LEADOFF: Changes on Falcons stadium total $209M

Good morning. LEADOFF has today’s early buzz in Atlanta sports.

The Falcons have ordered $209 million worth of changes to Mercedes-Benz Stadium since the start of construction, according to a new report by a state agency.

Change orders have slowed to a relative trickle in recent months, however, with $199.5 million of the changes having been ordered by the end of May, records show. Last month, orders were issued for just $200,000 in changes.

All in all, the latest project status report by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority says the Falcons organization had “issued change orders” to general contractor Holder Hunt Russell Moody “in the cumulative amount of $209M for various scope changes” through Sept. 30.

The changes don’t affect the amount of taxpayer money committed to the project. The Falcons are responsible for construction cost overruns.

Some of the changes have been covered by contingency funds in the $1.4 billion budget approved in December 2014 and others by budget increases. The latest GWCCA report states that the total project cost is projected to be $1.5 billion, a figure that has held constant since May.

The bulk of the change orders came in May. Of $101 million in change orders issued in that month, $87.6 million was attributed to costs of accelerating work to achieve a June 1, 2017, completion target, according to GWCCA records. Most of that involved steel work related to the roof, the Falcons have said.

The completion date has since been softened from June 1 to a more nebulous summer 2017.

* * *

The latest GWCCA status report also updates construction progress on the downtown stadium.

The report notes that installation and testing continue on the mega-column video board – a 100-foot high column wrapped in video screen — and that work has begun in the stadium’s southwest corner on erecting the precast structure for the lower seating bowl.

Looking out over the next 30 days, the report says workers will remove the structural steel shoring towers as installation of the trusses for the fixed portion of the roof is completed. That will allow work to accelerate on the lower bowl.

Two of the stadium’s signature features are scheduled for installation early next year: the retractable portion of the roof and the massive halo-shaped video board that will circle the roof opening.

* * *

We’ll get another look inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium today as the construction team commemorates the completion of the fixed-roof structural steel with a ceremonial hoisting of one of the final beams. The Braves marked a similar milestone at SunTrust Park in June.

* * *

The Falcons were an 80/1 longshot to win the Super Bowl after the first week of the season. Now their odds have improved to 16/1, according to vegasinsider.com.

On the other hand, the Carolina Panthers have seen their Super Bowl odds plummet from 12/1 to 65/1.

The Falcons (4-2) have a three-game lead over the Panthers (1-5) in the NFC South.

* * *

With the NBA season set to start next week, USA Today’s “NBA desk” has predicted the regular-season record of each of the league’s teams.

The Hawks, you ask?

They’ll go 48-34, win the Southeast Division “pretty handily,” make the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season and rank 19th in the league in “watchability.”

At least that’s how USA Today’s “semi-scientific guess” goes.

But if you want to see for yourself, the regular-season opener is Oct. 27 at Philips Arena against the Washington Wizards.

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