If new stadium delayed, Falcons have options for 2017 preseason

ATLANTA -- Although Atlanta Falcons executives are confident the new $1.5 billion, 75,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Stadium will open by June 1, 2017, there is a contingency plan if construction delays cut into the NFL's preseason schedule.

Rich McKay, the Falcons president and CEO, has alternate sites in mind in case of an emergency.

"We would have options," McKay said. "You've obviously got the University of Georgia. You've got Georgia Tech. But I wouldn't say that we view this as ... it's not even a consideration of something we've looked into. We're very confident in June 1, so we don't view it as a problem. But we have alternatives."

Georgia's Sanford Stadium seats 92,746 spectators. Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium seats 55,000 and is in the process of undergoing repairs. Such would appear to make Sanford Stadium in Athens, located 72 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta, a more appealing backup plan, although Georgia Tech is a little over a mile away from the Georgia Dome.

The Dome, which is the Falcons' current 71,250-seat home, won't be an option for the '17 preseason. The last event at the Georgia Dome will take place in March, with the first phase of demolition scheduled for around this time next summer.

"It will not be an option," McKay said of the Georgia Dome. "It will be on its way down."

The Falcons could, of course, play all of their preseason games on the road if the stadium is not ready by next August.

"It's been done," McKay said. "When I was in Tampa opening the stadium there, we played all of our games on the road in the preseason. So, there are many alternatives."

Again, McKay emphasized how he expects Mercedes-Benz Stadium to open by June 1 and, thus, allow the Falcons to play two '17 preseason games at home prior to the eight regular-season games.

Last season, the Falcons' preseason matchups against the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens had paid attendances of 67,326 and 67,393, respectively.