As a new stadium opens, we recall the game-changing Georgia Dome

Not going to lie. I loved this place. (Photo by Daniel Varnado)

Those who’ve ventured into the completed Mercedes-Benz Stadium – I haven’t yet – emerge goggle-eyed. Common description: “Better than Jerry World,” meaning AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. That palace is my yardstick. If you trump Jerry Jones’ place, you’re the new champion building.

Saturday’s Falcons-Cardinals exhibition will be my first look at MBS, and I’m fully prepared to be impressed. At $ 1.5 billion, it better be nice. (And maybe the retractable roof will someday retract.) I do, however, offer this caveat: I’m not sure I’ll ever be as impressed by a sporting edifice as on Aug. 23, 1992.

That was opening day for the building that now sits next door to MBS, empty and facing imminent demolition. Words typed by these fingers that Sunday: “The Georgia Dome is a wonder, a marvel, a sensory delight. It will be a source of pride for this city for the next 30, 40, 50 years. With the single exception of hiring John Schuerholz as the Braves’ GM, the Dome is the best thing to happen to Atlanta pro sports since the big-league franchises set up shop.”

Warning: I was just getting going. “The Dome is to other stadiums as a Ferrari is to your granny’s clunker. The Dome is spacious but not far-flung, enclosed but not dark, high-tech but not gimmicky. Even if you hate domes as a concept, you’ll like the reality of this one. And if your sensibilities aren’t offended by the notion of football indoors, you’ll think you’ve wandered into Disney World.”

Let the record show that I overshot: The Dome lasted not 50 years but 25. As for the rest of my gushing … well, at the risk of sounding immodest, I got that right. The Dome changed Atlanta and Atlanta’s sports. The Dome made us a destination for every major event. Without the Dome, there would have been no Super Bowl here, no continuing SEC championship, no Final Four beyond the Omni’s 1977 one-off. There would have been no Olympics.

Atlanta won its Games before the building opened, but the Dome was critical to the bid. Those who were around in the Summer of ’96 will recall the dizzying feeling of entering the Dome and seeing the curtain dividing it in half: On one side were gymnastics and the Magnificent Seven; on the other, men’s basketball and the second Dream Team.

Before the Dome, the Falcons shared Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium with the Braves. (Without the Dome, no Olympics. Without the Olympics, no Turner Field.) Not to speak ill of the old joint, but it was a dump. It looked exactly like what it was – a charmless saucer erected in a rush to accommodate our city’s first two major-league franchises.

The only annual event to call the old stadium home was the cursed-by-weather Peach Bowl. In its outdoor manifestation, the Peach was dying. In 1989, its participants were Georgia and Syracuse. Attendance was 44,991. The next year Auburn played Army. Attendance was 38,912. As we know, Georgia and Auburn can draw more than that for scrimmages.

Indoors, the Peach became a vibrant entity. (Full credit to the Chamber of Commerce.) When college football adopted a playoff, the Dome made the rotation. In January it staged the Alabama-Washington semifinal. In 4 ½ months, MBS will be the beneficiary of the national-title tilt.

It’s sometimes said, mostly by Arthur Blank employees, that MBS will “take Atlanta to a different level.” The cold truth is that we were already there. MBS will have more bells and whistles – it also will cost seven times what it predecessor did – and maybe Atlanta wouldn’t have gotten another Super Bowl after the ice storm of 2000. But the Dome did nothing wrong except age.

Blank was never a Dome fan. From the moment he took ownership of the Falcons, he pressured Dome folks to upgrade, upgrade, upgrade. (Fact: The Dome wasn’t yet 10 years old when Blank bought the team.) He wanted what every pro owner wants – to run and collect the profits, and not just NFL-related ones, from a shiny new stadium. Technically the Falcons don’t own MBS – the state does – but they control it in a way they didn’t control the Dome.

Fair play to Blank: He’s a businessmen who wants to make money, and he drummed up enough support for his stadium-building campaign. He got what he wanted. He invariably does. And I’m sure MBS will be a peach of a place. But to say it’s a game- and city-changer … well, no. The Dome already changed that game and reconfigured this city.

On that Sunday 25 years ago, Mike Kenn, one of the greatest Falcons ever, said of the Dome: “A place like this is a reflection of the growth of the city of Atlanta. I’ve been in quite a few cities, and there’s none any finer than this.”

That was something we couldn’t have said before that day. We’ve been able to say it ever since. The Dome did that. May it rest in peace.

Reader Comments 0

12 comments
cusuvuhej
cusuvuhej

newest way of online earning at home see more  |/。★★。\|/。★ www.bidcash3.com═★☆


Google Earn Money.....
Google Earn Money.....

our neighbor's sister in law gets 83 every hour on the internet.. she has been fired from work for six months and the previous month her pay was 16480 working on the internet five hours every day... go here to this page>>>>>>>>>>>www.Google.Earn.Money.com



the fish
the fish

mark..Atlanta "got the Olympics" in 1990..the dome was being built,,cant say if its not here no Olympics..they built the other stadium and turned into turner field..they could have used other stadiums...it played a minor part in securing the games if any..

Mayaguez
Mayaguez

Am I the only person in Georgia who thinks the new Mercedes Benz Stadium is ugly from the outside?  All this hoopla, and maybe it is glorious once inside, but the outside view leaves me cold.  Meanwhile the US Open Tennis is about to begin in NYC and just maybe the AJC will carry some info about that sporting event to counter the overwhelming attention being paid to MBS.

TideDawg
TideDawg

When do they plan to tear it down and build a new one?

DawgNole
DawgNole

To hell with gushing over all these fancy structures.

How 'bout the city finally field a championship pro team for only the second time ever?

Now that would be something to brag about.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

Why don't you tell the folks how you don't have the guts to bet on your own team at home against a team you call "underachievers who've never won anything"?

Well?!

Tell 'em, spineless. Quit hiding.

jlrhoya
jlrhoya

Turner Field was also not "broken" physically - fortunately it was remodeled into a great venue for the Georgia State athletics.


The Dome still had life to it if minds would have come together.  However, the city and Falcons are so eager for parking spaces and possible urban shopping space that they just want to tear it apart as quickly as possible.


I can only imagine the Mercedes-Benz Thing being destroyed in 15? 20? 25? years in favor of something else new to replace its outdated technology.

bruga
bruga

Perspective helps. Moving from Atlanta-Fulton to the Dome was the rough equivalent of a steak at Hal's after a lifetime of Golden Corral. Blank's distaste aside, the Dome will always stand as the launch pad to Atlanta's decade.

mgunter
mgunter

Colossal waste of money for a sport that should've played outside . Greenbay !!!!

DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

I never set foot inside it once and now never will. It looks like they could've hung a halo board on that round thing in the middle.