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Rise Up: Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium Makes Its Debut

Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Mercedes Benz Stadium

Atlanta’s newest architectural landmark will open Aug. 26 with a preseason NFL game between the Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons.

The 2-million-square-foot, $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium features innovations including a 360-degree halo video board, a first-of-its-kind retractable roof that opens and closes like a camera aperture and a 16-story “window to the city” that provides floor-to-ceiling views of the downtown skyline.

Designed by HOK, the stadium is home to the Falcons and MLS’s Atlanta United. It also will host national sports and entertainment events including this season’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Super Bowl LIII in 2019 and the NCAA Final Four in 2020. Mercedes-Benz Stadium seats 71,000 fans but can expand to 75,000 for marquee events.

“Arthur Blank, AMB Group and the City of Atlanta should be commended for their vision, ambition to challenge the status quo and unwavering commitment to their community,” said Bill Johnson, senior vice president and design principal for HOK’s Sports + Recreation + Entertainment practice. “This venue is much more than a stadium. It’s an architectural icon for Atlanta. It’s a transformative space for the community. It’s a game-changer for the fan experience and sports industry. To see the stadium open its gates and host its first event is deeply rewarding to all of us involved in its creation.”

The semi-transparent retractable roof was inspired by the Roman Pantheon. It consists of eight triangular ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) panels that move in unison along 16 tracks. More than 143,500 square feet of ETFE “pillows” are used in the petals alone. In the closed position, the petals lock together to form a watertight seal.

“We wanted to challenge the utilitarian nature of existing retractable roofs,” said Johnson. “Conventional kinetic roofs feature sliding panels that don’t contribute to the aesthetic of the venue. Our vision in Atlanta was to create a roof that would change the conversation about kinetic architecture and contribute to the game-day experience. It is beautiful and sculptural both in the open and closed positions.”

Wrapping the perimeter of the oval-shaped roof is a 360-degree halo video board that gives fans an immersive, theater-in-the-round experience. The video board, which stands nearly six stories high and is more than 1,075 feet around, is three times bigger than any other video display in the NFL. Additional technology includes a 101-foot-high mega column wrapped in a 3-D video board and more than 2,000 TVs throughout the venue. An entirely digital stadium platform creates opportunities to display custom content for each event.

As a continuation of the roof, the ETFE facade features angular, wing-like exterior sections. The transparency creates a 16-story “window to the city” that draws in daylight and offers panoramic views of downtown Atlanta.

Designed for sustainability, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is seeking LEED Platinum certification—a first for an NFL and MLS stadium. A 600,000-square-foot cistern helps recapture and reuse rainwater. This helps protect the neighborhood from flooding and provides rainwater for use irrigating the trees. The site has more than 4,000 solar PV panels. The focus on sustainability extends into the community through connections to public transit and the creation of urban farming areas and open recreation spaces.

“Stadiums, ballparks and arenas must do more for their communities,” said Johnson. “Mercedes-Benz Stadium was designed with that in mind. It is a highly sustainable, people-centered venue that will become an international destination for sports and architecture fans alike.”

HOK collaborated on the stadium design with tvsdesign, Goode Van Slyke Architecture and Stanley Beaman & Sears. HOK’s structural engineers collaborated with BuroHappold, with WSP providing MEP and fire protection engineering.

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