FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Matt Ryan can serve as a tour guide when the Atlanta Falcons have their first practice at their new Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Friday.
It will be the first time most players have been inside the $1.5 billion facility and will be the team’s only sneak peek before the stadium opens with Saturday’s preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Ryan already visited the stadium. He said he was especially impressed by the massive halo video board which circles the opening of the retractable roof. The quarterback said he already knows how his teammates will react.
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”They’re going to love it,” Ryan said after Tuesday’s practice. ”Everybody that goes – teammates, players, coaches, fans – everybody is going to love it. It’s pretty amazing, what they did.”
The halo board is 58 feet tall and 1,100 feet around, totaling more than 62,000 square feet. The Falcons say it is the largest video board in sports.
Ryan predicted his teammates also will be awed by the video board.
”I think probably the biggest thing you take away for me was the halo board,” he said. ”Seeing that for the first time, seeing the size and scope of it, how clear the picture is, the graphics they can put on it, it’s pretty special.”
There have been issues with the complicated roof , designed to open somewhat like a camera lens. The problems will keep the roof closed indefinitely.
The Falcons play another home preseason game on Aug. 31 against Jacksonville. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank also owns Atlanta United, the MLS expansion team that will debut at the new stadium on Sept. 10. One week later, the Falcons host their first home regular-season game against the Green Packers on Sept. 17.
There also will be two opening week college games at the facility: Alabama vs. Florida State on Sept. 2 and Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee on Sept. 4.
The attraction of having a roof which could be open in good weather was a major reason for abandoning the adjacent Georgia Dome, which is scheduled to be demolished in November. The issues with the roof didn’t put a damper on coach Dan Quinn’s enthusiasm about finally playing a game in the team’s new home.
”Man are we pumped to see this new stadium and be in front of our crowd,” Quinn said Tuesday.
”I can’t wait to see the guys and their reaction to the locker room and just seeing the connection with the city and the fans. We feel that and we want them to know how hard we want to play for them.”
The Falcons, who lost at Pittsburgh 17-13 on Sunday, have played their first two preseason games on the road. That has given the Falcons more time to look forward to opening their fancy new digs.
”Moving into a new spot, as special as this place is going to be, yeah you can feel the excitement building already,” Quinn said.
NOTES: RB Devonta Freeman is nearing the end of his concussion protocol that caused him to miss last week’s game. He ran on the field during practice as part of the ”hard workout” phase of the protocol. Quinn said he hopes Freeman will be cleared for practice soon. … WR Julio Jones, who has been held out of the first two games even though he has had full clearance in practice, could play this week. … Rookie S Damontae Kazee suffered a sprained ankle against Pittsburgh and will be held out this week. … OT Austin Pasztor (pectoral) also won’t play this week.
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