Mercedes-Benz Stadium won’t open until the 2017 season, but it might already be the best stadium in football. Yes, the Atlanta Falcons promised a fan-friendly experience, and that’s exactly what they’re providing.
A 12-ounce domestic beer will cost $5 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn and bottled water will cost $2. So will soft drinks, which include free refills. If you want pizza, nachos, waffle fries or peanuts, it’s $3.
“Yeah, I think (our plan) was pretty positively received,” Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “What’s amazing is how when you make an announcement like this and you spend as much time as we did kind of developing it and feeling and following (Arthur Blank’s) vision of trying to reimagine the fan experience, it’s incredible how so many people think there’s an angle to it. ‘Well, you have to have some other way to make up the revenue.’ They don’t realize that sometimes the right thing to do is the right thing. That’s really what Arthur charged us (to do) in this one: Go back, listen to the fans, see what their biggest gripes are, what they don’t like about their experience, and I think we’ve taken a lot of that into account in the design of the stadium itself – not just the exterior, but the interior.”
Food, as it turns out, was a major gripe among fans.
“(It) became just this huge sore spot,” McKay said. “Our fans, that’s what they tell us: It’s their least favorite part of their experience, and yet, it’s very important to their experience. So we’re trying to change that.”
McKay insists that the Falcons have not received calls from angry owners asking what in the heck they’re doing. After all, concessions are a huge money-maker for NFL teams. Slashing concession prices means less money.
“Everybody has a different circumstance that they have gotten themselves into,” McKay said. “There’s plenty of reasons to how and why we got to where we are in the concessions world. But in our mind, we had an opportunity because we’re running the stadium – we’re completely responsible for the stadium – we had an opportunity to change this game, and that’s why we took it. I’m sure there’s others that find themselves in a different circumstance, but we are not building a new building just to build a new building and make the premium areas nicer and find a way to make more money from premium fans. It seems to me that’s where new buildings, in some instances, have gone. We’re really trying to change the fan experience, trying to change the design. We think the upper deck might have the coolest amenities in the whole building.”
The new stadium will offer several amenities, including a 63,000 LED scoreboard. That’s bigger than Jerry’s World.
A lot bigger.
“Jerry’s World is about 32,000 square feet,” McKay said. “So amazingly, ours is close to double, and we didn’t really go with that intent. But in his case, his is center hung. Ours is a 360-degree halo that hangs from the opening of the retractable roof. It’s not a circle, it’s more of an oval – and it’s incredible. It’s an incredible scoreboard. Never been done, never been thought of. So you think about wherever you’re sitting, you kind of have your own board. So if you’re on the home side, you’re looking across on top of the visitors and vice versa. So it’s a cool amenity, and I think in the upper deck, it’s a really cool amenity.”
That isn’t by design, either. The Falcons didn’t want to simply cater to their premium ticket-holders and forget about everything else. They want each fan to enjoy his or her experience. To that end, the upper level will include a 100-Yard Bar and be accessible for all fans on game days.
That’s pretty cool.
“In our mind, you’ve got to make each place a destination,” McKay said. “People have invested not just their money but they’ve also invested their personal equity in your brand and you should deliver on that. You shouldn’t just make it where the new stadium has the best premium experience ever for those customers. Let’s make it the best experience for everybody.”
The $1.4-billion stadium, which can seat up to 75,000 people, will also host the Atlanta United FC of the MLS. The project is expected to be finished in June 2017.