Recap - Falcons 34, Packers 23
It was back down to Atlanta for game 3 in what was to be a pretty eventful weekend for me.
I arrived yesterday AM at Hartsfield-Jackson and after dealing with some less than agreeable folks at the rental car desk, I got all sorted out and on my way downtown to the hotel.
It’s still technically summer and hotter than hell in Atlanta – but that’s part of the city’s charm I guess.
After a day of perusing downtown checking out Olympic Centennial Park and Peachtree Street then having a buffalo burger at Ted’s Montana Grill, I headed back to the hotel changed and then headed out to Cobb County to Sun Trust Park to see the Braves host my beloved Mets. I had finished visiting all 30 MLB venues in 2016, but this beautiful new park opened this year replacing an old and tired Turner Field.
This morning I hopped into the car and drove about 90 minutes on I-20 W to a city called Rockmart where I got to cross off one of my longtime bucket list items by jumping out of an airplane. The 14,000 foot free fall was a pretty cool experience. On the way back to Atlanta, I stopped off at Waffle House to treat myself to a large hashbrown smothered, covered and capped and a chocolate chip waffle for dessert.
With plenty of time to kill before the Sunday night game, I drove into a nice neighborhood called Buckhead and cruised around looking at the beautiful parks and multi-million dollar homes on Paces Ferry Road , then went to the Industry Tavern and watched some of the early games before driving back to the hotel and the walking over to the game.
There was a real sense of excitement in the air, even on the walk over. This is the inaugural regular season game at Mercedes Benz stadium. It’s been a while since a sports venue has gotten this much advance build up and media coverage. The location is right across the street from their former home, the Georgia Dome right in the heart of downtown, a short walk from the Centennial Park and SkyView Atlanta, World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, and the College Football Hall of Fame.
Following the massive sea of black and red clad fans, the stadium finally came within view. I had seen plenty of pictures of the stadium before, but seeing it in person really had an impact. The architecture is really stunning. Once through security, you enter the expansive fan plaza highlighted by a giant a steel falcon with a 64 foot wingspan. This is the main gathering and ‘tailgate’ area pre-game. Once inside the stadium you will find very open concourses with several open gathering points.
The stadium has a very unique retractable roof which opens and closes like the lens of a camera in less than 6 minutes. Around the perimeter of the roof is a 60 foot tall 360 degree videoboard they call the ‘Halo Board’. Higher in the stadium there are extensive glass panels that are 16 stories tall and offer amazing views of Atlanta with a sky bridge access for close up viewing which they call the ‘Window to the City’. In addition to the great views they offer, these panels bring in lots of natural sunlight to the stadium even with the roof closed. There is also a really nice concourse near the sky bridge to watch the action of the field. There is an abundance of HD video screens throughout the stadium including one in the concourse called the ‘Mega Column’ which is 6,700 square feet and over 100 feet high. There is also a unique and remarkable art collection throughout the stadium and plenty of lavish clubs and suites for the more ‘distinguished’ patrons with plenty of cash to burn.
The technology, comfort, amenities and features here contribute to a positive fan experience unlike any other venue I’ve ever been to. The place is absolutely remarkable in every aspect.
The dining experience is equally as impressive. There are dozens of great options from standard game fare to high end and eclectic. In additional to the usual carry out concession stands, there are 24 different bars and restaurants including the 100 Yard Club and Molly B’s Chop House – a southern inspired chophouse, destination restaurant and private club boasting an outstanding view of the field. Some other great choices are Goose Island Carvery, Farm Burger, Kevin Gillespie's Game Changer,Fox Brothers BBQ, Sublime Doughnuts, and King of Pops. Locally brewed (Athens,GA) Terrapin Beer Co. was a nice choice. Interestingly enough, there is a Chik-Fil-A, which per company policy is closed on Sundays which is when almost all Falcon games are played. The food / beer prices at the stadium are surprising low – unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the ticket prices.
When I got to my seat – there was a pleasant surprise waiting. All of the fans received a New Era Forty baseball cap with an ‘Inaugural game’ patch – Without doubt, one of the best SGAs I’ve ever gotten. I'm not sure why these weren’t handed out at the gate like SGAs usually are to prevent the temptation of a fan taking one from another seat.
At the start of the game a video of current and former Falcon players and of course, Atlanta icon Samuel L Jackson came on the video boards to get the fans pumped to “Rise Up”. The noise levels in this place were unreal at times, even with the roof opened. A family next to me had a little baby who couldn’t be more than 9 months old sitting on their lap wearing headphones to block out the noise. Not sure why they would have brought him there except to tell him one day when he was older that he was at the first ever regular season game to be played in this stadium.
The game was a rematch of last season's NFC championship game and it was essentially a repeat. Matt Ryan threw for 252 yards and a touchdown, Devonta Freeman had a couple of scoring runs, and Desmond Trufant darted to the end zone off an attempted pass by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers that was ruled a fumble. The Falcons jumped out to a 31-7 lead dominating the Packers with the final score being 34-23. Julio Jones had five catches for 108 yards.
Back in January at the Georgia Dome, Atlanta earned a trip to the Super Bowl by racing to a 31-0 edge early in the third quarter on the way to a 44-21 blowout of the Packers.
The fan base is enthusiastic and devoted. A winning team and an amazing new stadium will do that. There are expectations to win it all in Atlanta, especially after coming so close last year when they blew the biggest lead in Super Bowl history and then had to sit with that loss on their minds for the last 9 months. Speaking of Super Bowls, Mercedes Benz Stadium has been selected as the host stadium for 2019.
Tomorrow I’m headed back to NJ late in the afternoon so I have some time to kill and am planning to head over to the Ponce City Market ,walk the Belt Line for a while and check out the historic Fox Theater. Next trip is in 3 weeks, back to the Mid-West - Indianapolis and Chicago.
Fans - B - These folks were all amped up, and with good reason to be. Some of them were a little high octane for my taste, but overall they were great
Features - A+ - Too many to list. All of the high tech video screens. The Window to the City, The Halo Board, the open concourses, the art work, etc.
Location - A+ - Short walk from all the major downtown attractions and restaurants
Food - A+ - Such a wide and varied selection - so many great beers too
Game - A - A Falcon blowout but exciting all the way through - Lots of great game action
Overall Experience - A+ - This was a wonderful weekend - A Braves game, A sky dive, hanging out in all the great neighborhoods in "The ATL' and attending the first regular season game ever at this amazing stadium