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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Falcons Getting Grass for 2026 World Cup—but Football Ruled Out

  • Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s campus size and location don’t provide space for a rollout grass field.
  • About $200 million in upgrades are also planned but not all before the World Cup.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Like every other turf-field venue hosting the World Cup in 2026, Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium will install grass for those soccer games to meet FIFA rules. But any dreams of a permanent move to a natural playing surface can stop right here.

The Falcons are among 17 NFL teams that play on turf, much to the chagrin of the NFL Players Association, which has forcefully called for grass fields across the league. However, Greg Beadles, president of the Falcons, says that grass is not possible at Mercedes-Benz Stadium due to the 50-plus events staged there annually, including Falcons and Atlanta United games, plus the SEC Championship.

Beadles notes, too, that because Mercedes-Benz Stadium has a retractable roof that is often closed, a pivot to grass would require a trayed field that can slide out into a space adjacent to the venue. But the city and state encouraged the team to build in downtown Atlanta, which circumscribed the stadium campus, meaning there isn’t room for a rollout field.

“We’re in a very tight location downtown, which is what the city of Atlanta leadership and state of Georgia leadership wanted,” Beadles says. “We like being on the Georgia World Congress Center campus … but it’s a very tight campus. So we don’t have space to roll a whole field. It’s not just our decision where we are located. … It’s just not tenable to have grass.”

More Changes … Eventually

The Falcons do have big changes in the works, though, according to Beadles: They plan to spend $200 million upgrading Mercedes-Benz Stadium over the next few years, work that will be done haltingly and not be fully completed by the summer of 2026 when the venue hosts those World Cup games.

The planned work is not occurring because of any required Cup upgrades, and it isn’t tied to a Super Bowl pitch for 2028 or ’29, Beadles says. Ownership is creating and renovating luxury and premium seating areas. 

  • Renovations to roughly 200 suites, an update of the Wi-Fi and distributed antenna cellular systems
  • Kitchen renovations and conversions of some concession stands to auto-checkout
  • Transforming a restaurant into a 154-seat premium area dubbed the “Chairman’s Lounge”
  • Upgraded video boards over the next few years

Because of the volume of events at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, renovations will come piecemeal, meaning the work will take several years. The stadium opened in 2017 at an estimated cost of $1.6 billion.

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