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High hopes for new high-tech Atlanta stadium despite delays

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ATLANTA (AP) Several high-profile failures have plagued Atlanta’s reputation on a national stage over the years: unpreparedness for ice and snow storms, a recent highway collapse and subsequent shutdown from a fire, and chronic traffic and public transportation woes.

Now, the city’s new $1.5 billion stadium — touted as a state-of-the-art facility that can help transform downtown — is facing construction setbacks with its key feature, a retractable roof that will open and close like a camera lens.

Stadium officials gave The Associated Press a recent tour for an exclusive story on Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Even though it’s behind schedule, officials and some residents hope the stadium can turn around Atlanta’s history of public misfortunes in infrastructure and projects. It will be home to the Atlanta Falcons and United, the city’s professional football and soccer teams. It will also host SEC championship football games for the next 11 years along with the College Football Playoff National Championship next year, 2019’s Super Bowl and the NCAA men’s Final Four in 2020.

The stadium was originally set to open in March, but that’s been pushed back three times: first to June 1, then July 30, and now August. Stadium general manager Scott Jenkins says that will be in time for the Falcons to host the Arizona Cardinals in the first preseason game at home on Aug. 26.

The building is more than 90 percent done, Jenkins said. The city committed to providing $200 million from hotel tax revenue, with the team picking up the rest.

Rapper and Atlanta native T.I. also took the tour, along with his 12-year-old son. T.I. says the stadium could “help breathe new life into the city,” and he was “amazed by the architecture, the interior design, and the intricate details of artwork and LED screens.”

Here are some of the stadium’s key features:


THE ROOF

The challenge with the retractable roof has been installing the eight triangular steel petals that would enable it to retract and open like a camera lens. Water-tight seals are being installed on the petals, then it’ll take eight weeks to place fluorine-based plastic (ETFE) on them, a spokeswoman said. In early June, workers will bring the petals together for proper alignment with the help of a gigantic crawler crane.


THE FRONT PORCH

This area is just outside the stadium’s doors, with food trucks, live music and a fan vehicle experience on game days. A huge stainless steel sculpture of a falcon – 73,000 pounds and with a 70-foot wingspan – is perched on a bronze-colored football.


THE BACKYARD

After the Falcons’ former home the Georgia Dome is demolished at the end of summer, team owner Arthur Blank wants to replace the 24-year-old stadium with a 13-acre park. The greenspace would be used on game days as a tailgating area and parking lot for about 850 cars, according to Mike Gomes, who’s in charge of “fan experience” at the Arthur M. Blank Group. Gomes said the area will host concerts and festivals: “We don’t want this to be just blacktop asphalt for 365 days.” A 35-foot high mirrored sculpture of a soccer ball that will sit by the north entrance can be viewed from the greenspace area.


VIDEO BOARDS

The largest is the 360-degree, 63,000-square-foot “halo board” – named for its shape. It will sit high in the stadium, showing live game play, replays, and images of players during breaks. Work to build “the halo” will continue through July. Also, a 100-foot-tall video board will function as a noise meter and advertise products – officials compare it to the massive Times Square digital screens in New York.


SEATING

Stadium seats will come in at 21 inches wide, compared with 19 at the Georgia Dome. Officials say this will make fans more comfortable.

 

Man City into League Cup final (video)

Nick Potts/PA via AP
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  • City outshoots Bristol 28-5
  • Sane, Aguero put MCFC up 2-0
  • Pack, Kent pulls two back for Bristol
  • De Bruyne answers in stoppage
  • City wins 5-3 on aggregate

A pair of late goals put a scare into Man City, but the Premier League leaders scored just before and right after halftime to insure its first leg lead en route to a 3-2 win over Bristol City at Ashton Gate Stadium on Tuesday.

City wins 5-3 on aggregate in the League Cup semifinal, with Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane, and Kevin De Bruyne scoring in the second leg.

Pep Guardiola moves to within 90 minutes of his first significant title as Man City boss, and will face either Chelsea or Arsenal on Feb. 25 at Wembley Stadium.

Marlon Pack and Aden Flint scored for Bristol City.

[ MORE: Full stats, box score ]

Sane scored in the 43rd minute and Sergio Aguero struck less than four minutes after the teams returned from the halftime break.

An errant John Stones clearance helped Bristol to the scoreboard in the 64th minute, with Pack scoring the goal.

Flint then nodded home in stoppage time to give the Robins hope for a miracle win, but new contract hero De Bruyne scored within a minute to burn those hopes to the ground.

Bristol would be in the Football League Championship playoffs if the season ended now, sitting in fifth place.

Midfielder Lassana Diarra joins PSG on short-term deal

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain has made its first signing of the winter transfer window by hiring midfielder Lassana Diarra on a short-term deal until June 2019.

The 32-year-old holding midfielder will once again try to revive his career in the French league after a successful stint at PSG’s bitter rival, Marseille, that ended last year.

The much-traveled Diarra, who was born in Paris, then played for a few months with United Arab Emirates club Al Jazira.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Diarra, a former Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid player, won English and Spanish league titles in 2006 and 2012. He has 34 caps for France and featured at the European Championship in 2008.

His strong performances with Marseille earned him a recall from France, but he eventually pulled out of Didier Deschamps’ squad for Euro 2016 because of a left knee injury.

“I am very happy to have signed for my hometown club,” Diarra said. “Paris Saint-Germain represents a lot to me and, with the international dimension the club has taken in recent seasons, it is every player’s dream to play here. I am lucky enough to make this dream come true.”

Diarra joined on a free transfer and his signing won’t affect PSG’s bank accounts, which are under UEFA’s scrutiny.

PSG is under pressure to sell players to balance the books after splashing out 402 million euros ($473 million) on forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe last year. That led to Qatari-owned PSG being placed under investigation by UEFA for potential breaches of Financial Fair Play rules.

Palace adds again with towering Polish center back

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Crystal Palace is delivering on Roy Hodgson‘s depth demands at injury-hit Selhurst Park.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

A day after signing Erdal Rakip on loan from Benfica, the South London set has added big Polish center back Jaroslaw Jach on a permanent deal.

Jach, 23, comes from Zagłębie Lubin and has played 17 matches, scoring a goal for the fifth place side in Poland’s Ekstraklasa. Like Palace, he’s risen through the lower leagues to reach Poland’s top flight and now the Premier League.

Jach was capped twice by Poland in November, going 180 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Mexico and a scoreless draw with Uruguay

Here’s Jach, from CPFC.co.uk:

“I know it is the club from south London and has an outstanding manager, Roy Hodgson, who led team England in the past,” he added. “Every game is a sell-out which is one of the greatest things, and I have also heard that even though there are many clubs in London, the biggest derby games for fans are those with Brighton, which makes it one of the biggest games in the season. I hope one day I will be able to win such a game.”

LIVE, League Cup semi: Bristol City host Man City

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Bristol City host Manchester City in the second leg of their League Cup semifinal on Tuesday, with the Robins 2-1 down from the first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

The winner will play either Arsenal or Chelsea in the final at Wembley, with the London rivals locked at 0-0 as they play their second leg at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.

[ LIVE: Follow Bristol City-Man City ]

Lee Johnson’s Bristol City are the heavy underdogs, once again, but their fairytale run in the League Cup has seen them oust four Premier League opponents previously in Watford, Stoke City, Crystal Palace and Manchester United. Surely the runaway Premier League leaders won’t be Bristol City’s next scalp…

Pep Guardiola has named a strong starting lineup as he aims to reach his first domestic cup final as Man City boss, with Claudio Bravo replacing Ederson in goal the only major change.

Bristol City, who sit in fifth place in England’s second-tier, five points off the automatic promotion spots, have two absentees with goalkeeper Frank Fielding missing out, while defender Nathan Baker is only on the bench after late fitness tests.

We are all just waiting (and hoping) for Bristol City to score so they can put up an awesome goal GIF…

Click on the link above to follow the action live, while below are the starting lineups for both teams. We will have analysis and reaction on the semifinal second leg right here on Pro Soccer Talk.

LINEUPS

Bristol City: Steele, Wright, Flint, Magnusson, Brownhill, Pack, Smith, Walsh, Bryan, Paterson, Reid. Subs: Wollacott, Baker, Eliasson, Kent, Engvall, Taylor, Diedhiou

Manchester City: Bravo; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Zinchenko; Fernandinho; Bernardo, Silva, De Bruyne, Sane; Aguero. Subs: Ederson, Danilo, Kompany, Sterling, Gundogan, Mangala, Yaya Toure