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Temperatures in 80s could lead to closed roof for Falcons' stadium debut

ATLANTA -- Temperatures in the 80s could lead to the retractable roof at the new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium being closed when the Atlanta Falcons open the venue in late August, team president Rich McKay said.

"It will be weather-driven and how hot it is," McKay told ESPN. "We'll have a temperature range that we develop. The range will be somewhere between probably 60 to 75 (open) -- maybe to 80 -- but 80 might be too warm. We're going to do some studies of the building itself and see how the building performs. So 80s, it could be closed. But remember, preseason games are at night, so it typically isn't 80 at that time of night. We'll see."

The first event at the stadium is the Falcons' Aug. 26 preseason matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. Glenn Burns, chief meteorologist for WSB-TV in Atlanta, said the high temperature was 94 and the low was 76 on that date last year.

"I would imagine mid-to-upper 80s at game time," Burns said. "That time of year we call the 'Dog Days of Summer.' It's always insanely hazy, hot, and very, very humid."

As McKay explained, a decision on the roof has to be made 90 minutes prior to kickoff, according to NFL rules. Closing or opening the Mercedes-Benz Stadium roof is a 10-minute process, McKay said.

"If there's a bunch of rain in the forecast, sure," McKay said of taking the decision right up to 90-minute mark. "We'll develop all that. At some point, we'll publish it for our fans so they have an idea coming in. But we need to do some testing to understand all the air flow and what that impact is inside the building."

Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who played in an open-air stadium while previously coaching in Seattle, talked about his preference.

"I prefer a roof opened," Quinn said. "You know those days where you say, 'Man, this is a day for some football,' if it's the idealistic setting or it's ideal football weather where you feel the crispness, I prefer that roof to be open. If it's lightning and it's raining, I'd say, 'You know what? Let's go inside."

Added Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant: "It matters how hot it is, honestly. If it's hot, I might want it closed. If it's just a mild day, it would be dope just to see it [open]. But I like the dome. I like playing inside, so I think that's cool."

The Falcons have played all home games indoors since 1992, when the soon-to-be extinct Georgia Dome opened. Their last outdoor home game was Dec. 15, 1991, at Fulton County Stadium -- a 26-13 win over the Seattle Seahawks on a 47-degree day.

Although construction of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium was delayed and concerns about the retractable roof were expressed, officials are confident nothing will prevent the Aug. 26 grand opening from happening. The Georgia Dome, thought to be a backup plan, is in the decommissioning process and is set for implosion Nov. 20 at 7:30 a.m. ET.

"We're in good shape," McKay said. "We've been in good shape. The Georgia Dome was the ultimate insurance policy, but it just didn't make a lot of sense for us to take it down early. We'll be ready for Aug. 26, that's for certain. The roof's in good stead. Everything else in the project is in pretty good stead. We're excited about what it's going to be."

The Falcons' first regular-season game at the new stadium is a Sept. 17 matchup with the Green Bay Packers, an NBC "Sunday Night Football" contest scheduled for 8:30 p.m.