Ambitious, pioneering and innovative, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta has redefined the global landscape for sports and entertainment facilities. Constructed at a cost of $1.5 billion, the stadium was designed and built with the fan experience at its core to create a destination unlike any other in the world.
Home to the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium blends stunning architecture with elegant design to create the ultimate game day experience. Driven by the vision of Arthur Blank, who owns both sporting franchises, the venue includes a number of standout features. Highlights include the largest video board in professional sport, the 360 degree Halo board, a semi-transparent retractable roof inspired by the Pantheon in Rome and a 16-story ‘window to the city’ that overlooks downtown Atlanta. It also has one of the largest and most advanced integrated solar facilities at any American sports venue.
The stadium has a capacity of 71,000 – which can be expanded to 75,000 – and boasts 7,600 club seats, 190 suites and 24 bars and restaurants. Alongside the ground-breaking architecture is a premium and elegant interior design aesthetic that runs throughout the stadium. In addition to being the home for the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, the stadium will also host a number of marquee events over the coming years including Superbowl LIII in 2019.
A number of architecture and design practices were involved in both the interior and exterior design, including HOK and tvsdesign. Premier Hospitality recently sat down with some of key figures behind the stadium to find out more about the historic build.
HOK Design Principal Bill Johnson is widely recognised as a leader in the design of sports and entertainment facilities. Having initially decided not to pursue the project, Bill and HOK took a different approach to the stadium’s architecture when they did eventually get involved. With the aim of elevating the fan experience, the proposed design took inspiration from similar international projects. Reflecting on this starting point and some of the standout features, Bill said:
“I knew going into the process it was going to be a huge hit or a huge failure. We basically challenged everything in the industry that we knew. From a designer’s point of view I felt we had peaked on this building type. The innovation cycle had run dry and what we were seeing is a lot of stadiums that looked similar and operated in a similar way. Instead of starting with the seating bowl and the sightlines to the pitch, we started with the roof itself and worked our way from the outside in.
“We worked with design team at BuroHappold and came up with the idea of the roof opening from the centre. With that in our minds we decided every other idea we had should be based on supporting the idea of energy in the centre. When we designed the structure we came up with an 8 segmented roof that move on pairs of tracks away from the centre of the facility.
“The Halo board goes 360 degrees and is the largest video board in the world. At the very beginning I was always encouraging the client to think differently about how the broadcast content could be made to wrap the experience in 360 degrees. I think what they’re doing now is really interesting and we’re starting to see what the board can do. At the time it was designed the technology they are now experimenting with didn’t exist. The challenge for any sports venue is being ahead of the curve because technology changes so quickly.
“The other thing Arthur wanted was a window to the city. A lot of these buildings tend to be enclosed and internally focused but we have a big window that looks at the skyline of Atlanta which everyone loves.
“This building had a goal to be one of the most suitable football facilities ever designed. A lot of the features we implemented will set the bar for future buildings of this type.”
Principal of tvsdesign’s Sports Market team, Mark Carter was able to draw on over 35 years of experience when approaching the design of all hospitality and premium interior spaces in the stadium. Taking its lead from the architecture, the design put the fan experience at its heart to create something iconic. Mark said:
“Mr Blank (Atlanta Falcons owner) was clear from the start that he wanted a landmark, iconic building. That set the tone for the entire project really, that this was going to be a progressive and innovative kind of building. There was never a design brief per se but there was an architecture that had been established and we felt that this should be shared internally.
“We wanted to apply an overarching hospitality mind-set to everything that we were doing. That led to the notion that there was a sophistication and elegance to everything that we were going to do and everything about the stadium was going to have the same design aesthetic.
“This hospitality approach informed material choices. We used a lot of wood, for example, to warm up what typically can be a very hard building interior. We wanted something that was more like an exclusive hotel lobby. There was also symbolism in this because Atlanta is known as the city in the forest and we wanted to draw on the local vernacular.
“The clubs and suites are definitely a standout. The owners club, known as the Gullwing Club, is the most luxurious in the stadium. It has rich rosewood and stone that combine for a bold, obvious statement of elegance. There is a consistent level of sophistication that runs throughout even as the demographic and the price ranges of the clubs change.
“This is now the most rewarding part and the feedback has been fantastic. It has turned out so beautiful and it’s so impressive. We have set a new standard and there is nothing else like what we have created here. There are so many cool and amazing places that we’ve created in the stadium that mean the game day experience is completely different. Obviously it was very prestigious to be involved but the most important thing was that this was happening in the heart of our city. This is our place and the stadium is the heart of a real entertainment district. To make a difference for your city and have people enjoy it means so much. It’s of Atlanta, by Atlanta, for Atlanta and that meant so much to us.”
Building on extensive research and consultation, each aspect of the Mercedes-Benz stadium fan experience has been carefully curated for the ultimate event. From speed of entry to connectivity, fans have been put at the heart of the stadium. Highlights include a 61,000 square foot outdoor fan plaza with live entertainment, more video displays than any other stadium in the world, 21 inch wide seats and enhanced connectivity.
The standout, however, is the fan first pricing that means the stadium has some of the best and most affordable food and drink in professional sport. Mike Gomes, Senior Vice President, Fan Experience, explained the thinking behind the offering and the feedback so far:
“If you take a step back and look at the body of research that has been done around concession programmes in stadiums and in sports, you hear four consistent pieces of feedback from fans. Prices are too high, variety is lacking, quality of food is inconsistent and lines are too long, or put differently waits in line are too long.
“The entirety of our food and beverage programme has meant to address all four of those. If I serve you cheap food, and the cheap food is cold, then it’s still not a good experience. If I serve you cheap food and you have to wait in line a long time, it’s still not a good experience. Although price has grabbed the headlines, for obvious reasons, it’s the rest of the programme and the infrastructure we had to put in to support the programme that stands out. It’s not cheap food, its good food and at a great price. The entirety of the programme has been designed to try to make sure we could achieve high marks from fans in each of those four elements – price, variety, quality, and speed of service.
“The feedback so far has been fantastic. Fans have reacted to the pricing in a very positive way but we knew this would be the case. More impressive and satisfying for us is that the infrastructure and the design for the whole programme has been given great feedback. We’ve had nine soccer matches so far and seen the demand continue to be high and satisfaction ratings continue to be sky high. The goal is to create an experience that makes people go ‘wow, that was great’.”
One of the team mottos for the Atlanta Falcons is ‘Rise Up’ and that’s exactly what the local community has done since the stadium opened. A little over two months since opening, the Mercedes-Benz stadium has already hosted over 1 million fans, sold over 300,000 $2 hot dogs and broke multiple records. Atlanta United set two MLS attendance records, one for a regular season game (71,874) and one for a postseason game (67,221) while a record number of fans have taken advantage of mobile ticketing.
The vision of reimagining what a sport and entertainment facility can be has been realised through bold and brave thinking. Placing fans at its heart, the Mercedes-Benz stadium has been immediately embraced by the people of Atlanta who will feel its benefits for decades to come.
Westley Contract Services, LLC
For over four decades, Westley Contract Services has continued to evolve as a high profile project provider of freight management, warehousing & on-site installation services of fine furnishings and artwork. Projects for clients such as Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Mandarin Oriental Hotels, Norwegian Cruise Ships, resorts throughout the Caribbean, Delta Sky Clubs throughout the country for over 25 years, upscale retirement communities nationwide, stadiums such as Sun Trust Park for the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta United’s practice facility and, of course, the incredible Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Westley has built its reputation by developing and employing efficient strategies and then being flexible when necessary to accommodate changes. Relying on their experienced on-site personnel, all trained in the same philosophy, to interface with the dynamics unique to each project has been a successful formula for every project undertaken.
Westley Contract Services are known for the quality of their personnel including their adaptability while maintaining their professionalism. The company draws from previous experiences to foresee problems. Westley Contract Services can and often do make recommendations before problems actually occur (not as soothsayers but as experienced professionals) and they make intelligent timely adjustments as the project evolves. Westley Contract Services were proud to be able to showcase their abilities on this spectacular project.