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Rebecca Burns

Rebecca Burns
Rebecca Burns has more than 20 years experience covering Atlanta. A veteran journalist and editor, she is also the author of three books on Atlanta history. She teaches at the University of Georgia and frequently speaks to college classes and civic groups.

Meet Parks Commissioner Amy Phuong

Amy Phuong
Photograph courtesy of City of Atlanta

Amy Phuong, 32, graduated from Georgia Tech in 2005 and was confirmed as Atlanta’s parks and recreation commissioner earlier this year. Before joining city government, she managed operations for a warehouse and logistics company and is the first to admit that she knows “more about enjoying a tree in a park” than planting one. We spoke on March 17, the day city residents voted on a $250 million bond referendum that included some $18 million toward parks and recreation projects.

How tired are you of the Leslie Knope comparison? And is there anything about your job that’s actually like what we’ve seen on Parks and Rec?
I think I’d watched [the show] twice. At least initially, the joke was, “Okay, you’re like Leslie Knope.” So I decided to flip it and say, “It’s more like I’m the real Amy P of Atlanta since our initials happen to be the same.” I actually kind of like that the show is something in mainstream media that is sort of what we do—if not that realistic. [Editor’s Note: Phuong has had a picture of Knope as her Facebook profile photo at least once.]

What is the biggest misconception that people have about the parks department?
People understand, “You guys mow the parks; you guys pick up trash.” But we also shape what our parks look like, [often] in partnership with other community groups and philanthropic leaders. People don’t remember that Piedmont Park was not all that pretty not too long ago.

The name parks and recreation implies fun. Does that make it hard for people to understand the serious contribution of city parks?
We have—at least right now—great champions for our parks and recreation spaces, especially in disadvantaged communities. A lot of cities went in the other direction. Baltimore once had 50 or 60 recreation centers, but now a lot of them are closed. [Reed] said, “We are going to reinvest, and they will come.” Overall, our numbers have shown he was right. We’ve started robust youth programs in Thomasville, which is near the Federal penitentiary, and in Adamsville, which is in southwest Atlanta. We’ve gone from a couple hundred kids to just over 1,500 in a fairly short amount of time.

In 10 years, what do you want to have accomplished?
I want to make sure that if we have some bold opportunities; we strike. The [revamp of] Martin Luther King Natatorium is one of those projects. The city has not built a natatorium or recreation center in the past 23 or 24 years. To do something for the first time in more than 20 years and to reflect the needs of today could be a great moment.

I also want to ensure that we carry out great work in a cost-effective way. That might not sound glamorous, but I think if I do the boring stuff really well and leave it in good hands, the next person will be able to come along and have more money for parks and investment in communities.

Back to Atlanta Parks Guide

A greener future for Atlanta’s parks

In April 1908, Dan Carey, clerk of the Atlanta Park Commission, wrote a series of “Atlanta Constitution” editorials intended to rally support for his beleaguered department. Atlanta, he noted, had fewer resources for its parks than any comparably sized city. “As a city of commercial enterprises and tall buildings, ours is spoken of,” wrote Carey. “But as a city of handsome streets and beautiful parks, it is not even mentioned.”

Well, Atlanta still falls short. In the 2014 ParkScore produced by the Trust for Public Land, Atlanta ranked 42nd out of the country’s 60 largest cities. The scorecard looks at several factors, such as how many residents live within walking distance of parks (65 percent in Atlanta, 94 percent in Minneapolis) and the number of playgrounds per 10,000 residents (2.5 in Atlanta, 3.5 in Boston). Amy Phuong, Carey’s contemporary counterpart, was appointed commissioner of the city’s parks and recreation department shortly after the report was released. “The [mayor’s] first question for me was, ‘How are we going to do better?’” she says.

Atlanta BeltLine
The Atlanta BeltLine project is creating new parks and refurbishing existing ones, such as Gordon-White Park, adjacent to the under-construction Westside Rail.

Photograph by John E. McDonald

Carey might never have dreamed of the 248 parks and $30.7 million budget that Phuong manages, but she says that getting Atlantans to support public greenspace remains a challenge. “If you live near Piedmont Park or the Eastside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine, you might feel, ‘Oh, this is fantastic, why would we want more?’” she says. Yet just 6 percent of our land is dedicated to park space.

The disparity, like so many others in Atlanta, is a legacy of Jim Crow segregation. In 1911 there were no parks open to African Americans. Four years later, there were two parks for blacks and 11 for whites. Despite the city’s claim of relative racial enlightenment, it took court orders to desegregate public parks and pools in the early 1960s.

After 50 years, the effects of segregation are still palpable. Atlanta’s lush jewels—Piedmont, Grant, Chastain—are on the historically white northern and eastern sides of town, which also are dotted with well-groomed expanses like the Olmsted Linear Parks along Ponce de Leon Avenue. Meanwhile the southern and western quadrants of the city contain fewer and smaller greenspaces.

The Atlanta BeltLine may be the panacea. Although the core of the project is a 22-mile loop of trails and transit, the plans also call for 1,300 acres of new greenspace—a 40 percent increase over what exists now—and refurbishment of 700 acres of existing parks. One of the most significant projects is the conversion of Bellwood Quarry into the first large-scale park on the Westside.

“In essence, [the BeltLine] is creating the possibility that everyone has the opportunity to walk or bike to a greenspace,” says Paul F. Morris, president and CEO of Atlanta BeltLine Inc. Part of that means converting some of Atlanta’s more than 950 potentially contaminated “brownfields”—ranging from abandoned gas stations to empty factories—into parks. Boulevard Crossing Park, for example, was carved out of kudzu-covered lots once used for auto storage and repair. In 2010 Atlanta received a $175,000 grant from the EPA as part of a pilot project to repurpose brownfields in southwest Atlanta. And this April the city received a $280,000 grant to continue greenspace efforts in the Proctor Creek area, a swath of brownfields and polluted waterways undergoing a major revitalization push.

Morris—who has worked on memorials at the World Trade Center, Columbine High School, and the site of the Oklahoma City bombing—emphasizes that parks have a deeper civic purpose than fun and relaxation. “What I learned, especially after the World Trade Center [attack] and the bombing in Oklahoma City, is when those events happened, everybody migrated toward public parks because it was a place where everybody felt equal. They could have gone to a church or a government building, but they chose to come to those public places, and they took on a much more meaningful role in people’s lives.” It’s a sentiment that Dan Carey surely would have endorsed.

Back to Atlanta Parks Guide

This article originally appeared in our June 2015 issue. 

Downward dog meets boot camp at Iron Root Studio

Illustration by Miss Lotion
Illustration by Miss Lotion

It’s a safe bet that the ancient master of meditation Patanjali never urged his disciples to “feel the burn.” Certainly his Yoga Sutras make no reference to the arrival of “Daisy Dukes season.” But Amy Rakestraw is a modern yogini, and in her midday classes at Iron Root Studio, she alternates between a classic instructor’s soothing intonations (“clear your mind”) and a drill sergeant’s bark (“let’s hold that plank!”). After her 60-minute “Workout Wednesday” class, I was sweat-drenched and sore-muscled. But the physical intensity was mitigated by the gorgeous airy studio overlooking Oakland Cemetery and Rakestraw’s quirky musical selection. (French torch songs? Why not.) Iron Root, which Rakestraw opened in early 2015, also hosts kettlebell and group fitness classes. 563 Memorial Drive

This article originally appeared in our June 2015 issue. 

Video: A drone’s eye view of MARTA’s Armour Yard

Every night, MARTA’s 318 railcars, each weighing 81,000 pounds, pull in to this gleaming maintenance facility for the mass transit equivalent of a tune-up and a detail. Here, in a facility just west of the Connector near Armour Circle, they’re cleaned and inspected by a crew of 130. These days, technicians are outfitting the cars with security cameras, LED lighting, and Wi-Fi. The average MARTA car is 25 years old, which makes the thorough inspections all the more vital. In operation since 2005, Armour Yard last year won an ISO certification that MARTA crows about: It’s the only transit system in the Southeast with such a designation, which is earned by maintaining high quality and environmental standards. Drone elevation: 23 feet

This article originally appeared in our May 2015 issue.

Commentary: It’s Memorial Day Weekend, Atlanta Streetcar is operating only one trolley, and that’s a problem.

Yesterday, I walked to work past the giant electronic billboard above 218 Peachtree Street and glimpsed an ad for the Atlanta Streetcar. It’s a modified version of a promotion that aired in Times Square back in April. “Downtown Atlanta is on the move,” proclaims the tagline.

That might be the case. Too bad that the same can’t be said for the Atlanta Streetcar. For more than a week, service on the system has been delayed, disrupted, and scaled back. Yesterday, as crowds poured into the city for the holiday weekend, the Hawks conference finals game, and a slew of special events, streetcar service was reduced to a single car, forcing passengers to wait 30 to 40 minutes to even board the trolley.

Yesterday afternoon, I walked from the office to the Park Place stop and waited for 36 minutes before a streetcar appeared. A woman sitting on the bench said she’d been there a quarter hour before I arrived; same for the quartet of tourists studying the route map. It would have been faster to walk home, but I was tired; I’d walked to work in the morning, knowing that the schedule had been reduced.  I desperately needed to get to the office on time for a meeting.

The cause for this lack of service? Not technical difficulties. Not another collision. Not a movie production or festival. Streetcar employees simply did not show up to work.

According to spokesperson Scheree Rawles, the Atlanta Streetcar employs seven drivers. Of these, three have the needed commercial drivers licenses (CDLs) to operate the $97 million system. Four drivers are in the process of completing CDL certification. There are three supervisors that have the needed qualifications, and they have been pitching in to operate the cars, according to Rawles. But yesterday, only one driver was on hand. Because regulations restrict the drivers to 10-hour shifts, the schedule was further reduced.

Earlier this week, Richard Belcher of WSB reported that four Atlanta Streetcar drivers had been operating cars without the required certification. In an email, City of Atlanta spokesperson Jenna Garland told me that the situation “is a little more complex than that” because “different agencies require different credentials.” In other words, the City appears to have been operating in good faith that drivers had the needed qualifications. Still, seven drivers for a four-car system seems like understaffing, whatever the qualifications.

Today, Atlanta Streetcar again will operate only one trolley. The City hopes that two cars will be operational on Sunday and Monday afternoon—if the drivers show up, streetcar officials told me Friday evening.

I wish this was an isolated incident and could be chalked up to a misunderstanding about credentialing. But setting aside the licensing question, this is not the first time service has been reduced by drivers calling in sick or not showing up for work. Last Sunday, my parents, who live near Northlake, came intown to ride the streetcar with me. I checked in with Keith Hillsman, the system’s community relations officer, before we set out, to make sure the trip would be smooth. He told me that there would be 20-minute waits (compared to the usual 10 to 15 minute intervals) until 6 p.m. and that service would be reduced to one car after then. The reason? “Two of our operators scheduled to work today are under the weather.”

We waited for almost 30 minutes at the Edgewood at Hilliard stop. A number of people (including an elderly man with a cane) had been there for 25 minutes before we arrived. We gave up and had dinner at Harold’s Chicken & Ice Bar—which has a direct view of the stop. During the hour we were there, one car passed by. Perhaps I shouldn’t take family members on the streetcar: Back in March, I talked my daughter into trying a trip around the loop, only to have the streetcar halt at Centennial Olympic Park to “reboot.” We walked all the way home, without passing a single streetcar in operation. On April 20, I walked to work, passing passengers waiting at every stop, and was told by streetcar officials that service was reduced because of staff absences. In the five months I’ve commuted by Atlanta Streetcar, delays have been commonplace. I’ve walked to work more often than I ever anticipated.

Yesterday, it took me 65 minutes to get home. The lack of reliability has me ready to give up on streetcar commuting.

Of course, that’s a moot point. In July, I’ll be starting a job in Athens, Georgia, and trading my 2-mile commute for one that’s 71 miles. I drove to Athens on Wednesday, and even taking the leisurely route up 78, got there in 70 minutes.


Update, Saturday: At 7:15 Saturday evening, I got a direct Twitter message from Atlanta Streetcar saying that a second car went into service after 3 p.m. In my experience over months of commuting, when one car is in service, waits are at least 40 minutes; with two cars, at least 20 minutes; and with three, closer to the 10 to 15 minutes cited in streetcar marketing. I did not get an update about Sunday and Monday service.

Update, Sunday: On Sunday morning, I got a message from Atlanta Streetcar saying that two cars would be in operation from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday and Monday. The streetcar is on holiday hours of 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. for those days.

Study: Atlanta is a hotbed of summer thunderstorms

Illustration by Renaud Vigourt
Illustration by Renaud Vigourt

Atlanta summers follow a predictable cycle: muggy mornings, sweltering afternoons, stormy evenings. Think thunder rumbles here more than elsewhere? You’re not imagining things. Atlanta “births” storms frequently, according to an analysis of 26,000 Southeastern storm starts. The study, spanning 17 summers between 1997 and 2013, was published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. Frequent storms—which can trigger flash floods, lightning, hail, and other dangers—should not be taken lightly, says Alex Haberlie, a doctoral student at Northern Illinois University (NIU) and the study’s lead author. “City planners, meteorologists, and citizens who live in or near large urban areas should be aware of the increased risk.” This is not the first time our storm patterns have received scientific scrutiny. Researchers Walker Ashley at NIU and J. Marshall Shepherd at the University of Georgia are among those who’ve examined Atlanta storm waves. Interest started in the mid-1990s to assess potential storm activity during the 1996 Olympics. We asked Haberlie about his contribution to this niche:

Why focus on Atlanta? As you know, Atlanta experiences a lot of thunderstorms. We were able to identify 26,000 starting points in a 17-year period. This is much better for scientific analysis than, say, Los Angeles, which experienced far fewer storms during that period. On top of that, Atlanta is very large. Previous studies suggested that a city needs to be expansive to have a noticeable climatological effect on thunderstorms. And Atlanta is away from oceans or large lakes, which could send breezes into the city and mute the effect of urban development on thunderstorms.

How does Atlanta rank for storminess? This study only focused on Atlanta, but a 2012 study by Walker Ashley compared Atlanta with cities in the Southeast, such as Birmingham. In general, thunderstorm activity increases as you approach the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, Miami, Houston, and cities nearer the Gulf experience more thunderstorms than Atlanta.

What is unique about Atlanta is how quickly thunderstorm activity decreases as you move away from downtown—the city experiences the quickest drop-off (moving outward from the Capitol) compared to Birmingham or Memphis. This suggests that thunderstorm activity levels in rural areas around Atlanta should be the norm, but Atlanta’s development changes this. Compared to the rest of the U.S., Atlanta is certainly among the top cities as far as thunderstorm occurrence goes because of its proximity to the Gulf. The urban heat island only serves to increase this baseline risk.

We’ve had severe droughts. Sometimes we hear thunder or see lightning flashes, but it doesn’t rain. Did you compare storms with or without rain? Our dataset was weather radar. Basically, the animations of yellow and red shown by a TV meteorologist during the summer depict areas of very heavy rainfall. Our study tracked these rainfall clusters and noted when they started. We did not use lightning data. Likely though, if Atlanta experienced the rain we focused on, lightning occurred somewhere in the city. So if all you heard was thunder but didn’t experience rainfall, your location was not a spot in our study.

We suspect that drought can change the frequency of thunderstorms around Atlanta. This is a research question we have thought about looking into in the future.


likelihood that thunderstorms occurred in Atlanta rather than surrounding rural areas

Late afternoon and early evening
the most likely time for Atlanta storms

July and August
months when storms occur most often

Factors that might contribute to storm frequency in the city
Heat Islands
Asphalt, concrete, and densely packed buildings increase heat and change atmospheric pressure, which can contribute to storm formation.
City Development
Tall buildings and choppier terrain could make air patterns shift, causing hot air to converge.
Urban Pollution
Might “enrich” thunderstorms. Storms are more likely on weekdays, when pollution is higher, than weekends.

This article originally appeared in our May 2015 issue under the headline “Big Bang Theory.”

That new Georgia beer law covers distilleries, too. So what do distillers think about it?

??????????In the early 1900s, to circumvent Atlanta’s liquor license restrictions, creative entrepreneurs opened museums and sideshows. Pay a nickel to see the blind tiger or two-headed pig and you could enjoy a glass of corn whiskey—on the house. Ever wondered why old-time saloons and bars have names that evoke menageries? There’s your answer.

This week, governor Nathan Deal signed into law the so-called beer jobs bill, which, after squeezing its way through the General Assembly, has morphed into a twenty first century version of the old sight-impaired tiger ruse. What supporters wanted: An overhaul of the state’s restrictive and byzantine sales and distribution laws to allow craft brewers to sell directly to consumers and retailers, bypassing the current three-tier system that puts wholesale distributors in the middle. What they got: A modified version of Senate Bill 63 (the go-to journalistic cliché seems to be “watered down”) that allows breweries to offer beer for on-site consumption or in six-pack equivalent take-home “souvenirs.” Along the way, the bill expanded to include distilleries, which will be able to package 750ml in “souvenir” product with tours.

Given that this legislation started with the words “malt” and “beverage” in every other line, coverage of law’s evolution and its eventual passage have focused on the beer industry’s response. I suggest you read this Forbes piece for background on the craft beer business and this Creative Loafing take on implications for that business given the new law. For deeper context, the AJC’s Jim Galloway deftly connects the dots between Baptists and bootleggers and explains the puritanical streak pervading alcohol legislation in Georgia.

In the meantime, what do distillers think about the new law?

“The fact that it has been signed and is causing at least limited sales to be allowed is a giant huge leap forward and away from the 1930s post-Prohibition mindset to the free market world of today,” said Erik Vonk, founder and owner of Richland Rum, based in Richland, Georgia. “So, with that as a framework, it’s a major major accomplishment.”

But, the mechanism that the law presents to breweries and distilleries is “somewhere between naïve and unethical,” Vonk said. “Here we will be, on July 1, forced to look people in the eye when they come to our distillery and ask, ‘Would you like a tour with or without a souvenir?’ Without a souvenir, it’s free. With one it is $55—the retail price of a bottle of rum.” Vonk says he does not have children, but if he did, he “wouldn’t want to bring them up this way.”

“It’s as if legislators are trying to force us to be sneaky,” he said. In other words, he’s required to sell tickets to the blind tiger show.

Mark Allen, who owns Lazy Guy Distillery in Kennesaw, crafts corn whiskey and small-batch bourbon. “Speaking on behalf of my own distillery and not on behalf of the Georgia Distillers Association, I’m pleased about SB63 and see this as a small step toward modernizing the laws which are extremely restrictive for Georgia distillers,” he said. “It’s not what I would have liked to see, nor the perfect plan, but we absolutely plan to take full advantage of this legislation to help promote our distillery and the distilling industry.”

Allen already is working on plans to “leverage this law” over the July 4 weekend. Vonk likewise says Richland Rum will begin to offer limited tour-with-souvenir programs as soon as July.

While the new law allows consumers to buy (very limited) amounts of beer and booze directly from craft producers, retailers still have to go through distributors to get product from local distillers and brewers.

The Distillery Store, a specialty wine and spirits shop, is located on Broad Street in downtown Richland—across the street from Vonk’s distillery. One of the store’s top sellers, is, unsurprisingly, Richland Rum. But Vonk can’t sell directly to the shop. When an order comes in from the Distillery Store, Vonk has to put the cases of rum on a truck and ship them to Atlanta to be processed through a wholesaler’s warehouse. After that, the rum is loaded onto another truck and schlepped back to Richland. It’s a 280-mile round trip journey for bottles of rum that could simply have been carted a few yards on a dolly.

When lawmakers come to Richland, Vonk walks them across Broad Street to illustrate the ludicrous implications of the distribution mandate. He says that he tells them, “That little store is famous. It sells rum with the largest carbon footprint in the country.”

Vonk and Allen are among a dozen or so craft distillers in Georgia that have operated despite the restrictive laws. “We have a regulatory environment designed in the 1930s to make sales as hard as possible. In spite of all that we have been doing well,” says Vonk. “I can only imagine that the gradual adaptation of the legal system to 2015 and onward will cause a lot more distilleries, wineries, and breweries to open in Georgia. That will be advantageous to everybody.”

How the TSA became an Instagram star

Hear “Transportation Security Administration” and you imagine stern-faced agents inspecting carry-ons. But the TSA as social media mavens? You bet. The agency became an unlikely phenom thanks to its Instagram feed featuring seized weaponry (brass knuckles, knives disguised as lipsticks, grenades, plain old guns and ammo) and other contraband (tiny snakes, giant drug stashes) interspersed with tail-wagging K-9 officers and #TSATravelTips (it’s okay to pack a pecan pie—who knew?).

Designed for “passenger education,” the @TSA account “developed a cult following, with over 210,000 followers,” says Mark Howell, TSA spokesperson for the region that includes Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Fast Company named TSA one of the 10 top social media innovators of 2015.

In Atlanta, Howell notes, novel discoveries spike around Labor Day. “When DragonCon’s in town, that’s when some interesting things come through.”

Throwing star
A Bat Signal–shaped throwing star was the first item to go viral. This year, credit card knives are trending, says Howell.


The TSA posted this ATL-seized 5.7×28 mm pistol on Instagram the same day that media outlets reported Waka Flocka Flame had been busted taking a gun on a plane, leading to TMZ speculation that the loaded firearm in question belonged to the rapper.


With 109 seized guns, Atlanta ranked second for confiscated firearms in 2014, ceding the top spot to Dallas-Fort Worth. “Four years running, Atlanta was number one. That it dropped while the rest of the country went up is saying something,” notes Howell.


This inert hand grenade was found in Atlanta. Grenades—real and novelty—frequently cause screening delays.

A few other notable finds


And to lighten the mood, here’s a TSA dog at work

This article originally appeared in our April 2015 issue.

The Atlanta Streetcar is being promoted to New York tourists

For the next two weeks, New York City tourists will be urged to consider  future trips elsewhere—downtown Atlanta to be specific. A giant ad running on the “ABC SuperSign” lets travelers to NYC know that “downtown Atlanta is on the move.” The ad was arranged by Siemens, which manufactured the Atlanta trolley system—and at least some of the components of the mega LED billboard that scrolls above the “Good Morning America” studio.

A Forward Atlanta ad reproduced in the December 1966 issue of Atlanta magazine.
A Forward Atlanta ad reproduced in the December 1966 issue of Atlanta magazine.

The ad, which began airing Monday and will run through April 26, features the happy crowds—among them mayor Kasim Reed—at the streetcar’s debut in December, and promotes the #BeDowntown social media campaign from Central Atlanta Progress. If you want to catch the ad in real time, there’s a live feed of the SuperSign. Who knew?

Atlanta’s civic personality combines a curious mix of brash self-promotion and constant anxiety about measuring up. Whenever I see Atlanta promoted in other places, I’m reminded of the Forward Atlanta campaign of the 1960s, in which our city’s assets—the airport, low cost of living, rising skyscrapers, and so on—were touted to executives via ads in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other publications. Those ads in turn were reprinted in each issue of Atlanta magazine, to let image conscious Atlantans know how their town was being marketed.

I wondered if CAP might consider similar ads in downtown Atlanta—for instance on the giant billboard at 218 Peachtree Street that presently features a smiling mayor Reed welcoming visitors to Atlanta. Spokesperson Kathryn Rusche said nothing like that was planned but it might be considered down the road. (The New York ads are part of a “strategic alliance” between Disney and Siemens, according to a spokesperson for the electronics company. No taxpayer or streetcar operating dollars went toward the campaign.)

It might seem wise to invest in a campaign targeting people most likely to ride the Atlanta Streetcar: you know, Atlantans. But thankfully the city has done something more effective: keeping the streetcar fare-free through the end of this year. In my admittedly limited experience, this tactic is paying off. I’ve been overhearing fellow passengers praise the fare waiver and eagerly tell tourists about it. After commuting by streetcar since January, I’ve noticed something new. Before, I used to ride home in an almost empty trolley, but in the past few weeks I’ve had to hunt for a seat.

Getting more people in Atlanta to actually use the streetcar will better contribute to its long-term success than any ad campaign. As we say in my line of work: Show, don’t tell.

A drone’s eye view of the new Atlanta Falcons stadium

Photograph by Ryan Hayslip and Jeff Wolk
Photograph by Ryan Hayslip and Jeff Wolk

Where  Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Mangum Street
Drone elevation  212 feet

Eventually the fancy extras will arrive—the retractable roof, the 100-yard bar, the 360-degree high-definition video halo board. And soon enough, the hard sell will start on those $45,000 personal seat licenses. But now, with just over two years left to complete the Atlanta Falcons stadium, crews of 750 are working six days a week to meet the August 2015 deadline to build the core of the 1.9-million-square-foot, $1.4 billion stadium that will rise 30 stories over Northside and Martin Luther King Jr. drives. The New Atlanta Stadium—designed to hold 71,000 for football and up to 83,000 for special events—lies just 84 feet from the structure it will replace, the Georgia Dome, which opened in 1992.

This article originally appeared in our April 2015 issue.

UPDATE: In mid April, Falcons owner Arthur Blank stated that the estimated cost of the stadium had increased again, to $1.5 billion.

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