On the path to Super Bowl LI, Rich McKay, President of AMB Sports & Entertainment, parent company of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, sat down with ALSD.com to update the construction progress of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The following transcript excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity.
What were the overarching design philosophies of this project that governed your organization’s approach to the stadium’s space and the programming of that space?
The one thing [AMB Sports & Entertainment Owner and Chairman] Arthur [Blank] is really good at is continuing to add things to the plate, continuing to say we truly have not reached the finish line. That’s how he operates.
What makes this project unique is the scope and size and breadth of the vision. We didn’t try to build a better Georgia Dome. We’re looking at it completely differently. If our object was just to get better, we would have stayed in the Georgia Dome, renovated a building that’s pretty good, and made that work. That’s not the vision. We’re trying to relook at everything from design to operations, fan experience, everything.
The scope of the vision challenged us because every day we were with the consultants, with the people that supposedly knew the answers, and we were driving them for different answers. It created a little friction, but it’s going to create a completely different product than you’ve seen before.
Those elements have helped land some major events – Super Bowl LIII, the 2018 College Football National Championship, the 2020 NCAA Men’s Final Four. Why was it important to Mr. Blank that this building provides big events for the city?
It was at the forefront of what we did. Atlanta lends itself to hosting these events. Nobody else has Atlanta-Hartsfield Airport – the number-one busiest airport in the world. We’re a two-hour, non-stop flight from 80% of the population in the U.S. We have 10,000 hotel rooms that are walkable. So we have a lot of things in place.
“We don’t want to host a Super Bowl. We want to host Super Bowls. We want to host the biggest events there are, and we want to host them regularly. And that includes international events.”
The building was the final piece. Could we build a building that could have as anchor tenants the Falcons, Atlanta United, and could it have all the big events. Every time we had a design meeting, we talked about those three anchors. We didn’t talk about just the Falcons. We talked about the big events.
[Mercedes-Benz Stadium] puts a stake in the ground from an international perspective on big events. We don’t want to host a Super Bowl. We want to host Super Bowls. We want to host the biggest events there are, and we want to host them regularly. And that includes international events.
Let’s finish up with the premium portfolio. Can you provide us a general sense of what the premium mix is and why that’s the right mix for your marketplace?
It’s hard to ever figure out what the right mix is. What I’m proud of in the building is we didn’t design this building for premium. We had some architects say they could deliver better premium experiences than anybody else, and you’ll be able to monetize that. That quickly disconnected with what we were looking to do.
We tried to say that we want as many different premium experiences as we can for as many different price points. We did that in the different levels of suites, in the end zone suites, which are incredible products once people figured out that you have to bring them up about four feet to make sure they have the right sightline.
Bill Johnson, our lead architect, he pushed us early on to look at suites completely differently. We started to think about his idea of mix, and we created a loge concept. We sold out the loge concept in two or three months. They are in the lower bowl at the top. We basically took some seating that was challenging to sell and made it loge seating, and it sold like that.
So we have a suite product, an end zone suite product, a club product, a mezzanine club product, and we have the loge product. So we have a lot of product. Atlanta can support it. We have a very deep corporate community.