HOOVER – First things first. The folks associated with the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta want you to know the stadium will open as scheduled for the University of Alabama’s Sept. 2 game against Florida State.
Secondly, they want you to know that it’s a state-of-the-art stadium.
“The building speaks for itself,” Atlanta Falcons CEO and president Rich McKay said. “The architecture, I think, speaks for itself. …what you’re going to see when you come to the stadium, whether it’s for one of our preseason games, whether it’s for the kickoff game with Alabama-Florida State, Georgia Tech-Tennessee. Whatever it may be. I hope the first time you’re in it, yeah, you’re wowed by the architecture but more wowed by the fan experience and what we’re trying to provide.
“That’s 83,000 square feet of LED. How much LED is that you ask? Well, at the Georgia Dome, if you took both end zone boards and added them together, you get 4,800 square feet. This is 80,000 square feet.”
Bring it on
Alabama plays Vanderbilt this season for the first time since 2011 and will play Vandy in Nashville for the first time since 2007 when UA visits on Sept. 23. No current Commodore players, obviously, have played UA, but they aren’t backing down from the challenge.
Like Alabama, Vandy prides itself on defense.
“You’re going to see who the best defense is on the field at that time, so we’ll see when it gets here,” Vanderbilt linebacker Oren Burks said. “It’s a challenge we’re ready to accept. All eyes are going to be on us, so we’re ready to go.”
It’s been a common question to coaches, the query of what the league needs to do to catch Alabama, which has won three consecutive SEC titles.
The common response? Recruiting.
“I think the biggest thing is recruiting and development,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “A lot of people say it’s one or the other, do you recruit great players or do you develop great players.
When you do both, that’s when you got something special. And I think every team in this conference is trying to play catch-up in regards to that.”
Tommy Deas contributed to this report.
Reach Aaron Suttles at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.