Mercedes-Benz Stadium: It’s here, and it’s spectacular

Inside the palace. (Bob Andres/AJC)

“Like the new digs?” Dan Quinn asked, 2 ½ hours before kickoff on opening night. “Pretty nice, huh?”

Yes. Pretty nice. Really nice. Nicer than nice.

If you’re wondering who won the Atlanta Stadium Derby of 2017, this untrained architect would say the Falcons. SunTrust Park is a fine place, but Mercedes-Benz Stadium is proof that $1.5 billion goes a long way. It’s massive and therefore spacious, whereas STP feels a bit cramped. (Then again, MBS has nothing like the Battery on its campus, and the Braves didn’t spend a nickel for a retractable roof that can’t yet be trusted to retract.)

Of our metro area’s two new big-league stadiums, MBS is — as we pretty much knew all along — the eye-popper. By itself, the halo video screen would carry that vote. And that’s not to mention the petal roof, assuming it flowers to specification. But that’s OK: SunTrust Park was built as a ballpark, not a palace. Mercedes-Benz Stadium was always drawn to palatial scale, and it achieves that exalted status. It’s pretty nice, really nice, nicer than nice.

> Photos: Falcons host Cardinals in stadium opener

> Photos: Bird’s-eye view of Mercedes-Benz Stadium

> Photos: Fans’ first peek inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Apologies for turning this into an episode of “Mansion Wars,” but that’s kind of where we Atlantans are. The Braves are playing in a new ballpark. The Falcons have taken occupancy of a new stadium. The Hawks are redoing Philips Arena. Can’t tell the bricks and mortar and pixelated matrix boards without a scorecard.

An hour’s unguided walking tour of MBS showed lots of neat stuff. There were food options – Farm Burger, Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, to name two – that this diner has patronized in non-stadium form. The ushers were friendliest ever encountered. (Major thanks to Constance Glover, who went a half-mile out of her way to point the way back to the press box.) One of the blotches on the Georgia Dome was that, once inside, you couldn’t tell if it was night or day. Owing to the enormous window above the east end zone, you could see both sunshine and skyline.

Standing on the field, it was hard not to gawk. Quinn mentioned that his Falcons, in their walk-through Friday, did a lot of that. Being a coach, he was concerned. “I keep saying, ‘Guys, between the white lines.’”

Perhaps it was just happenstance, but the Falcons did play as if distracted. Matt Ryan’s first pass was deflected and intercepted. Another should-have-been-INT was dropped. The visiting Cardinals – who not incidentally play in a stadium not dissimilar to this – seemed unimpressed by their surroundings. They scored the first touchdown in MBS. They kicked the first field goal. The Falcons trailed 10-0 when Ryan was excused halfway through the second quarter. They trailed 17-nil two plays later, Matt Schaub suffering a sack/fumble on his first snap.

They would lose 24-14, not that it mattered. The football part of Saturday night was negligible. (It was, we note for emphasis, an exhibition, as in “doesn’t count.”) The attraction wasn’t the game, but its surroundings. Twenty-five years after the Dome elevated this city to a different sporting plane, its bigger and brighter brother opened its doors and stands ready – cue Sly Stone – to take us higher.

We Atlantans take a lot of grief about our teams – the principal occupant of Mercedes-Benz Stadium is coming off maybe the worst loss in the annals of U.S. sports, about which even Peyton Manning has cracked wise – but we’re not hurting for creature comforts when it comes to watching them in person. In the space of 4 ½ months, we’ve seen the Cumberland Mall area transfigured by the Braves’ arrival, and now downtown has a stunning new attraction/destination.

Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t the worst place in the world to be a sports fan. On Thursday, the Falcons will end their exhibition season in MBS while Georgia State christens Turner Field for football. On Saturday, it’s Alabama versus Florida State under the closed roof. Labor Day will bring Georgia Tech against Tennessee. Come January, we’ll have the College Football Playoff title game. Come 2019, Super Bowl LIII. Come 2020, the Final Four.

We know the drill: We’re Atlanta, which means all our streets are named Peachtree and our traffic stinks and we can’t drive in the snow and our teams always blow the big game and we often don’t show up to watch them play. There’s truth in all of above. (Indeed, there were empty seats at MBS on Saturday.) But there’s a new truth, too. We have a nice new baseball stadium and a really nice football stadium, with a refurbished basketball arena coming soon. We’re doing just fine, thanks for asking.

Oh, and just for the record: It doesn’t snow here that often.

Reader Comments 0

26 comments
Kentgibson
Kentgibson

I love the new Mercedes Benz Stadium EXCEPT for the sound system. You simply can not hear the announcers. The sound is too tin sounding and has way too much echo. Horrible, simply horrible.

PeteMTL
PeteMTL

Agree. Sound system is awful and too loud. Also I have the exact same seats as in the GA Dome and I feel like I'm a lot farther from the field . Lastly, it is very hard to pick up the ball . Can't explain why but the person I was with thought the same. Especially on punts and kickoffs .I'm in the 300 level in Row 1 .

codonaropu
codonaropu

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bolu
bolu

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DawgNole
DawgNole

"They would lose 24-14, not that it mattered."

______________

And here we go again--yet another statement that exemplifies the problem with this city's sports culture: Losing doesn't matter!

You'd think after a half-century plus of it that it WOULD matter.

And some wonder why they call us "Losersville."

James Bold
James Bold

I wouldn't care if every seat were lined with gold at MB stadium, SunTrust park will ALWAYS be the superior sport venue since it is an open-air stadium.

I will never understand a true sport fan that likes to go indoors for a game.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@James Bold  Do you take an umbrella with you when it's raining? Why? However, it's all about money. There are events scheduled that couldn't happen in rain or an ice storm. You do make a point, but the new generation doesn't understand the way things once were.

TheMatr1x
TheMatr1x

@James Bold  Atlanta wants Final Fours, you can't hold a Final Four in an open-air stadium. Mercedes Benz is an engineering marvel, I'll take that over the suburb mall Suntrust Park.

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yoyaziyu

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James Bold
James Bold

@TideDawg @James Bold Hi TideDawg....I would say it's less the new generation than it is Atlanta fans.   The fans in New England, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Washington, etc seem to get it.....all those teams recently built new stadiums and they are all open air.  In fact, in most of those cities, when there was talk of building a dome the fans protested. Here in Atlanta the opposite is true...when there was talk of an open air stadium, everyone complained.  I guess football fans here are not as hard core than in the north.

James Bold
James Bold

@TheMatr1x @James Bold True football fans (see New England, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Washington, Buffalo, Green Bay, Kansas City) could care less about final fours.  They want authentic football played in the elements.  Walking indoors to watch a football game?  Meh!   Could care less about the engineering marvel.   SunTrust Park is an amazing stadium with a great vibe inside and outside the stadium.   And it is open air….the way baseball and football is meant to be played.   

TideDawg
TideDawg

@James Bold @TheMatr1x  Uh Huh! When they spend $1,000 on foul weather gear they just want a chance to use it. Wasn't basketball once played in the open air?


nickp
nickp

$5 beer, check $2 hotdog, check, Awesome Mercedes Benz Stadium, check!

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

No, they're only starved if they actually want to win. All the suckers already paid for most of the overpriced tickets, and the owners and players have been paid, so they're fine with continuing to be gutless quitters.

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

The new overpriced and not fully operational home of spectacular losses and failures by the Superbowl-choking Atlanta Buzzards. At least there will be salads and wine spritzers for all the corporate losers that paid tens of thousands of dollars per game to watch these gutless quitters continue to embarrass themselves on the field.

Dawggy
Dawggy

@Hell Horsey So says the self-made billionaire who has been a superstar in sports and life.

Correct?

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

No, just a superstar in your mother's bedroom.

FineSwine
FineSwine

Great writing Mark.  Captured the ATL vibe perfectly...