Run a 40-yard dash or kick a field goal on the same field as your favorite NFL or soccer players. Tour the ultra-lush, fancy pants lounges with giant TV screens. You can even sit in Matt Ryan’s chair in the locker room. All of these activities are available on the new Atlanta Falcons stadium tour, where the Atlanta Falcons and the soccer team Atlanta United play. The official name is the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a state-of-the-art facility that cost $1.6 billion to build and has been eagerly anticipated by fans for years.
I was lucky enough to be on one of the first tours of the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. After parking in the nearby Silver lot and making my way through security, I had to stop in front of the largest bird sculpture in the world and pay homage to the Falcon. This giant steel sculpture was created by Hungarian artist Gabor Miklos Szoke, who said he fell in love with our city during the design process. Always nice to hear.
The 73,000-pound sculpture appears to defy gravity as it’s pictured about to leap off its egg-shaped pedestal with its 70-foot wings outspread. Fun fact: The Falcons got their name in a contest in 1965. Teacher Julia Elliott won with this statement: “The falcon is proud and dignified, with great courage and fight. It never drops its prey. It is deadly and has a great sporting tradition.”
I entered the stadium and caught the first glimpse of the field – a blaze of lights, scoreboard and color, with bright red seats and almost technicolor green field. Natural light streamed through the opening in the retractable roof. I thought of my dad, a lifelong fan of the Falcons who purchased season tickets the very first year (1965!) and attended games almost all his life. As he hit his mid-80s, he preferred to watch the games at home and passed the season tickets onto my husband, an equally enthusiastic fan. My father died of cancer in 2016. How I wish he had lived to see his beloved Falcons play in this magnificent stadium.
We met up with our group and set off with our enthusiastic tour leader, Tim Blackmon, who is Operations Manager, Private Events and Tours at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, to view the 2-million-square-foot stadium. There are about 80 guides who have been trained to lead these tours seven days a week and he is just the guy to do it as he is passionate about his workplace. (See details about tickets and prices below).
Here are a few highlights of our tour.
Highlights of the Atlanta Falcons Stadium Tour
The Fancy Club Lounges
We all know football is big money. And the spectators with the biggest money end up in one of these lounges, which include the Mercedes-Benz Gullwing Club, the AMG Lounge & Sun Trust Club. Members get VIP parking, excellent sightlines, all-inclusive food and beverage and can actually watch the players walk to the field through the glass windows of the AMG Lounge.
In some areas it feels like you are hanging out in a swanky nightclub, with a touch of Vegas glitz. One bar was lined with liquor bottles, all containing the same bright amber-colored liquid. “You may forget you’re in a stadium,” Tim said. A giant TV screen or the field are both just steps away to remind you.
We walked by dozens of plush chairs, huge TVs, beautiful bar areas and to the outside seating and grassy area where members can stroll for practically a face-to-face with the players, yes, close enough to see them sweat. “You are about 10-15 feet away from the players,” Tim said. “If you’re into looking at players’ backsides, this is for you.”
The Halo Board
Named for its halo shape, this giant video screen circles the top of the domed stadium and is the largest video screen in the world. At 1,100-feet long, Tim told us if it was stacked up, it would be the 24th largest building in the world. “I’m proud of my little board,” he said. It can be viewed as one continuous board, or as 12 separate boards on its 62,000-square-foot screen. While a circular board in a stadium isn’t a new concept, one this size and with this level of technology is unsurpassed.
Player Locker Rooms
These aren’t your high school locker rooms. These large, carpeted, paneled spaces were immaculate, well-lit and organized. Of course, on the tour they are empty, clean and fresh-smelling. You’ll have to use your imagination for what it’s really like on game day in these custom-designed spaces. I haven’t spent a lot of time in locker rooms, and found this one fascinating. We took turns sitting in the chairs of our favorite players, snapping photos. We toured the Falcon’s locker room; the locker rooms for Atlanta United are on the opposite side.
High School Helmets and Shoestrings
Helmets from every high school in Georgia line a giant wall in a huge display with the name Homegrown Legends. Next to that is the One Voice art piece, made of the words with 8,000 shoestrings of these high school teams streaming down the wall.
The 100 Yard Club
So maybe you don’t have access to the Mercedes-Benz or any of the other exclusive lounges. But any guest has access to the 100 Yard Club, the Falcons-themed space with bars, entertainment and food vendors on the upper concourse. There are Red Zone bars on either end, which align with the red zones on the playing field.
There are also concessions located all through the stadium, and yes, they are super cheap, with what they call Fan First Pricing. A hot dog is only $2, nachos are $3 and domestic beers are $5. And you can load up on all the sugar and caffeine you want with unlimited refills on soft drinks. The claim is you can feed a family of four for $28.
Tim told us fans were included in the vendor selection process, and were asked who their favorite local vendors were. You’ll see plenty of familiar names here, with concessions including Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, Atlanta Grill, The Varsity, Farm Burger, Jim N’ Nick’s Bar-B0Q, Delia’s Sausage and Bruster’s Ice Cream,
Bars include Budweiser Biergarten, Jack Daniel’s Neighborhood Bar and Dos Equis Neighborhood Bar. Drinking a beer not enough for you? Try one of the beer-infused foods, like the Budweiser pulled pork sandwich or Goose Island pastrami sandwich.
Tim jokes that one of the most asked questions is about Chick-fil-A. “They don’t serve on Sundays, so why is there a Chick-fil-A here?” he has heard many times. There’s a great answer for that. During the week, a regular Chick-fil-A operates. Then on Sunday the sign is flipped over and Kevin Gillespie’s cleverly named Fries Up opens for the day, serving the COS sandwich, which stands for Chicken on Sunday.
Let’s talk about that retractable roof, one of the most amazing features of the stadium. The roof is made of eight petal-like structures and looks like a camera when it opens. It will be able to open and close in about eight minutes. The idea, according to architect Bill Johnson, was to be able to shine a light on the 50-yard line, directly on the Falcons logo.
Fun Facts About the Atlanta Falcons Stadium
- They water the artificial turf for soccer games. Why, you may ask? Apparently, the players like it as it makes the game faster.
- There are over 4,000 miles of fiber optic cable in the stadium. Fans can find plenty of charging stations in the AT&T area where they can plug in just below a railing and still enjoy the game.
- There are 193 suites in the stadium, with some designed for just 18 guests.
- Unlike airline seats, which seem to be constantly shrinking in size, the seats here are larger than in the Georgia Dome. “I can have that extra $2 hotdog and feel good about it,” Tim said.
- The Mercedes-Benz Stadium is the first Platinum LEED-certified NFL stadium. Sustainability was a goal during design and construction. The result is that 29% of electricity will be saved over a typical stadium design. Rainwater will be collected on the roof in a 600,000-gallon storm vault and the stadium has 4,000 solar panels.
- The stadium has seating for 71,000, but can be expanded to 75,000.
- There are 1,264 beer taps, 24 bars and restaurants and 25 escalators.
- Any given day there are 120 people working on the 14.5-acre roof.
- The stadium cost $1.6 billion to build.
- It takes four hours to turn the field for soccer and 10 hours for football.
- The front entry area is referred to as the front porch, being as we’re in the South.
- One piece of art is made up of 1,500 soccer balls. Tim said, “Some people say that’s a replica of Arthur Blank’s DNA.”
- The stadium has more than 5,000 employees.
- The stadium partnered with the Savannah College of Art and Design to curate the extensive art collection. We saw an art piece made up of dozens of clocks that moved and formed the time on the wall outside the Mercedes-Benz stadium. Tim told us the aerial shots we saw were not made by a drone, but by a photographer who loves “hanging outside of helicopters to get these shots.” A two-hour art tour is in the works. Subscribe to this blog and you’ll get a notice when that happens.
Where to Eat at an Atlanta Falcons Stadium Tour
Molly B’s is named after Falcon’s owner Arthur Blank’s mom. This southern-style steakhouse will operate as a private club for members only during events, but at other times the public can enjoy lunch there. Michael Bertozzi, executive chef of Two Urban Licks, is culinary director of Molly B’s, and created the rotating menu with dishes that include a burger, fried chicken, prime rib and the best arugula salad I ever had during our preview lunch.
Opened in August, 2017, the stadium will host the Super Bowl in 2019. The NCAA’s Men’s Final Four will be here in 2020 and next year, the 2018 College Football Playoff Championship game will be held here.
How to Book an Atlanta Falcons Stadium Tour
Tours are offered Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tours run every 30 minutes. Ticket are $25 for adults; $20 for kids 3-12 and $20 for seniors and military.
Parking: For non-event day parking, you can park in the Silver or Red lots. The Silver lot is next to the stadium while the Red lot is across the street.