More than Fun and Games
It’s no surprise that Mercedes-Benz Stadium is bringing more visitors and dollars to Atlanta, but the real legacy may be the Westside revitalization efforts underway
Inside the gleaming $1.5-billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta, all is jaw-droppingly bright, energy-infused and just plain fun. It’s a great place to experience Falcons football or Atlanta United FC soccer amid the best high-tech gadgetry money can buy. The teams’ owner, Arthur Blank, and his organization made sure of that.
The stadium hosted the college football national championship game last January and kicks off the month of August with Major League Soccer’s All-Star Game. January 2019 will bring Super Bowl LIII, and the NCAA Men’s Final Four basketball championship will be here in 2020. The stadium and the city are on a roll.
“We wouldn’t have four major events in three years without the Mercedes-Benz Stadium,” says William Pate, president and CEO of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB). “All have ripple effects. Back-to-back-to-back big events – no city has done this before.”
“What the stadium has done,” says Atlanta Sports Council President Dan Corso, “is put us at the forefront. As far as recruiting these big events, a city is only as good as its place to play.”
Just days after the stadium opened last August, the two 2017 Chick-fil-A college football kickoff games, held over Labor Day weekend, brought 150,000 fans and generated more than $62.5 million in direct economic impact.
Impressive as all this is, it isn’t actually a big surprise. With lots of money and civic clout behind it, bolstered by the power and prestige of the Blank organization, the stadium was bound to be a success. It’s the kind of thing Atlanta does well.
What is truly remarkable and may be the facility’s most enduring impact is the mammoth community revitalization effort that is underway in nearby Westside neighborhoods. There are economic, health, public safety, housing, employment, business, education and financial empowerment components with the goal of turning around one of the city’s most troubled spaces – and making sure longtime residents are not displaced in the process. The area of focus encompasses English Avenue, Vine City, Castleberry Hill and Atlanta University Center; it includes The Bluff district that is known for drug activity and Sunset Avenue that was once home to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Maynard Jackson and Julian Bond.