On the same day that Mayor Kasim Reed held a press conference announcing that the new owners of the Atlanta Hawks will either renovate Philips Arena or relocate the team elsewhere, officials with the Falcons, the one team that’s absolutely committed to downtown Atlanta, led a tour of the $1.4 billion new stadium, now eleven months into construction.
“We’re on schedule,” says general superintendent Bob Evans, who also helped build the Georgia Dome more than 20 years ago. “We’re actually ahead of schedule at certain parts of the job. The job’s so big that we’re a little behind here and there, but for the most part, overall, we’re on target.”
When it opens in 2017, the stadium will host not only the Falcons but Atlanta’s new Major League Soccer team, Atlanta United FC.
Also on the tour was team owner Arthur Blank, who stood near a flagpole marking the spot of the future 50 yard line. “Any time I have a down day, I come here and walk away with a smile on my face,” he said.
The leadership team pointed out in particular the stadium’s environmental efforts; Scott Jenkins, the stadium’s general manager, said it’s on track to become the first major sports facility to achieve LEED Platinum certification (the highest level of certification by the U.S. Green Building Council). The plaza and parking decks surrounding the stadium—including the 900 parking spots where the Georgia Dome currently stands—will feature around 4,000 solar panels. A 680,000-gallon water system will be put in place to increase water efficiency, primarily for field irrigation.
Construction of the stadium’s lower bowl is almost complete, Jenkins explained. The next step is by far the most difficult: building the retractable roof and fitting it to the top of the stadium. It’ll take about a year on its own. Once that’s done, the 360 degree scoreboard can go in, and workers can start to finish the stadium’s interior.