by BILL JOHNSON | photos by ANDREA FREMIOTTI
On August 26, Mercedes-Benz Stadium hosted its first major event — an NFL preseason game between the Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons. The 2-million-square-foot, $1.5 billion stadium is home to the NFL’s Falcons and MLS’s Atlanta United and will host some of the nation’s most significant sporting events, including the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in 2018, Super Bowl LIII in 2019, and the NCAA Final Four in 2020. And it was designed right here in Kansas City.
The stadium’s innovative design includes a first-of-its-kind retractable roof that opens from the center. It also features the world’s first halo video board. HOK’s Bill Johnson, senior vice president and design principal for the Kansas City practice and Sports + Recreation + Entertainment, describes four innovations fans — even here in Kansas City — won’t want to miss.
HALO VIDEO BOARD
The team designed the halo video board to bring to life the theater-in-the-round experience. The scale of the video board is hard to comprehend without seeing it in person. It’s three times larger than any other video board in the NFL, measuring 58 feet high and 1,075 feet long. It’s equivalent to three football fields end to end. This halo video board immerses fans in the game and provides a canvas for digital media to be presented in ways fans have never experienced.
The story of the video board begins with the roof. The team had gone to great lengths to design a venue with a roof that could retract so it could function as an open-air stadium. We quickly realized that a center-hanging scoreboard would impede our original vision. We decided to configure the video board’s size and geometry based on the roof opening, resulting in the halo form. Based on this integrated approach, the final product feels embedded and complementary to the stadium’s design.
The mega column is more than 6,700 square feet and 101 feet high, providing more square footage than the main video displays at 19 professional football stadiums and 24 Major League Baseball parks. The column offers unprecedented programming opportunities. It can be used to supplement the halo video board content with, for example, a larger-than- life video of a player. We thought strategically about the comprehensive experience fans would have. The mega column is another unique way fans can consume digital media content.
The stadium was designed to rely on digital platforms for advertising. This means the facility serves as a blank canvas that can be transformed depending on the team playing, event being hosted, or sponsors being promoted.
WINDOW TO THE CITY
The shape of the facade follows the roof’s form, with angular, wing-like sections inspired by the shape of a falcon. We wanted the design to be unique to Atlanta, connecting visitors and fans to the city skyline. On the stadium’s west side, the window to the city spans more than 16 stories and 22,500 square feet, offering unforgettable floor-to-ceiling views of Atlanta. ETFE, the same transparent material used in the roof petals, provides visual connectivity and natural light while supporting the stadium’s ambitious sustainability goals.
The roof of Mercedes-Benz Stadium is pure innovation. I strongly believe that innovation can’t occur if you aren’t willing to be brave. Arthur Blank and his team were willing to be brave. The roof contains eight petals resting on 16 tracks. Though they appear to rotate as they open, that’s actually an optical illusion. Each petal structure is clad with air-inflated ETFE pillows that contain more than 143,000 square feet of ETFE in the petals alone.
The roof has captured everyone’s imagination. It challenges all of us to think differently about the role of design on the human experience. It provokes and inspires. It suggests that if we’re willing to look beyond what has always been done, we can establish new standards. Mercedes-Benz Stadium is iconic because the client and members of the design team were willing to dream big.
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