I’ll agree with Ben Volin of the Boston Globe as to two of the three scheduling-related items he recently reported: (1) it looks like the opener will pit the Chiefs, not the Falcons, against the Patriots; and (2) the Falcons will debut their new stadium on Sunday Night Football.
I’ll disagree with Volin on the third nugget — that the Falcons will christen their stadium on Sunday Night Football in Week One.
My guess (and it’s just a guess because NBC only wakes me up for the important meetings and even then not until they’re almost over) is that the Falcons will open their new stadium in Week Two on Sunday night, with the Cowboys or some other team that enjoys a major national following playing in prime-time on the first Sunday of the season. Last year, the Vikings officially christened U.S. Bank Stadium on the second Sunday of the season.
There’s another reason for waiting a week this year. There continues to be a nagging sense that the futuristic design and complex steel roof could end up causing the stadium to perhaps not be ready at the outset of the campaign.
Last week, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said that the venue is in the final “five months” of construction, which suggests a September opening. (A spokesman later said Blank misspoke.)
“There’s always an issue with the roof that’s that complicated and large. It’s not an issue, it’s just a matter of complexity,” Blank added at the time, via 11Alive.com. “A roof like that has never been built before. When you do build something in the world that’s iconically unique, it does take more time, more schedule, it’s more money, it’s more of everything. We know the end product in Atlanta for the next 40 years is going to be worth it.”
The Falcons will be on the road for the first two preseason games, with home games set for Week Three and Week Four. If the stadium isn’t ready, however, they’ll need to find other accommodations — and it will need to be an NFL-ready stadium that has the right technology, including the real-time link to the league office for replay review.
The Falcons played a preseason game in Orlando last year against the Dolphins, whose stadium was in the final stages of a renovation. It could be (key words: could be, as in “I don’t know one way or the other”) that the Falcons use Orlando again this year for a preseason game or two, if unforeseen delays in the finalization of the stadium make alternative arrangements necessary.