The Atlanta Falcons will play their first home game next month at the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium without a fully operable retractable roof, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Construction crews are in the process of moving each 500-ton piece, or "petal," of the roof as part of the alignment process, but due to previous delays, they must now plan that work around upcoming events the stadium has scheduled. Each alignment test can take up to two days.
Although the project timetable allocated 40 days post-construction for the alignment process, it will now take longer due to schedule challenges. That means the Falcons and professional soccer team Atlanta United could play under a closed roof until October — or later.
After two earlier delays, the team announced last month that the roof would be ready in time for the Falcons' first game. Now, barring a fully functional roof, the planned Aug. 26 opening date represents a five-month lag from the stadium's originally planned opening date.
Trouble with the roof reportedly began in the manufacturing process. According to project officials, 32 plants across the U.S. and Canada helped to produce steel for each of the 500-ton pieces. Inefficiencies with fabricating and delivering the pieces, combined with other change orders and delays, pushed the project's total estimated costs up by $208.6 million. Officials have not disclosed whether this latest delay will also drive the stadium's price tag higher.
While the roof may not be fully operational, the Falcons and Atlanta United will still be able to play in their new venue. Team officials, concerned about the prospect of not having a functional stadium in time, delayed the demolition of the team's previous stadium, the Georgia Dome. However, the stadium had already been stripped of key elements, including the field, making the race to complete the Falcons' new home even more critical.
Despite hiccups in the construction process, the project team has notched a number of successes. The team, including general contractor AECOM Hunt, has built the first LEED Platinum–certified NFL and MLS stadium and the first sports venue to earn all of LEED's water credits. Last October, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy recognized the stadium for its use of sustainable design, construction and management.