By Charles Odum
(Photo: Getty Images)
ATLANTA (AP) — As if the road closures surrounding Mercedes-Benz Stadium were not convincing signs that the countdown to Super Bowl 53 has started in Atlanta, one look inside the facility drives the point home.
The end zones and sidelines already are painted with the Patriots and Rams names and colors. That work was done less than 24 hours after New England beat Kansas City in the AFC championship game and the Los Angeles Rams beat New Orleans in the NFC game on Sunday.
"You find out who's here on Sunday and you come here Monday and the team names are in the end zone," Scott Jenkins, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium general manager, said Tuesday. "It's pretty cool. It makes it real when you know who's coming here to play."
Ed Mangan, the NFL field director, said there will be a fresh coat of paint laid down the day before the Feb. 3 game.
Most other necessary updates and modifications also are complete, including the installation of equipment for the pregame and halftime shows .
There's still one major question left unanswered: Will the retractable roof for the $1.5 billion stadium be open?
Officials for the NFL and the stadium are eager to show off the facility's most distinctive feature, but even a billion dollars can't buy a guarantee of good weather.
Atlanta was dealt an ice storm for its last Super Bowl following the 2000 season. It's too early to know if hopes for a dry day and milder temperatures will be realized and the roof can be open.
"It's definitely something we're talking about," NFL senior director of events Eric Finkelstein said Tuesday as he stood on the freshly painted field. "We haven't made a decision one way or the other. It probably won't be decided if we're going to have the roof open until we get much closer to the game and we know the realities that are involved with that."
There were problems with the roof's camera-lens type mechanism in 2017, the first year the stadium served as home for the NFL Atlanta Falcons and MLS Atlanta United. The roof was closed for all but one Falcons home regular-season game in 201 but was fully operational in 2018, when there were four open-air games.
All along, it has been clear the NFL's preference is to have the roof open for the Super Bowl.
Jenkins said a compromise could be to have the roof open before the game and then closed by kickoff.
"That would give us a little more leeway for the temperature, but it's going to be based on comfort for the fans," Jenkins said.
"I don't think the long-term forecast is such that we'd play open, but we'd still like to open up the roof for some time and use it as part of the show and then shut it, so we're thinking about that."
The NFL will make the decision.
"We'll take our lead from the NFL," Jenkins said. "It's really their event."
The stadium already has hosted other major events, including Alabama's win over Georgiafor the college football national championship game following the 2017 season and the recent MLS Cup won by the hometown Atlanta United.\
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