The bidding process for the country to host the next available FIFA World Cup won’t take place until 2020, but should the United States be selected, Mike Egan, the general counsel of Arthur Blank’s AMB Group LLC, told Global Atlanta that he would be “stunned” if Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium didn’t play a key role in making that opportunity possible. In December 2010, FIFA selected Russia and Qatar as the locations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively. But the venue for 2026 still is open.
Mr. Egan, who was lured away last year from King & Spalding after 31 years at the Atlanta-based law firm to serve as senior vice president and general counsel of the ABM Group companies and as operational executive of the construction of the new $1.4 billion stadium.
Mr. Egan filled in as a speaker for an indisposed Rich McKay, president and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons, at the weekly Kiwanis Club of Atlanta luncheon downtown on Oct. 25. He defined his assignment on behalf of Mr. Blank as delivering “an iconic building” unlike any other stadium in the country that would provide “unmatched fan experience.”
During a brief interchange with Global Atlanta following the luncheon, he said that prior to the construction of the building extensive research was conducted of the fan base for both the Atlanta Falcons National Football League team and the Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United team.
“You have two completely different profiles of the fans,” he said. “The football fans tend to be an older and more traditional base. The soccer fans are younger and more diverse internationally,” he said. “We consider this a great thing for building community in our city.”
The new stadium is to replace next year the Georgia Dome, which has been the Falcons’ home stadium since 1992 for the football games and the occasional host for soccer games.
“There has been a lot of research in how to prepare the field for both teams,” Mr. Egan added of the new stadium. “The fields will be composed of artificial turf that can be changed for the different contests.”
Mr. Egan estimated that the Falcons team would attract 70,000 fans to each game while only 35-40,000 fans would attend the soccer games.
The soccer games, however, wouldn’t be lost in the cavernous football setting and are expected to have a sense of intimacy, he added, because an automated curtain system would close off the upper decks.
He also described the stadium’s architectural features including its retractable ceiling, its specialty floor-to-ceiling plastic windows that won’t require extensive cleaning and offer skyline views of Atlanta, its adjacent solar panels and its 360- degree, high definition halo video scoreboard that is to be 56 feet tall and is to stretch for 1,100 feet around the stadium as part of the roof.
The Kiwanians were respectfully awed as Mr. Egan described the scope and details of the project, but burst into applause when he announced that food prices would be kept as low as possible as part of providing a positive fan experience.
The stadium also is to provide a venue for displaying art and is to feature more than 100 woks of art commissioned for spaces throughout the 2-million-square-foot building. In conjunction with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) it selected sculptures representing the football and soccer teams — a falcon in flight, 41.5 feet tall with a wingspan of more than 64 feet for the Falcons, and a mirror-faceted soccer ball standing almost 35 feet high for Atlanta United.
Neighborhoods, which have been mostly abandoned, such as Vine City and English Avenue are to be revitalized with the creation of new housing, urban farming and open recreation spaces.
Mr. Egan didn’t mention the possibility of the World Cup coming to Atlanta during his luncheon presentation. He did cite the following events to take place in Atlanta in coming years, however.
Beginning in 2017, the SEC College Football Championship Games are to be played at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In 2018 the College Football Playoff Championship is to be played in Atlanta; in 2019, the NFL Super Bowl LIII is to take place in Atlanta and in 2020 the Final Four NCAA Basketball Championship is to be played in Atlanta.
“Can you imagine any better lineup of athletic events,” he added. But it wasn’t until after the lunch that the possibility of the World Cup matches coming to the U.S. struck him as an added opportunity.
AMB Group is the parent company of the Atlanta Falcons; PGA TOUR Superstore; MLS Atlanta; Mountain Sky Guest Ranch; and Atlanta Falcons Stadium Co., the developer of the new Atlanta stadium.