Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

In Braves and Falcons stadium battle, Blank's tank is stuck at start line


Do you know what probably bothers Arthur Blank more than anything? This is a construction project. It's a construction project overseen by the man who co-founded The Home Depot. I mean, if Blank had made his billions selling donuts or mattresses as opposed to Sheetrock and nails, a series of embarrassing construction delays would be a little more palatable, right?

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the planned home for the Falcons, Atlanta United and the 2020 Final Four -- it suddenly seems appropriate to jump ahead three years and start the countdown -- remains closed. This is turning into that recurring “Saturday Night Live” skit when Chevy Chase says, "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead."

The Falcons' new stadium: Still closed.

It was supposed to open March 1.

Then it was pushed back to June 1.

Then to July 30.

Now it's to Aug. 26, according to the Journal-Constitution's Tim Tucker. The first event will be the Falcons' third exhibition game against Arizona.

Stay tuned because nothing is certain at this stage. Except this: The Georgia Dome, that "dump" of a 25-year-old building, remains standing, and functional. It won't be imploded until Blank's economic battle station is open and the futuristic, multi-paneled roof is fully operational, just like the once-wounded "Death Star" in Star Wars.

From Steve Cannon, CEO of Blank's parent company, AMB Group: “This really does represent an insurance policy. We do not expect to use the Georgia Dome whatsoever.”

Because that would be, like, really embarrassing.

I'm sure when Mercedes-Benz Stadium is open and fully operational, it will fulfill everybody's wow factor. It will have all the bells, whistles and martini bars that NFL owners embrace, Those owners will then go to their respective local governments to try to suck millions more in public money for a new venue or extreme makeover of their building, all in the name of "staying competitive."

But for now, Blank can't help but notice the Braves' new SunTrust Park is playing to rave reviews. Also, it's open! Yes, the area surrounding the stadium still includes rubber cones and construction directional signs, dug-up roads and pedestrian walkways and many unfinished buildings that are part of the mixed-use development. But the stadium works. The Braves are playing in it. Quite well, actually.

There's a significant difference between the two stadiums obviously. The Braves' venue is open air. The Falcons' venue has more moving parts with a retractable roof, and one that has never been designed to open or close like this.

So now it won't open. Or it won't close. We're not really sure. It's the sports-venue equivalent of pushing the button on your garage opener and the blender turns on.

Blank redefined the retail industry. Now he's aiming to redefine sports venues. He's paying the cost with construction overruns (funded by him) and three postponements.

Atlanta United, which was forced to start the season playing home games at Georgia's Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium, has opted in for another home game at Tech on July 29. The game was to be the first event in the new place July 30. Two other United home games in August have been pushed back and now are dated as "TBD."

The place may look good one day. But today, it's not a good look.

Subscribe to the,We Never Played The Game” podcast with the AJC's Jeff Schultz and WSB’s Zach Klein on iTunes. Episodes also can be downloaded from on-demand link on WSBRadio.com.

Digital jukebox


Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.