McKay shares new stadium plan with SEC media

12 July 2017

Falcons CEO and president Rich McKay showed a video and discussed hosting the SEC Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium during the SEC’s media event Tuesday in Hoover, Ala.

He confirmed that the new stadium will ready Aug. 26 when the Falcons are set to host the Arizona Cardinals in their exhibition season home opener.

That game will be followed by another exhibition game and two Chick-fil-A Kickoff college football games in early September: Alabama vs. Florida State on Sept. 2 and Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee on Sept. 4. The SEC Championship game is slated for Saturday, Dec. 2.

McKay said the Falcons didn’t want to just improve on the Georgia Dome. If they wanted to do that, they would have elected to renovate.

“We really wanted to change the game and do it for a long, long time,” McKay said. “That’s kind of what was behind the building itself.”

He discussed the stadium’s design, digital signage, bargain food pricing, halo scoreboard and SEC graphic logo.

The Georgia Dome, which is scheduled for demolition, hosted the SEC Championship game for 21 years, beginning in 1994.

AMB Sports & Entertainment (AMBSE) along with the SEC and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) have an agreement to host the SEC football championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium through 2026. The agreement allows the SEC the option of adding up to two successive five-year extensions.

Here’s the transcript from McKay’s presentation:

Rich McKay: OK. Good afternoon. I’m happy to be here. We have been talking about bringing and continuing to have the SEC championship in Atlanta for a long time. I think first time I came over to talk about the extension of the SEC agreement was probably in maybe 2014, maybe 2013. So we’re happy to do that.

What I thought I would start with today is a video. We’ve done a video. It’s a long video. So some of us that don’t have the great attention span, like myself, will struggle. But it’s about six, seven minutes. It kind of explains the whole stadium to you. And then I got some slides; I want to get specific on the SEC and what we did to design the building specifically to make sure that we’re ready to host this championship.

The building speaks for itself. The architecture, I think, speaks for itself. I think what we try to say in that video and what you’re going to see when you come to the stadium, whether it’s for one of our preseason games, whether it’s for the kickoff game with Alabama-Florida State, Georgia Tech-Tennessee. Whatever it may be. I hope the first time you’re in it, yeah, you’re wowed by the architecture but more wowed by the fan experience and what we’re trying to provide.

We’re trying to truly look at this differently. The Georgia Dome was our home and your home, the SEC Championship for a long time. It was a really good place to play. It was a really functional building that served its purpose very well. We did not want to build a better Georgia Dome. That was not the object. If we would have done that, we would have renovated the Georgia Dome. We really wanted to change the game and do it for a long, long time. That’s kind of what was behind the building itself.

This slide I show you just because I think ultimately when it comes either to the SEC Championship, which in many instances has been a National Championship football game over the years, whether it comes to the College Football Playoff Championship, the Super Bowl, whatever it may be, the way we have sold the big events and the way we have been convincing to them to come to Atlanta is this map.

Really what Arthur did, when we went down this project path, was say: We need to stay in Atlanta. We need to stay in the heart of Atlanta. We need to stay downtown.

So that’s how we ended up 83 feet from the Georgia Dome, which is not very far. Separating the two buildings is a MARTA tunnel. So when we do have the implosion in November, we all want to watch that implosion, because it’s going to be close to our building for sure.

But it’s really cool and good for you and good for the fans of the teams that come to see the championship game, and just everything that goes on downtown. One of the great things about downtown is the Georgia World Congress Center, which, after the Dome’s down, after we built the Home Depot Backyard and we built the parking garage, will basically be attached to the Georgia World Congress Center for the SEC Championship for big events and major events you’ll be able to host indoors, plenty of events and then walk through a covered parking lot and into the stadium. We tried to make the experience as seamless as possible.

You flip to the next slide, I’ll kind of show you one of the things we like to talk about all of the time is we designed this stadium for the SEC Championship. We designed this stadium for Atlanta United. We designed this stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. We didn’t try to make this building a multipurpose building, which in our mind is a building that can do a lot of the things but not great. We tried to make this building specific to all of the tenants that were going to be there.

And the first way you do it, just when you look at this picture, you realize, there’s zero signage in this inner bowl. There’s not one sign there. The only sign that will be in the building at all of a permanent nature will be Mercedes-Benz. All of the rest of it is digital. That’s 83,000 square feet of LED. How much LED is that you ask. Well, at the Georgia Dome, if you took both end zone boards and added them together, you get 4800 square feet. This is 80,000 square feet.

When the SEC Championship is played — and I will not declare two teams that will be in it other than to say I better say Georgia should be one of them or I have a problem back in Atlanta — this building can be whatever colors you want it to be and say what you want it to see. And days before the games, because of the (designer lighting) outside, LED lighting, you can turn it any color you want to turn it.

In our mind we wanted the tenants that were going to come in here and play to feel like this was their home field, this was their stadium, and that’s how we designed it. We added two extra auxiliary locker rooms, which were gigantic in nature, really for the SEC Championship. They are both 100-locker locker rooms. We did it because we felt it was a good way to host major events; that way they didn’t end up in some temporary visiting locker room.

We truly tried to design it with the SEC in mind. We tried to design it with the College Football Championship in mind. We tried to design it with all of the major events in mind.

Take it to the next slide. We don’t want any pats on the back for, oh, you’re going to change the game in food and you’re going to change pricing. This is just what it should be, in our mind. In our mind, on a go-forward basis, we have to get to the point where fans come to our stadiums and actually get a bargain and feel treated with respect when it comes to food, and we think in the stadium game that has not gone the way we think it should, so we’re going to take a stand and try to do it a little differently.

Not only will these prices apply — in fact, when commissioner Greg Sankey — when they sent us their first draft of the contract, it resembled the contract they had at the Georgia Dome and it said that we were not able to raise prices over a certain percent than we did at Falcons games. …. we said, no, we will have the exact same prices as you will at all of our games, just like we will at the Super Bowl, just like we will at any game. Because all of the customers that come in this building are our customers, too, and we’re going to treat them exactly the same way.

So if you see these prices or any of our restaurant partners — we have 12 restaurant partners — all their pricing will be exactly the same as their restaurant. We’re not going to let them come in and up-price people just because they paid to get into the stadium.

I take you now just to look at the dome. The dome is a great building. You have those numbers. You probably got these numbers. We probably gave them you to.

That halo board, the cool thing about that halo board, if you took the halo board, which is — remember, it’s 1100 feet around, if you took it out and stood it straight up, it’s taller than the tallest building in Atlanta. That’s the Bank of America. It’s taller than that building. So it’s a very large board. And it’s really cool.

You’ll see one thing, I would just say to you as media, because I’ve lived my life coming down elevators with you from various press boxes in the country, I think we have 20 elevators in this building. I think we have 25 escalators.

And I will tell you part of the reason is because I’m not happy by the way we all have to fight for the elevator at the end of the game. So we did not allow any value engineering of the elevators, of the escalators for the fans, for the media, or anybody, because in our mind it only leads to frustration.

So that’s kind of the stadium by the numbers and tells you a little built about the differences. We didn’t try, as I said, to make a better Georgia Dome. We tried to create a really completely different fan experience that I hope you will see when you come to see us.

So, with that, I’ll let Kevin — you guys can ask any questions if you (have) questions. That’s kind of the stadium as it sets up at night. That Mercedes button will be — the SEC, Greg, wanted it, but I thought maybe Mercedes might have offered just a little more. That’s 10 1/2 acres. That will be lit up from underneath at night. And, yes, when you fly in on Delta, you will absolutely know Mercedes has the naming rights on that building.