This weekend was the first weekend of the 2017 college football season and what a great time it was. In Atlanta, fans saw the new Mercedes Benz Stadium, home of the 2017 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff games between Florida State and Alabama and Georgia Tech and Tennessee.
While the stadium had hosted a few pre-season Falcons games already, this was the first true test of the stadium with sellout crowds in attendance.
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The Good at Mercedes Benz: Shiny and New
Mercedes Benz Stadium looks pretty cool from the outside. It resembles many of the modern European soccer stadiums, similar to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland, where Georgia Tech began the 2016 season. Lots of glass and sharp angles, great for Instagram and Facebook photos. The showcase feature is the 40 foot Falcon statute outside Gate 2.
Our tickets did not mandate a gate you had to go in. Despite what looked like long lines and a large crowd to get through security, the lines moved really fast. I can’t complain about how they moved us through and got people inside the stadium.
Like other NFL and college football stadiums, Mercedes Benz Stadium follows the Clear Bag Policy so no large backpacks or purses. Keep this in mind as you prepare for a game or event at the stadium.
Food and Drink at Mercedes Benz Stadium
The stadium has also done a good job of providing food and drink options throughout the concourses. And lots of restrooms. It is also highly commercialized with shopping throughout. Of course, this provides some issues traveling through the concourses to get to your seat, even 45 minutes before the game. Yes, we were that early – probably the first time and the last time we get to a game that early (it takes away from tailgating time after all!)
I mean, where else can you get Varsity and Chick-Fil-A delivered right to your seat? That’s pretty cool in and of itself. Also cool is the refillable sodas. You pay for a Coke like normal, but then you go to a soda fountain off to the side to fill your cup up. And to get all the refills without standing in the concession line. So that’s pretty cool.
See Also: NFL Clear Bag Policy
The Halo Board
And of course, no review of Mercedes Benz Stadium is complete without a discussion on the Halo Board. That’s the big video screen that surrounds the field. It’s designed so that everyone in the stadium can see the board. It’s pretty cool, although in the lower level, you might give yourself a bit of a neck cramp looking up at it all the time.
I’ve been told the LED lights also make the field pretty warm. And they also make the uniform colors look different on TV. Did you think that Alabama’s uniforms looked awfully red, similar to the UGA red? It’s the lights. They make for some pretty good photos though.
The Bad at Mercedes Benz: Sound and Fury
The biggest negative to the new stadium is the acoustics. They are absolutely horrible. I know that the primary purpose of the stadium is for the Atlanta Falcons, a professional football team without marching bands. But for all the college events scheduled for the Mercedes Benz Stadium, you would think that they would work on the acoustics for marching bands a little better.
We first noticed it during pre-game, but you could not hear the marching bands on the field, not clearly at least. It was just noise. The Falcons won’t need to worry about any new NFL penalties for pumping in crowd noise. With the acoustics so bad, you had to yell so that the people next to you could hear you. And that was during halftime between the bands.
Even during the game, the acoustics were horrible enough that you couldn’t always understand what the referee was saying nor the public address announcer. Ugh.
The much maligned for how it looks top was closed for this weekend’s games. It’ll be interesting to hear how the games and concerts are with the dome open. The first concert is scheduled for October 12 when Garth Brooks comes to town with another sellout crowd expected.
The Post-Game Exit Was Horrible
If they ever need to evacuate a sell-out crowd at MB Stadium, oh boy, are they going to have a problem. Getting out of the stadium was a chore. The Georgia Tech-Tennessee game went to double overtime so no one left early. That meant everyone leaving at once. With a late start, the crowd was tired and tempers were being tested. We saw people opening random gates on the way out to relieve some of the pressure. Our goal was to get out of the stadium as quickly as possible and walk away from the crowd, even if in the wrong direction from our tailgate spot. It wasn’t worth the risk of being caught inside the crush. Or having to jump fences or walls.
I haven’t heard of any injuries or such from the crowd, but there were some situations with bad fans causing trouble. This isn’t going to fare well for some college football, MLS or NFL games in the future. Georgia Tech and Tennessee don’t have much of a recent rivalry for people to have bad blood. But say the SEC Championship, where the teams are frequent opponents and have bad blood – oh boy, I hope security is ready.
See Also: Atlanta United Tailgate
Looks like we weren’t the only people to notice: Saturday Down South wrote about similar fan experiences.
Tip: Drop a pin on your phone’s map system so you can find your way back to the tailgate/parking spot after the game. Good chance you’ll be leaving the stadium a different way than you came in. And with the Georgia Dome still there, as well as the Georgia World Congress Center and on-going improvements and construction, who knows what kind of detours you’ll have to take.
Mercedes Benz Stadium: Concluding Thoughts
At a cost of $1.6 billion, I’d have to give this stadium a big fat meh. Sure, the outside looks cool, but the stadium should really be about the fan experience. They have to work on the acoustics and the exit plan before I can upgrade this stadium beyond a meh. Because right now, I wouldn’t say I’m impressed, not at that cost when we had a decent stadium right next door.
While you are in the area, you should visit the College Football Hall of Fame which is close by.
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