(ATLANTA – Sept. 14, 2015) Besides the sight of state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium rising up rapidly right next to the Georgia Dome on the Georgia World Congress Center Authority’s downtown Atlanta campus, there are plenty of new twists in store for Atlanta Falcons fans when the regular season – the team’s 50th – kicks off tonight against the Philadelphia Eagles, the first game of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” doubleheader.
For starters, there’s a new field general roaming the sidelines as Dan Quinn makes his debut as an NFL head coach. The Falcons’ 16th head coach, Quinn comes to Atlanta from Seattle where he served as the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator, helming the league’s top-ranked defense the past two seasons.
And also on the turf, astute fans will notice that 50-yard markers (the actual numbers) at midfield are painted gold this year, commemorating the Falcons’ half a century in Atlanta and also a tie in to the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl, also reflected in on-field NFL shield logos in each stadium which will be – you guessed it – painted gold. Also, each end zone at the Dome features the Falcons 50 seasons anniversary logo.
As for the on-field action, the NFL is encouraging teams to go for more 2-point conversions with extra-point kicks now teed up from the 15-yard line; and the rule change also awards the defense two points on extra point/2-point conversions that are returned.
For the 2015 season, many of the Falcons’ in-game and pre-game programming and promotions will highlight the team’s 50th anniversary, according to Mike Gomes, Senior Vice President of Fan Experience for AMB Sports & Entertainment.
For instance, a few minutes prior tonight’s 7:10 kickoff, actor Samuel L. Jackson, who has starred in the team’s “Rise Up” campaign, will narrate a new inspirational video homage to the Falcons’ 50 seasons. “I’d like to get fans in their seats for that,” said Gomes.
For pre-game activities, an expanded food and beverage hospitality area, with more tables and chairs under a large tent and more open-air high-top tables and low-tops with umbrellas and ample seating than in previous years will be set up at Falcons Landing, a free gathering spot for fans at International Plaza, between the Georgia Dome, Phillips Arena and the Georgia World Congress Center.
Underneath the tent, fans can watch pre-game coverage and the NFL Network on three large-screen hi-def TVs (one 90-inch, and two 60-inches).
In addition to the usual pep-rally-like atmosphere featuring Falcons cheerleaders, the Falcons Drumline and Freddie Falcon, live music, face-painting, interactive games and other activities, there will be some new food and beverage options in rotation this season at Falcons Landing. New offerings include fare from Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q and Deep Eddy Vodka bars featuring Karma Tequila.
Falcons Landing opens three hours prior to each home game, which means the party starts at 4 p.m. today.
Inside the Dome, there’s a new dining option for hungry fans as Atlanta-based Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q has set up shop in the Main Concourse and Mezzanine Level. The upper level Fox Bros. outlet will specialize in smoked chicken wings, while the lower level spot will serve a full array of barbecue items, including pulled pork sandwiches and beef brisket sandwiches.
A couple of other new food options available at Dome concession stands include Philly steak nachos and Buffalo chicken waffle fries.
As with last season, 1,500 parking spaces have vanished due to the new stadium construction, but some relief is on the horizon as a new 600-space parking garage, the Mangum Street Deck, is nearing completion adjacent to the Red Deck and International Plaza. It is expected to be fully operational by mid-season.
Sr. Staff Writer
Georgia World Congress Center Authority
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