By CHARLES ODUM , AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — The planned opening of the $1.5 billion Mercedes Benz Stadium has been delayed by ongoing roof construction.
Steve Cannon, the CEO of Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank's businesses, said Tuesday the delay is a "timeline" issue. He insisted there is no concern about how the roof will work.
"Yes, we have a complex design and we have a complex building," Cannon said. "But there has never been any concern about the operability of the roof."
Cannon said installation of the roof petals is three-quarters complete.
"Normal steelwork has taken longer than anticipated and that has had an impact on the overall timeline," he said.
The new opening date of the stadium is the Atlanta Falcons' August 26 NFL preseason game against Arizona.
The stadium with its complicated roof, which will open like a camera lens, had been set to open on July 30 with MLS Atlanta United's game against Orlando City. That game has been moved to July 29 at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium, where the expansion team's first two home games have been played.
Two Atlanta United home games planned for August at the new stadium will be rescheduled: Aug. 13 against Minnesota and Aug. 19 against Los Angeles. Cannon confirmed no more games will be played at Georgia Tech after July 29, as the stadium must be prepared for the 2017 college football season.
The Falcons have scheduled another home preseason game against Jacksonville for August 31.
Plans have not changed for two Chick-fil-A Kickoff games at the new stadium: Alabama-Florida State on Sept. 2 and Tennessee-Georgia Tech on Sept. 4.
Even so, Cannon said the demolition of the Georgia Dome will be put on hold as an insurance policy until a certificate of occupancy is granted for the new stadium.
"We feel now we are in a high level of predictability," he said. "We feel very confident of the dates we're giving now, but we do not need to bring the Georgia Dome down."
The Georgia Dome field has been removed. Cannon would not comment on what other equipment would have to be returned to make the Georgia Dome operational.
"We're not making any plans for that because we don't need to," Cannon said, adding "again, it's an insurance policy."
The status of the new stadium was a hot topic at least week's unveiling of Atlanta United's new practice facility.
MLS Commissioner Dan Garber said at that April 11 ceremony the MLS "can't wait to get into Mercedes Benz Stadium in September." Garber said later he misspoke when he said September, but Tuesday's announcement confirms no MLS game will be played in the facility before then.
Cannon said Atlanta United officials continued to list July 30 as the planned first game at the stadium until the need for a delay became certain.
"We wanted to hold onto that until the last possible moment," Cannon said, "because we were thinking about our fans."
In the revised schedule, Atlanta United's first home date at the new stadium will be on Sept. 9 against Dallas.