The Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers could face off this weekend under the lights with the night sky overhead, according to Falcons officials who say the retractable roof at the new Mercedes-Benz stadium could formally open sooner than expected.
Weather permitting, the oculus topping the stadium will spin open for Sunday evening's game, making its debut for the Falcons' NFL season home opener, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The stadium's first five events were held under the closed roof.
The eight-petal roof has opened before, though only for testing. Further adjustments are needed to speed up the opening process from the hour-plus currently to the intended 12 minutes.
Schedule delays had pushed back the roof's likely opening from July to an undetermined date this fall. Although news of the potential for the roof to be open on Sunday doesn't mean the feature is fully ready to go, it's hard to fault the Falcons for wanting to premiere their showpiece in front of a national TV audience. Still, viewers likely won't get to see the movement in action until later this year.
As the excitement generated by the new stadium's roof indicates, today's fan experience is about far more than the game. That poses a challenge for design teams to ensure the fun going on in the stands isn't distracting from players' ability to perform on the field.
One way is through independently controllable lighting systems covering the field, the seating area, or "bowl," and beyond. The focused, point-source nature of LEDs allows for separate lighting systems to illuminate the field and the bowl, Jay Wratten, a senior lighting design associate at WSP told Architecture Lighting magazine last year. Wratten worked with HOK on the lighting design for the Falcons' stadium.
That allows stadium managers to turn down the lights in the bowl during the game, put on a short light show in response to big plays, or even raise the lights to improve the quality of photos taken by fans. Crisper light on the field can also help broadcast networks capture higher-quality footage. LED systems can host other features, too, such as occupancy sensors and location positioning technology.
Part of fun in Atlanta is the optical illusion. Although each 500-ton petal appears to rotate when the roof opens and closes, they are rolling straight along an inner rail from their open to closed positions. Even when the roof is closed, daylight can fill the space thanks to the translucent, inflated ETFE pillows that comprise each petal.