Making memories: Georgia Dome’s historic status officially marked

What’s your fondest memory of the Georgia Dome?

Although the Dome became relegated to history when it was imploded on Nov. 20, 2017, its storied role as an economic, architectural and cultural icon was commemorated today as the Georgia Historical Society unveiled its latest Business History Initiative (BHI) historical marker at the site of the Dome’s former Gate B, overlooking the soon-to-open Home Depot Backyard next to the Dome’s successor, Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Georgia Historical Society President and CEO Todd Groce and State Rep. Calvin Smyre unveil the Georgia Dome’s historical marker. Photo by Ashley Gilmer, GWCCA Multimedia Specialist.

“You know, it’s interesting when you reflect back on what this facility has done not only for this campus, but for the state of Georgia,” said Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) Executive Director Frank Poe, addressing the crowd of dignitaries, stakeholders and former Dome employees gathered for the unveiling ceremony.

During its quarter century lifespan, the Dome hosted more than 1,400 events, drawing 37 millions guests through its turnstiles, and generated more than $7 billion in economic impact. “That’s billion, with a B,” emphasized Poe.

The stadium hosted 256 Atlanta Falcons games, two Super Bowls, 152 college football games, including numerous SEC Championships, Chick fil-A Kickoff and Peach Bowl games, and 298  high school football games.

But it was more than a football stadium.

A multi-use facility, the Dome also hosted gymnastics, men’s and women’s basketball, and team handball during the 1996 Summer Olympics, as well as the NCCA men’s and women’s basketball Final Four. The Atlanta Hawks called the Georgia Dome home for two seasons as Philips Arena -now known as State Farm Arena – was under construction. Perhaps priming the pump for the Atlanta United’s overwhelming success, several international friendly soccer matches were staged at the Dome, as well as CONCACAF Gold Cup games.

And it was more than a sports palace.

The Dome featured a litany of superstar concerts, from Paul McCartney to Beyoncé to Taylor Swift to Kenny Chesney.

It was also utilized as ancillary space for conventions and meetings taking place at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) next door, as well as marching band competitions, graduation ceremonies, and for large scale religious gatherings.

Yet it was more than high profile events and impressive physical stature that set the stadium apart.

“The Dome was really instrumental in raising the bar in terms of service, customer focus and delivery of a quality product to those who were able to use the facility,” said Poe. “Every one in attendance here, I’m sure, has had an opportunity to pass through the doors of the Georgia Dome and experience one of the events that occurred there and you can draw upon those special memories,” said Poe. “I would just ask that you that as you gaze out across The Home Depot Backyard – the new use for the Georgia Dome site – that you reflect back on those memories and the fun times that were experienced.”

A childhood experience at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field sparked a career in public facility and event management for longtime Georgia Dome General Manager Carl Adkins, now Executive Director of the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee.

“Fifty-one years ago, my father took my two older brothers and I from our hometown in Huntington, W.V., went 150 miles down the Ohio River to see the Reds play the St. Louis Cardinals,” said Adkins. “And I’ll never forget that experience. Sights. Smells. Sounds. Being in a ballpark. It just stuck with me – it was magic. I was like, ‘someday I want to be part of something like this.’ Fast forward 28 years later, and I landed the dream job.”

Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee Executive Director Carl Adkins, former General Manager of the Georgia Dome, addresses the crowd prior to the Thursday’s unveiling. Photo by Ashley Gilmer, GWCCA Multimedia Specialist.

Adkins was the Dome’s second – and last – general manager, serving in that role from 2002-2016.

“l look at this marker and I think about how a couple of years ago there was probably some six-year-old kids that came to an event at the Georgia Dome and 50-some years from now when they come here and look at that and reflect on those memories – to me, there’s nothing more special,” he said.

The Dome was an architectural marvel, casting an iconic visage on the western edge of downtown Atlanta. Constructed at a cost of $214 million, it stood 270.67 feet high – as tall as a 29-story building. Lengthwise, it measured 745.75 feet, and was 606.96 feet wide. The total floor area measured 102,149.51 square feet.

However, it was more than bricks, mortar, concrete and steel – and more than the Teflon-coated fiberglass fabric roof that stretched beyond 395,000 feet.

The Dome’s people – the staff – the team – was its true calling card.

“The Georgia Dome staff is what brought the Georgia Dome to life,” said Adkins. “While the Dome was an incredible structure and hosted some amazing events – it’s all about the people. Team Dome. And we were proud to be a part of that team. It was such an incredible, powerful thing, because we served others. Our team was focused not on the events – we weren’t there to watch the events – we were there to take care of everyone who came through those doors.”

In addition to The Home Depot Backyard, the Dome’s footprint is also being redeveloped to include a GWCCA-owned high-rise convention headquarters hotel and a new multi-level parking deck.

Meanwhile, the Dome’s BHI marker is not the first of its kind on the GWCCA campus, as the GHS dedicated another one in 2016 at Centennial Olympic Park commemorating the 1996 Summer Olympics.

“We put up a lot of historical markers across the state about events from the Revolutionary War and the Civil War and all these other events that are way back in our past so it’s always a pleasure to have at a dedication ceremony with living witnesses to an event that’s being commemorated,” said Todd Groce, President and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. “This historical marker for the Georgia Dome is part of the Georgia Historical Society’s Business History Initiative – a public education program designed to teach the stories of how business in this state shaped the development of the social, political and economic destiny of the United States – and indeed of the world.”