Completion of the Atlanta Falcons' new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium just got one step closer on Wednesday after crews installed the final structural steel trusses for the fixed portion of the facility's roof, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
To commemorate the milestone, hundreds of construction workers signed one of the last of the fixed roof's 99 steel beams before it was lifted 300 feet and fastened into place.
The next major task facing crews is the installation of the retractable part of the roof, a multipiece, petal-like structure that designers have compared to a camera lens. Stadium officials said that stage of the project should be complete sometime next year.
Controversy and doubt has swirled around the retractable roof element, a design that was inspired by the Roman Pantheon's dome. In February, stadium officials admitted that the roof had been a challenge to build, and in May, Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay told local news outlets the roof was being "continuously engineered" and that 32 plants in the U.S. and Canada were handling steel production. The roof will also feature ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), a translucent plastic, that will allow light into the stadium even when the roof is closed.
More than $200 million in change orders, which the Journal-Constitution said was primarily for the roof, took the stadium cost from $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion and pushed back its opening to the summer of 2017 of that year.
The holdup shouldn't affect the 2017-2018 Falcons NFL season, but the stadium is also home to the Atlanta United soccer team, which will have to play at least the first three months of next season on the road.
The facility will be the first LEED Platinum–certified stadium and the first sports venue to snag all of the program's water credits. In its announcement of Green Sports Day, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy used the Mercedes Benz Stadium as an example of sustainability, highlighting such features as its solar-powered electric-vehicle charging stations and solar panels. The OSTP also acknowledged the team for its commitment to purchase Water Restoration Credits from the Flint River in Georgia in order to help restore natural water systems.