Good morning. This is LEADOFF, today’s early look inside Atlanta sports.
There’s a bit of progress to report on the roof of Mercedes-Benz Stadium: It was opened with the push of a button for the first time recently, according to the stadium’s general manager.
“We just did our first operational move, open and close, two weeks ago, automated,” Scott Jenkins, the stadium’s general manager, said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s still slow because we’re still in the training-wheel phase, but that’s progress because before that it was all manual construction moves.”
For this test move, he said, “the system ran the operation.”
By one estimate, the roof took about 90 minutes to open, still much too slow for routine game-day use and far short of the 12-minute target, but the progress from a manual to automated process encouraged stadium officials.
With a slight lull in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium events schedule, work on the roof has accelerated.
“They’re still working on it every day, every night,” Jenkins said. “And it’s looking like by this summer we’ll have full operational use of the roof.
“… It’s encouraging. It’s all part of a normal massive mega-project, especially with something that complex,” said Jenkins, who previously ran stadiums for the Seattle Mariners, Philadelphia Eagles and Milwaukee Brewers. “It takes time. We’re still meeting every week on all kinds of little things we’re still finishing in the building. It takes two years (after opening), in my experience, to finish a building and get it running the way you want to.”
The roof has been closed for all but two events in the stadium’s first five months because of problems with it. Another issue with the roof has been leaks, which Falcons officials have attributed to the ongoing work.
Jenkins said he is looking forward to the point at which control of the roof is turned over from the construction team to the building’s operations team.
“It’s still construction’s, but the handoff is coming real soon,” Jenkins said. “And then we’ll have the flexibility to push the button and put the roof where we want it.”
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Attending his first Georgia World Congress Center Authority board meeting Tuesday, Jenkins heard board members express stern concerns about several aspects of the stadium’s operation, especially regarding egress after events and the sound system.
“Hey, it’s a passionate group of people that care deeply about the community and about their experience, as do we, so I completely get where they’re coming from,” Jenkins said afterward.