Photo Credit: Michael Robinson

Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Mercedes-Benz Stadium reimagines a century-long legacy of stadium design. Responding to the client’s challenge to innovate on every level, the design team set out to create a landmark that raises the profile of not only the stadium’s teams but the Atlanta metropolitan area.

Until now, retractable roof stadiums had featured utilitarian sliding panels. Mercedes-Benz Stadium breaks that convention with a first-of-its-kind retractable roof inspired by the Pantheon in Rome and its rooftop oculus that floods the building with natural light. Composed of eight triangular ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) “petals” that move together along 16 individual tracks, the semi-transparent roof opens and closes like a camera aperture.

As a continuation of the roof, the ETFE façade features angular, wing-like exterior sections, inspired by the Falcon’s wing. The transparency creates a 16-story “window to the city” that draws in more daylight and offers panoramic views of Atlanta’s skyline.

Wrapping the perimeter of the roof opening is a high-definition, 360-degree halo video board that gives fans an immersive, theater-in-the-round experience. At nearly six stories high and one-fifth of a mile (1,075 feet) in circumference, this one-of-a-kind video board is the largest in any of the world’s stadiums and provides clear views from every seat while preserving the beauty of the roof.
The team designed the stadium with flexibility to be easily reconfigured to accommodate games for the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, as well as world-class events including the Super Bowl, NCAA Basketball Final Four, FIFA World Cup and a variety of concerts and cultural events. Retractable seats surround the field and a motorized curtain system encloses upper-level seating, providing soccer fans with an intimate experience. An entirely digital stadium technology platform allows for the creation of custom content for each event.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is North America’s first LEED Platinum professional sports stadium. A 680,000-sq.-ft. cistern recaptures and reuses rainwater for irrigation, helping to address historic flooding issues in the neighborhood. The site also has more than 4,000 solar panels. The focus on sustainability extends into the community through connections to public transit and the creation of urban farming and open recreation areas on nearby sites. The stadium serves as a milestone for innovation in sports facility design and a model for how form and function blend.

Design Challenge

One of the primary project challenges was engineering the first-of-its-kind halo video board. Made up of more than 37 million LEDs, the halo video board provides a 63,000-sq.-ft. canvas on which digital media can be presented on one continuous surface in ways previously never imagined. With a size and geometry designed to support the stadium’s roof opening, the halo form preserves the beauty of the iconic roof. The support structure needed to accommodate a significant amount of movement, with geometry and details that were similar but never identical. The structural engineering team used HOK STREAM, a custom-made parametric modeling and optimization tool, to automatically generate the building information model and structural arrangement, including support nodes and their associated stiffness and movements. STREAM accelerated the process and allowed for quick modifications as the design changed. STREAM also helped the team optimize the structure to stay below the maximum allowable load, reducing the amount of steel by 10 percent (50 tons).

Physical Context

One of the project’s primary design goals was to achieve LEED Platinum, making the project the first NFL stadium to do so. This focus on the impact of this significant – and large – building type on the environment and the community reflected a deep sensitivity of the design team to leverage the building to help shape the district and the city. This was accomplished through materials, creative sustainable design strategies and built-in flexibility. The lightweight EFTE material used for the roof petals and facade is more energy-efficient than glass and enhances daylighting. A 600,000-square-foot cistern under the stadium captures more than 2 million gallons of rainwater annually to mitigate flooding in Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood and provide irrigation for local trees. Bioswales improve the water quality and act as alternatives to storm sewers. More than 4,000 solar panels serve a dual functionality as carports for the stadium’s adjacent parking lot and, more importantly, a power source capable of generating 617 kilowatt-hours of energy per year—enough to power 10 Falcons games. The focus on sustainability extends into the community through connections to public transit, a network of bike trails, an urban garden and open recreation spaces.