Falcons' stadium roof will be closed for home opener vs. Packers

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons will play their first regular-season game inside the new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the roof closed.

Officials said the retractable roof of the stadium, which was left open during a media tour Tuesday, still has to go through a process before it can remain open for an entire football game.

Falcons team president Rich McKay explained the roof has to be "fully mechanized" and that such a process could take 40 working days from now, which means the roof will be closed for the preseason games and probably the start of the regular season.

Steve Cannon, CEO of the Falcons' parent company, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the roof will definitely be closed for the home opener Sept. 17 against the Green Bay Packers, in Week 2. But Cannon added, "We fully expect to have several events in the open-roof position this season with the Falcons and Atlanta United."

The roof can be operated now one petal at a time, but more fine-tuning and adjusting is required to make all the petals work with one push of a button. The roof is made up of 27,500 tons of steel, 3,500 of which make up the roof petals. Each petal will move independently of the others.

The Falcons are scheduled to open the new stadium with an Aug. 26 preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, which falls inside the 40-day window.

"From a temperature standpoint and from an operational standpoint, it's probably the right thing to do," McKay told ESPN.

The Falcons' fourth and final preseason game, an Aug. 31 home matchup with Jacksonville, also occurs inside the 40-day window. Although the Sept. 17 home opener falls outside the 40-day window, officials clarified that putting finishing touches on the roof won't occur in 40 consecutive days.

The workflow will be interrupted by certain blackout dates, such as the Falcons' preseason games, Atlanta United MLS soccer matches, the Chick-fil-A college football kickoff games in the first week of September (Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Florida State Seminoles, Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee), private events and the possibility of weather delays.

In addition, construction workers have to complete duties such as power-washing the digital boards, which can't occur with the roof open.

There has been no timeline set for when the roof will be fully mechanized. October appears to be a more realistic goal for the Falcons to play a game with the Mercedes-Benz Stadium roof open, provided it's not too hot or raining at that time. The Falcons host the Buffalo Bills Oct. 1 and the Miami Dolphins Oct. 15.

Officials insist the roof is not a major issue.

"We're feeling great about where we are," said Scott Jenkins, the general manager of the stadium.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn was asked last month if he'd prefer the roof to be open or closed.

"I prefer a roof opened," Quinn told ESPN. "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.'"

The process of opening and closing the roof typically takes 12 minutes but can be sped up to 10 minutes. A decision on whether to open or close the roof for a game has to be made 90 minutes before kickoff. Temperatures in the 80s typically will result in the roof being closed, McKay said.

The process of installing the field already began Tuesday, earlier than expected. That process is expected to be completed by Aug. 5, if not sooner.

"People traditionally will say a turf like that is anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million," McKay said. "They are very good at it. They did the Georgia Dome. They did our practice field. FieldTurf is everywhere. ... They know how to get the product installed."