Falcons to lower food prices at new stadium

The Atlanta Falcons will seek to alleviate one of the biggest gripes of sports fans everywhere — overpriced stadium food — with a plan unveiled Monday for their new downtown stadium.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank, in a news conference staged at the first concession stand built in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, said prices on many popular food-and-beverage items will be reduced far below what sports fans are accustomed to paying.

For example, hot dogs, popcorn and soft drinks will be available for $2 — the latter with unlimited free refills — and nachos, peanuts and waffle fries for $3 when the stadium opens in 2017.

Blank said the “fan first menu” will be in effect for Falcons games, Atlanta United soccer games and all other events — even a Final Four or a Super Bowl — held in the stadium. He said the reduced prices will be in place long-term.

“This is not a one-day wonder, not grand-opening specials,” Blank said. “This is a core philosophy.”

The reduced food-and-beverage prices hardly suggest Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be easy on fans’ budgets overall. Personal seat licenses, priced at $500 to $45,000, will be required in order to buy Falcons season tickets, which will cost from $55 to $385 per game on top of the one-time PSL fees.

Cutting prices at the concession stands, Blank and Falcons president Rich McKay said, is a response to research that underscores fans’ complaints about the price of stadium food.

“It keeps ranking as the lowest satisfaction in all the surveys, whether that’s the league survey or our own survey,” McKay said. “Amazingly, it’s not one we’ve been able to move the needle in, so we’re going to try.”

McKay called the reduced prices, which are well below what is typical for major-league sports stadiums, “an investment in the fan experience.”

According to an annual survey by Team Marketing Report, the average lowest price for a hot dog at an NFL stadium last season was $5.29 and the average lowest price for a soft drink was $4.79 — more than double the planned Mercedes-Benz Stadium prices.

In the Georgia Dome, the least expensive prices last season for hot dogs and soft drinks were $5.50 and $4, respectively, according to figures provided by the Dome.

Blank and McKay noted that the Georgia Dome, operated by a state agency, has a different financial model than the new stadium, which will be operated by the Falcons organization.

“That’s not a criticism (of the Dome),” Blank said. “It’s just a reality.”

While the Falcons organization will lose revenue on the reduced concession prices, it is expected to increase revenue in the new stadium from ticket and sponsorship sales.

The goal, McKay said, was to “change the concession experience and the way people perceive it” and to “create a core menu that allows a family (or) a group to go to a game and not have to eat beforehand because the food is so expensive.”

Aside from the value menu, Blank and McKay said higher-end food and beverage options will be available in the stadium from local and national partners at the same or similar prices as would be found in those partners’ restaurants.

“We look at it as a very fan-friendly pricing strategy that in many ways reflects what a fan would pay if they were on the street … as opposed to using our captive experience to up the price,” McKay said.

As the food-and-beverage plan was announced Monday, construction work continued throughout the stadium. Blank said the revised completion target of June 1, 2017, remains intact.

“Our construction team … is working from 6 a.m. until halfway through the night six days a week,” Blank said. “It amazes me every time I come back into this building how much progress they have made. I’m very comfortable with the June deadline at this point. I think we’ve gotten past a lot of the issues.”

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