues with the roof forced delays in the opening of the stadium. Those delays pushed back some fine-tuning in the mechanism of the roof.

"The roof will be in closed position for our opening events while some remaining work to fully automate the retractable portion of the roof is completed," Steve Cannon, chief executive officer of Falcons and Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank's AMB Group, told The Associated Press.

That final work on the roof can't be done at the same time other work is being completed.

Cannon said games for the Falcons and Atlanta United are expected to be played with the roof open "later this fall."

Atlanta United, playing its first MLS season, has used Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium as its temporary home. The team's stay at the college football stadium was extended due to issues with the roof of the new stadium.

Before the delays , the stadium was to open on July 30 with an Atlanta United game against Orlando City. Instead, the debut is set for Aug. 26, when the Falcons will play the Arizona Cardinals in an NFL preseason game.

Atlanta United's first home date at the new stadium will be on Sept. 9 against Dallas.

Meanwhile, remaining work on the new facility is nearing completion.

Falcons president Rich McKay said he expects the artificial turf field to be installed by Aug. 5. Workers were putting in place flooring on the field on Tuesday.

Seats, concessions areas and the massive halo video board which circles the inner bowl of the facility are all complete.

McKay said the halo board, comprised of 63,000 square feet of LED displays, has been fully operational for about three weeks. McKay said the two end zone video boards at the Georgia Dome, the Falcons' old board, used only a combined total of 4,800 square feet of display space.

The delays with the roof did not dampen McKay's enthusiasm about seeing other work almost complete.

"We feel really good about it," McKay said. "We're in really good shape. We feel we are truly in the finishing phase now."

The new stadium will host this season's College Football Playoff championship game, the Super Bowl in 2019 and the Final Four in 2020.


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