ATLANTA - It's one of the most impressive features of the billion-dollar Mercedes-Benz Stadium; the retractable roof. Eight petals are supposed to open and then close together to form a watertight seal. The only problem? It doesn't work like it should.
During Monday night's National Championship game, it leaked onto the turf on the sidelines and the roof has only been opened for a couple of games this year.
So, what's wrong with the roof and what will it take to fix it? That’s a sensitive topic for stadium officials. But billed as an architectural marvel, it has the most talked about stadium roof in the United States.
First, officials wanted to clarify what was seen Monday were not leaks, but drips, small amounts of water coming down in several places. They said it will be addressed and it is common for new construction.
Bill Hancock, College Football Playoff Executive Director, said they were aware of the water issue prior to the National Championship game, but because it was not on the field, it didn’t present an issue. But for top government officials, the stadium issues are not going to be dismissed.
“Now, I know that it had leaked earlier on. I was not aware it was still leaking. And certainly we would like it not to leak,” said Felicia Moore, Atlanta City Council President.
About $200 million of the $1.5 billion investment came from the Atlanta City government.
“Well the first time, it was actually like raining in, so, we’ve gone from rain to a dribble, we’re making progress,” said Moore.
Back in October, a more significant amount of water came through roof. Determining where a roof may leak comes only after numerous rains expose a problem. That is common said a state source familiar with Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
But the main draw of the stadium roof is its design to open during good weather.
“Is it mechanized yet where we could close it fast enough, to open it for an event? No. Will it be? Yes, in the near future,” said Rich McKay, Falcons President and CEO.
McKay noticed back in August that the roof needs to still be made fully automated, so closures can be done promptly if needed.
Taxpayers, like government watchdog Ron Shakir, said they are watching.
“Sometimes when we get behind these projects, it’s how fast we can move it as opposed to being careful. And I think it’s one reflection of it when we can’t even get a roof right,” said Shakir.
“We want to see it to be successful, for sure. So, I will be talking to the chair of the committee to ask him to get some updates, so that we know they are working towards a solution,” said Moore.
The state source said the roof does work, but it’s not yet fully automated to where a button can be pushed to open and close properly. This is unlike other stadium roofs, but also unlike other stadium roofs, Mercedes-Benz Stadium has several pedals, not just one big slab.
Officials final word for now on the matter is they plan to fix it for the long-term, not just make a short-term fix.