ATLANTA - These are busy times at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the home to the most popular team in major league soccer and, of course, to the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons would like nothing more than to play in the Super Bowl in their own Stadium in February.
FOX 5’s Russ Spencer sat down with owner Arthur Blank at the stadium Monday
“It's an honor to host the Super Bowl in Atlanta and it’s an honor to host it in our stadium. So, I would probably… five times that honor if we're playing in the game. But you know. It's a long way, a long season,” Blank told Spencer.
This is Arthur Blank's 18th year as Falcons owner, after 23 years running Home Depot. He's learned a lot about how to win and what customers care about.
Spencer: “You're making a splash by reducing concession prices and it's becoming a bit of a national trend. What was the strategy behind that?”
Blank: “There's been a lot of contributions by our fans to help us build this building and to attend events here. Soccer game, football games, concerts, other events. Private events of a variety of kinds. So we want to find ways to say thank you to the fans, to say ‘I appreciate you and I appreciate your commitment not only of your financial resources but of your time, your energy, your passion.’”
Fans have responded. With food and beverage prices cut in half, Mercedes-Benz Stadium now sells as much in the first quarter as the Georgia Dome sold in an entire game.
Spencer: “Let me ask you about the [national] anthem. You've been very supportive of the players and their First Amendment right and you said this is a work in progress. Of course, the president brings it up every opportunity he has. How do you think this should ultimately be resolved?”
Blank: “Well, I think the best way it can be resolved, which is, I think the major step is that the NFL and the NFL p.a., the union, the players’ union, are sitting and talking together about this. That didn't happen in the past.”
Spencer: “What do you want?”
Blank: “Well, what I want is really two things. I would like our players to stand. I think that's the right thing to do.”
Blank said he and other owners are working with players to address, with both money and political action, the social issues they care about.
Blank: "It's about the issues. And we want to make progress in those issues. We want to move it from protest to progress. And I think that of course, the league that's happening.”
Spencer: “You understand though why the president's complaint resonates with a lot of Americans.”
Blank: “Yeah, I do understand that. And I think that we can't focus, in my opinion, humble opinion, in the most respectful way, we can't respond to what the president is saying necessarily. We have to respond to what we know the real issues are.”
On a lighter note, Blank is enjoying the record-breaking performance of his other professional sports franchise.
Spencer: “Are you at all surprised by the success of Atlanta United? For decades, soccer had a hard time getting off the ground. You get in the game and it explodes. I mean come on!”
Blank: “Yeah. I would say I had every confidence that it was going to be very successful. It's just a great opportunity to be here with everybody else and to have the five most attended games in the history of the sport and the average attendance is 57,000 plus a game. The closest is 40,000. And the rest of the league is at less than 27,000. I mean, we're thrilled about that.”
Arthur Blank said Major League Soccer is thrilled about Atlanta’s success, too. They are confident that it can be replicated across the country.