BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
Mercedes-Benz Stadium has already witnessed a record crowd for the Atlanta United soccer team and achieved a prime-time spotlight with a “Sunday Night Football” Atlanta Falcons game.
But on Thursday, the gleaming entertainment palace in downtown Atlanta will host its biggest event to date — a Garth Brooks concert that will bring more than 80,000 fans to the young venue.
The in-the-round performance marks the inaugural concert at MBS, as well as the first time Brooks has played here since a string of shows at Philips Arena in September 2014. As with those, he will be joined for a few songs by his wife, Trisha Yearwood.
While Brooks has expressed excitement about performing under a “halo board” for the first time in his vaunted career, the oft-discussed stadium roof will remain closed for the concert.
“Because of the complexity of the roof, there’s still work to be done to automate it,” said Mike Gomes, senior vice president of fan experience for MBS. “It can open, as we did for the Falcons-Green Bay game, but it’s a manual process and every time we open or close it for show purposes, it delays the process of working on it.”
The roof will open one more time this season, for the Oct. 22 Atlanta United game.
For many fans, security is top-of-mind following the tragic shooting of 58 people at a country music festival in Las Vegas last week.
Gomes couldn’t talk specifics, but said various policies, such as fans going through magnetometers and enforcing the clear bag policy (see below for details), highlight efficient security.
“Security is always front of mind for us,” he said. “We work with a variety of government and first responder agencies. From Homeland Security to Atlanta police and GBI, there are full safety and security briefings. We’re always vigilant.”
If you’re attending Thursday’s show, here are some tips to help you navigate:
TICKETS: Brooks notably sold out the concert in slightly more than an hour. Gomes doesn’t expect any last-minute tickets to go on sale once the stage setup is completed, but it doesn’t hurt to check www.ticketmaster.com in case a few tickets sprout up. Fan-to-Fan resale on the site is also an option. Mobile ticketing will be in effect.
ARRIVAL: Get there as early as possible. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. As with previous tour stops, it is expected that Brooks’ usual two opening acts – Mitch Rossell and Karyn Rochelle – will play quick sets.
TRANSPORTATION: Parking ranges from $10-$56, depending on how far you want to walk. You can purchase in advance at https://parking.mercedesbenzstadium.com/. The same lots that allow tailgating for sports events will also permit you to hang out with your hot dog grill for the concert. Those who opt to take public transportation can take the MARTA blue line to the GWCC/Philips Arena/CNN Center Station across the street from Gate 2. Also, MARTA and Uber have a half-off discount code.
For Lyft customers, the stadium has a partnership with the company with designated drop-off and pick-up zones to make the process easier.
“Make sure you planned how you’re getting there,” Gomes suggested. “If you’re going to take MARTA, understand the schedule. If you’re going to take ride share, plan ahead. And if you drive, we absolutely encourage fans to buy parking in advance.”
BAGS: As with all events at the stadium, the clear bag policy will be in effect. That means the only carry-ins allowed are bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and don’t exceed 12 inches x 6 inches x 12 inches; a 1-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (such as a Ziploc bag); or small clutch bags, no larger than 4.5 inches by 6.5 inches, with or without a handle or strap.
SEATS: Those with floor seats should enter via Gate 1, off Northside Drive. Wristbands will be provided to validate floor tickets. An entrance map of the stadium can be found at http://mercedesbenzstadium.com/stadium-maps/.
NO SMOKING. THAT MEANS EVERYWHERE: Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a no-smoking facility. That means the entire property, as in the exterior of the building as well as the interior. That means you are not the exception just because you really want a cigarette.
FOOD: The Fan First Pricing will be in effect, so you can purchase a $2 hot dog, refillable soda, bottle of water, pretzel or box of popcorn, along with other reasonably priced offerings ($3 pizza, $5 Bud Light draft beer, $6 chicken tender basket with fries). The usual concessions will be open throughout the building and, said Gomes, concession locations will be added on the floor so fans don’t have to schlep two levels for a bottle of Dasani.
INFO: Fans can check the stadium’s A-Z guide for additional answers.