At­lanta sta­dium field al­ready cov­ered with Su­per Bowl paint

The Standard Journal - - SPORTS - By Charles Odum AP Sports Writer

AT­LANTA — As if the road clo­sures sur­round­ing Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium were not con­vinc­ing signs that the count­down to Su­per Bowl 53 has started in At­lanta, one look in­side the fa­cil­ity drives the point home.

The end zones and side­lines al­ready are painted with the Pa­tri­ots and Rams names and col­ors. That work was done less than 24 hours after New Eng­land beat Kansas City in the AFC cham­pi­onship game and the Los An­ge­les Rams beat New Or­leans in the NFC game on Jan. 20.

“You find out who’s here on Sun­day and you come here Mon­day and the team names are in the end zone,” Scott Jenk­ins, the Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium gen­eral man­ager, said Tues­day. “It’s pretty cool. It makes it real when you know who’s com­ing here to play.”

Ed Man­gan, the NFL field di­rec­tor, said there will be a fresh coat of paint laid down the day be­fore this Sun­day’s game.

Most other nec­es­sary up­dates and mod­i­fi­ca­tions also are com­plete, in­clud­ing the in­stal­la­tion of equip­ment for the pregame and half­time shows.

There’s still one ma­jor ques­tion left unan­swered: Will the re­tractable roof for the $1.5 bil­lion sta­dium be open?

Of­fi­cials for the NFL and the sta­dium are ea­ger to show off the fa­cil­ity’s most dis­tinc­tive fea­ture, but even a bil­lion dollars can’t buy a guar­an­tee of good weather.

At­lanta was dealt an ice storm for its last Su­per Bowl fol­low­ing the 2000 sea­son. It’s too early to know if hopes for a dry day and milder tem­per­a­tures will be re­al­ized and the roof can be open.

“It’s def­i­nitely some­thing we’re talk­ing about,” NFL se­nior di­rec­tor of events Eric Finkel­stein said Tues­day as he stood on the freshly painted field. “We haven’t made a de­ci­sion one way or the other. It prob­a­bly won’t be de­cided if we’re go­ing to have the roof open un­til we get much closer to the game and we know the re­al­i­ties that are in­volved with that.”

There were prob­lems with the roof’s cam­era-lens type mech­a­nism in 2017, the first year the sta­dium served as home for the NFL At­lanta Fal­cons and MLS At­lanta United. The roof was closed for all but one Fal­cons home reg­u­lar-sea­son game in 201 but was fully oper­a­tional in 2018, when there were four ope­nair games.

All along, it has been clear the NFL’s pref­er­ence is to have the roof open for the Su­per Bowl.

Jenk­ins said a com­pro­mise could be to have the roof open be­fore the game and then closed by kick­off.

“That would give us a lit­tle more lee­way for the tem­per­a­ture, but it’s go­ing to be based on com­fort for the fans,” Jenk­ins said.

“I don’t think the long-term fore­cast is such that we’d play open, but we’d still like to open up the roof for some time and use it as part of the show and then shut it, so we’re think­ing about that.”

The NFL will make the de­ci­sion.

“We’ll take our lead from the NFL,” Jenk­ins said. “It’s re­ally their event.”

The sta­dium al­ready has hosted other ma­jor events, in­clud­ing Alabama’s win over Ge­or­gia for the col­lege foot­ball na­tional cham­pi­onship game fol­low­ing the 2017 sea­son and the re­cent MLS Cup won by the hometown At­lanta United.

/ AP-Danny Karnik

Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium in At­lanta. Build it and the Su­per Bowl will come. While that’s not ex­actly how the sites of the NFL’s cham­pi­onship ex­trav­a­ganza are de­ter­mined, it sure doesn’t hurt to have a brand new, bil­lion-dol­lar fa­cil­ity in your city.

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