I was warned that it would be muddy and that I would have to climb 100 stairs. And to not take pictures while walking, for my own safety. I definitely shouldn’t wander off. And after I hit my head for the first time (there were multiple), I was exceedingly glad to have had the hard hat. It is an active construction site after all.
I won’t bury the lead much on this one. My exceeding thanks go out to Scott Jenkins, General Manager of the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium here in Atlanta, for the tour of the Atlanta Falcons new 2017 home. Thanks as well to Carlie Bullock-Jones, Principal of Ecoworks Studio, and Shara Mitchell, Project Manager for the Falcons. They took outstanding care of us on the tour.
Here is why I was as excited as every kid dressed up in a Halloween costume this past Saturday who realized the house on the corner was giving out king-size candy bars: this stadium is aiming to be the world’s first LEED® Platinum professional sports stadium. And I can take public transportation to it. Dang I live in a cool city.
Let me give you three reasons why I am a believer in this new stadium (even though I wholeheartedly agree that the Georgia Dome isn’t THAT old). First, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Scott. He is a founding member of the Green Sports Alliance and currently chairs their Board, he has been driving a Nissan Leaf a lot longer than I have, he is a devoted family man, and he has that amazing combination of intelligence and likeability. I trust that he will not rest until this stadium is first in class, which includes its environmental performance.
Second, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium will prove the possible. LEED Platinum and 70,000 person capacity in one building? Yep, that’s possible. And in the world of one-upsmanship that is new sporting venues, I expect that Arthur Blank’s stadium will shift the paradigm, at least a bit. We are one step closer to the highest green building standards being an expectation in every building class, rather a rarity.
Third, I know that Mr. Blank, who is financing the majority of this new stadium, has not forgotten about the impact that it will have on the local community. Through the efforts of Frank Fernandez, Vice President of Community Development for the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, investment is being made in the adjacent neighborhoods, specifically Vine City, English Avenue and Castleberry Hill. I’ve driven those streets, and they certainly need a healthy dose of revitalization and redevelopment. I’ve met Frank too, and I’ll vouch for his character as well.
I’ve got about seven more reasons why I am excited about the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but I’m trying to keep this short. So I will conclude with this: pay attention to what’s being built on the west side of Downtown Atlanta. It has a chance to create a new model for how sporting venues can prioritize the environment and local communities as much as delivering high-quality entertainment. And that’s worth getting excited about.