Football and fútbol have a new megachurch

Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium embodies a sports city on the rise

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I didn’t go for the game, okay. If this were a normal final preseason game, you’d better believe I’d be at my house watching American Ninja Warrior reruns instead of going to see Matt Simms commandeer a bunch of bench riders against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But this was different. This was only the second sporting event ever to take place at the Falcons’ new, $1.4 billion (at least) Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the place that’s going to be the center of southeastern sports for quite some time.

I’ve been anticipating seeing this much in the same way as I was excited about Atlanta United’s development. I was in love as soon as I saw the concept and animation about two years ago; the futuristic design, the retractable roof, the spacious interior with different configurations for soccer and football; this was going to be a definite upgrade from the Georgia Dome.

When I visited it in person for the first time, as the Falcons and Jags B-teams faced off in what turned out to be a real snoozefest, I wasn’t let down. If I were a poet, I’d describe the stadium as a crystal, a piece of quartz, rising from the concrete.

I’ll go for a bit less of a hyperbolic metaphor instead. The Mercedes-Benz follows in a long tradition of majestic sports buildings- Barcelona’s Camp Nou, Rio’s Maracanã Stadium, the Beijing National Stadium, Dallas’ AT&T Stadium, to name a few,- which have often been called  cathedrals and temples of sport. And because MB Stadium is so distinctly American, I’m going to go ahead and call it a megachurch.

Where else in the world would so much of a sports venue’s structure be dedicated to entertainment other than the men or women competing on the field of play? There are real restaurants and bars, not just concession stands, every 30 feet as you walk around, Mercedes coupes and SUVs and G-Classes to step into- and I didn’t even enter the luxury suite levels.

I know that this was never the plan, but I would have liked to see a stadium that was more open-air. I really enjoyed the atmosphere for Atlanta United games at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium, as well as at NFL games I’ve been to in uncovered stadiums. However, MB Stadium definitely feels much more spacious than the Dome. Plus, I didn’t see the stadium with its roof open (that could go a long way to changing the atmosphere, you know).

It’s easy to see this state-of-the-art venue hosting Super Bowls and international soccer games and NCAA tournament finals in the years to come. But for now, the city’s men in red in black, the Falcons and Atlanta United, have one of the world’s premier stadiums to entertain fans in.

And to think that Atlanta was the butt of every sports joke just a few years ago.

Contact the writer, Max Tirouvanziam, at 19maximetirouvanziam@csdecatur.net

 

Check out the gallery below for scenes from this enthralling preseason game and its venue.