Dome demolition delay looms amid Mercedes-Benz Stadium questions

[UPDATE, April 18, 2017: Construction issues with Mercedes-Benz Stadium will delay the opening of the Atlanta Falcons’ new home for the third time and will keep the Georgia Dome standing for a while longer.]

Update: June 2017: Date set for Georgia Dome demolition

Update: Aug 4, 2017: Preparation work begins for Georgia Dome demolition

Demolition of the Georgia Dome, originally expected to occur in July, could be postponed amid construction delays with its replacement, Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“There’s no date set for the demolition,” Brett Jewkes, senior vice president and chief communications officer of Falcons parent company AMB Group, said Monday.

What from inside the Georgia Dome is for sale

Jewkes said an update on the new Falcons stadium’s construction timetable, although not a Dome demolition date, will be released Tuesday.

Issues associated with Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s complex retractable roof already have delayed the opening twice, first pushing the target from March 1 to June 1 and then pushing it back further to July 30, and now threaten another delay.

Questions also loom about whether the roof will be completed and operable when the stadium opens.

The stadium’s first scheduled event is an Atlanta United soccer match July 30, followed by two more soccer matches in August and two Chick-fil-A Kickoff college football games in early September: Alabama vs. Florida State on Sept. 2 and Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee on Sept. 4. Dates for Falcons home games are expected to be announced by the NFL later this week, along with the rest of the league’s 2017 schedule.

Gary Stokan, who runs the Chick-fil-A Kickoff as president and CEO of Peach Bowl Inc., recently told the AJC that his organization has “full assurances from the Falcons” that the Alabama-FSU and Tech-Tennessee games will be played in the new stadium as scheduled.

Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, which is scheduled to play its national championship game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Jan. 8, said he hasn’t been told when the building will open.

“We haven’t asked the question too often because we know it will be ready by Jan. 8,” Hancock said during a visit to Atlanta last week. “There will be a lot of football played in that building before the championship game.”

He said he expects the Georgia Dome to be demolished before the national title game next door.

“I expect it to be, because that’s what we hear,” Hancock said. “And that’s the way we’re kind of planning, for there to be a hole in the ground where the Dome was.”

Although a parking/tailgating area is planned for the Dome site, Hancock said he doesn’t expect that to be ready by January.

“I don’t think (that space) will be useable for us,” he said. “We’re still eight or nine months out, so we don’t have to make those decisions yet. But I think the (Dome) will not be there.”

Hancock said he expects the college football title game to be played with the roof of the new stadium closed, even if it can be opened at that point.

“I think we would have played with it closed anyway,” he said. “We haven’t (played the national title game in) an indoor stadium with the roof open, so I think we would have been 99 percent sure that the roof would be closed.”

The Georgia Dome was officially closed after a Monster Jam trucks show March 5. The artificial turf has been removed, offices have been vacated and a security fence has been erected.

But Jennifer LeMaster, a spokesperson for the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which operated the Dome and on whose campus the new stadium is being built, told the AJC last month that “until the Dome is demolished, it could be utilized.”

Another GWCCA spokesperson, Jason Kirksey, said Monday he had no date for when the Dome will be demolished and no update on construction of the new stadium.

The construction update the Falcons plan to release Tuesday has been in the works since late last month. The organization said March 29 it would release an update in seven to 10 days, then said on April 7 it would take longer.

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