Mercedes-Benz Stadium Introduces Innovative Designs to NFL

The Atlanta Falcons are on a quest to become the first NFL team with home field advantage in the Super Bowl when the game is held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Feb. 3, 2019.

Now in its sophomore season, Mercedes-Benz Stadium earned MVP accolades during its inaugural season for its innovative design and game-changing sustainability features.

“It’s different than any other NFL stadium in the country, and I’m very proud to have worked on it,” said Jay Wratten, sports facilities leader for WSP, and lead lighting designer on the project. “It’s on par with some of the amazing stadiums that have been built in other countries recently. I think this one is on that same level.”

“The fans and the team love it,” added Alex Tanalski, WSP plumbing design lead. “It really has met the goal of enhancing the fan experience. I think the players and the community have a great amount of pride in their new stadium.”

The stadium also serves as the home field for Atlanta United, the Major League Soccer expansion team that joined the league in 2017. The Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United are owned by the Arthur M. Blank Group Sports and Entertainment Group, the client for the project.

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©BRIAN GASSEL

Mercedes-Benz Stadium features more than 3,000 flat screen TVs located in the suites, public rest rooms, bars, restaurants, clubs and public concourse areas.

Home-Field Advantage

WSP was responsible for the mechanical-electrical-plumbing (MEP) engineering, as well as the lighting design for the $1.5 billion stadium that opened shortly before the 2017 NFL season.

The WSP team also included Wratten, lighting design lead; Eric Witthaus and Lee Roberson, electrical designers; Joseph Rice, mechanical designer; and Ashritha Nookala, mechanical designer.

“Most of the design was completed in the San Francisco office,” Wratten said. “But when the project was under construction, having an Atlanta office certainly gave our team a bit of a home-field advantage.”

“The design is very complex and attention to the detail and integration of the systems was critical to the success of this project,” Tanalski added.

HOK was the architect for the project, along with local architects tvsdesign, Goode Van Slyke Architecture, and Stanley Beaman & Sears.

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©WSP USA

The Atlanta Falcons, shown in a game against the New Orleans Saints last season in front of 70,000 fans, return to action Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with their home opener against the Carolina Panthers.

Halo Board

Mercedes-Benz Stadium provides a retractable roof and permanent seating for 66,000 to 72,000 NFL fans. It replaced the Georgia Dome, which served as the Falcons home from 1992-2016. Retractable seating on the field and Concourse 3 levels will provide an additional 8,000 seats for notable events such as the Super Bowl and World Cup.

“This stadium offers better views and a better setup for NFL football,” Wratten said. “It’s not just a multipurpose dome. The Georgia Dome was a nice facility, but overall, this stadium is bigger, better and more modern in order to deliver an unparalleled fan experience.”

More than 3,000 flat screen TVs are located in the suites, public rest rooms, bars, restaurants, clubs, as well as the public concourse areas, so that fans don’t miss any of the game while they are away from their seats.

One of the stadium’s signature features is the “halo board,” a 58-foot-tall, 1,100-foot long video screen that surrounds the field at the oculus roof opening.

“The 360-degree halo board is awesome and affords every fan a view of the score as well as instant replays from every angle,” Wratten said.

The overall stadium design focuses attention on the external illumination of the geometric shape, defined by a mix of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene plastic, glass and metal panels.

“To emphasize the façade illumination, concourse lighting is focused on the ground plane with minimal brightness on interior vertical surfaces that could be seen from the exterior,” Wratten said.

The fan experience is also enhanced by an increase from 407 concession stands in the Georgia Dome to 673. Mercedes-Benz Stadium also has six times the number of bars and restaurants, and 42 times the amount of beer taps of its predecessor.

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©BRIAN GASSEL

With its use of LED lighting and water conservation, Mercedes-Benz stadium is targeting LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Rewriting the Standards

The new stadium uses light-emitting diode (LED) lights designed by WSP in favor of more traditional but less efficient metal halide lights.

“The use of LED lighting throughout the stadium was a milestone step for a facility of this size,” Wratten said. “They give the owner ultimate flexibility, while significantly cutting energy and maintenance costs. It takes sports lighting design to a whole different level.”

WSP provided procurement support and coordination with manufacturers to achieve the owner’s desired level of LED usage within its budget. This included development of forward pricing for LED fixtures to reflect technology improvements expected in the months between the selection of vendors and the manufacturer of the fixtures.

Design of the stadium’s sports lighting posed a challenge, as the design had to factor in the necessary brightness along with the potential glare due to the proximity of the halo display.

“We had to make sure the LED lights were not in conflict with the video halo,” Wratten said. “We managed to design it in a way that eliminated the problem by controlling the glare on an LED fixture. It turned out very nice in the end and poses no problems for the fans looking up at the video board.”

By going LED, fans now experience special effects previously only possible at smaller-venue events like NBA games.

“The LED lighting is making all kinds of game-time visual effects possible that are not possible with metal halide,” Wratten said. “For player introductions, you can black things out quickly for short periods of time, and it creates better color changing and color rendering. It’s rewriting the standards and takes things to a whole different level.” Other innovations include the use of light fittings as wayfinding devices for fans and color-changing LEDs to illuminate the building’s façade.

“Another important feature is the way the lighting can respond to what’s happening on the field and improve the fan experience … for example, when the home team scores,” Wratten said. “We also explored the use of different light qualities for locker rooms, to help players achieve peak performance for the game and enjoy a relaxing post-match atmosphere.”

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©WSP USA

The application of the Falcons red brand color is featured throughout the stadium, and the lighting in this area incorporates football field hash marks into the design.

First Platinum Stadium

Mercedes-Benz Stadium uses a storm drainage system that collects water from the roof and directs it into a 1.1 million-gallon storm vault and a 680,000-gallon cistern. “The water is treated and is used for the stadium’s cooling tower demand and the irrigation system,” Tanalski said.

The high-efficiency water fixtures, which includes low-flow plumbing fixtures and waterless urinals, cut sanitary water consumption by about 40 percent.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium features ample parking to accommodate teams, building tenants, and venue employees … but parking will be further expanded, following the demolition of the adjacent Georgia Dome last November.

“It’s going to be converted into a green parking lot called the Home Depot Backyard, and a great deal of the water is going to go to the irrigation of that grass area where the Georgia Dome once stood,” Tanalski said. The green space will accommodate parking, tailgating, and other events.

With its use of LED lighting and water conservation, the stadium earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The stadium’s MEP sustainable features, and the LEED ventilation strategy, was designed and modeled by WSP.

“It is the first North American stadium to reach LEED Platinum certification,” Tanalski said. “It is also the first sports facility to achieve all of the LEED water credits and it will reduce energy usage by 29 percent energy versus a typical stadium.”

Mercedes-Benz Stadium has been recognized with awards from industry leaders, including 2018 Stadium of the Year by the World Stadium Congress, and 2018 Venue of the Year from The Stadium Business Awards.

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©BRIAN GASSEL

Mercedes-Benz Stadium features 673 concession stands, 407 more than the Georgia Dome.

Super Bowl Dreams

As the Atlanta Falcons prepare for Sunday’s home opener—a showdown with the division rival Carolina Panthers —the team responsible for designing the new stadium did a little end-zone celebration for their role on the project.

“It’s one of a kind and unprecedented with its retractable roof, along with the complexity of the architecture and the mechanical systems that went into it,” Tanalski said. “I’ve had the good fortune to be involved with a number of sports venues throughout my career, but I think this one sets a new precedent for future stadium designs. It’s a beautiful building.”

“It was an awesome project and I I’m honored to have played a part of it,” Wratten added. “It was a pleasure to work with so many talented designers and contractors and provide the Atlanta Falcons with a beautiful new state-of-the-art facility to continue pursuing their Super Bowl dreams.”

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©BRIAN GASSEL

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which is also the home of the Atlanta United professional soccer team, features a retractable roof and the 1,100-foot-long “halo board.”

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