The Falcons spent an entire season playing in their new retractable roof stadium, with only one problem: The roof wouldn’t retract.
That has now changed, and thousands got to see it on Sunday.
Via the Associated Press, the Falcons practiced in Mercedes-Benz Stadium before a record crowd. Though some seats reportedly were empty, the Falcons distributed 60,000 tickets.
The bigger news is that the roof opened and closed, for the first time with an audience to witness it.
“It was cool to see it open today, for sure,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. It was even closer when it closed, allowing the team to practice in air conditioning for the first time during training camp.
Owner Arthur Blank, who bought the team nearly 17 years ago, marveled at the attendance, especially in comparison to what it once was.
“A huge day was 200 people,” Blank said. “We don’t practice normally at [Mercedes-Benz Stadium], but it’s incredible. I think it’s a great tribute to the fan base, a great tribute to the organization and the relationship we’ve built with the fans. I’m thrilled to be here today to watch it and enjoy it.”
Coach Dan Quinn said that the players practiced harder with so many fans there to watch. The fact that the team practiced in pads for the first time this year added to the intensity.
Last year, the Falcons rebounded well from a devastating loss in Super Bowl LI, making it back to the divisional round and giving the Eagles arguably their toughest game of the postseason. This year, the Falcons could be one of the teams in a top-heavy NFC that gets to the Super Bowl and wins it.