There’s no Place Like Dome - a CEG Archives Special

Mon April 30, 2012 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

The Georgia Dome, shown in February of 1992 as fabric roof panels were installed.
The Georgia Dome, shown in February of 1992 as fabric roof panels were installed.

Editor’s note: The following article appeared in the May 13th, 1992 Southeast Edition of Construction Equipment Guide.


When the Falcons start the preseason in Atlanta, fans will hold their heads high. Part of this will be pride in one of the NFL’s up-and-coming football teams. Chances are, however, the 70,000-plus fans will raise their heads to ponder the roof above them.

The August game will be the first hosted by the Georgia Dome, the $210 million stadium which features the world’s largest cable-supported fabric roof. An intricate network of cables and posts supports the literal acres of fabric that make up the 395,000 square foot roof.

The roof is constructed of 114 Teflon-coated Fiberglas panels which will filter in natural light and produce an open air atmosphere.

Birdair, Inc. fabricated and installed the roof under a guaranteed maximum price contract of $20 million. The company is the only supplier of cable roof systems in the United States.

The history of the Dome dates back eight years when area business, civic and governmental leaders began to talk about the possibility of constructing a new stadium in Atlanta. A year later a study began on stadium options. By 1986, consultants recommended a domed stadium, next to the Georgia World Congress Center so it could be used the entire year-round.

The Georgia Stadium Corporation was formed by private investors in October of 1988 with $1 million of seed money to market club and executive seats. The marketing paid off: By June 1991, 168 of 196 executive seats were sold at annual prices between $20,000 and $120,000. Three months after the corporation was formed, it raised $55 million, some 50% of the private sector money needed to build the stadium.

The Georgia Legislature gave final approval on the domed stadium and authorized the city and county to raise the hotel/motel tax from six to seven percent in early 1989. City Council and the Fulton County Commission followed with their approval.

That summer, Heery International was chosen as the lead architecture firm and Beers, Inc., Atlanta, was chosen as the construction management firm. The construction team includes all Atlanta-based firms: Barton-Malow Co., Holder Construction Co., and H.J. Russell Construction Co., Inc.

Bids were awarded for site work in March 1990. The Georgia Dome is voted to host Super Bowl XXVIII in May, two years ahead of its scheduled completion. Construction of the primary structure began in June 1990. Beers submitted a guaranteed maximum price proposal for construction and related costs in the amount of $174.5 million. With 85% of the work completed in March of this year, the Dome is reportedly on schedule and within budget.

Construction of the cable-supported roof’s center tension truss began in February 1991. The ring beam structure was completed three months later. Fabric installation began in October 1991 and was completed and water proofed earlier this year.

The Dome employs the principle of Tension integrity, or tensegrity,” meaning there is continuous tension throughout the Dome. The principle was first demonstrated in two domes at the Olympic Park in Seoul, Korea in 1986.

The Georgia Dome, combined with the Congress Center, will become the largest entertainment complex in the world. (The Congress center alone provides two million square feet of space.)

The Georgia Dome has already lined up a number of the top international sports and entertainment events, including the Super Bowl and the 1996 Summer Olympics. The Dome is targeting such events as the NCAA Final Four, the NBA All-Star Game, the ACC Basketball Championship, and the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. (For the record: The Atlanta Braves have said they do not wish to play indoor baseball. They will remain at Fulton County Stadium).

One of the attractive features of the Dome is the transportation system that surrounds it. According to the Georgia Dome Corporation, the stadium is accessible to 83% of the American population in just two hours. Hartsfield International Airport and two modern regional airports are located within 20 minutes of the downtown area. The multi-billion dollar expansion of the city’s interstate system was completed in 1989 and Atlanta’s rapid rail system, MARTA, makes two stops adjacent to the Dome.

The stadium is located on a 50-acre site. Inside, the Dome features 105,000 square feet of floor space at field level and a 70,500 seating capacity. The concrete floor was built with utility grids for exhibits. Football, basketball and other sporting events will be played on artificial surfaces.

The stadium can be converted easily into exhibit space. The turf is set in sections that can be zipped and unzipped. Underneath the turf, a network of electrical connections will support exhibits.

The Executive Concourse features 183 executive suites, 6,304 club seats, cafes and cocktail lounges.

The State of Georgia will own the stadium and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority will manage the facility. It is expected that the Dome will create 1,880 new jobs in the state, generate $13 million in new tax revenue and have a $209 million total economic impact on the area annually.

The Summer Olympics are expected to have a $3.5 billion total economic impact on the area on the area and should generate $175 million in tax revenue. The Super Bowl is expected to generate $16 million in taxes.

Compared to other domed-stadiums in North America (they now number 10) the Georgia Dome is third-largest in terms of seating and exhibit space. Only the Pontiac Silverdome and the New Orleans Superdome offer larger numbers of seats and total exhibit space.

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