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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.

 

FIFA fines Qatar after players’ political support for Emir

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.

[ MORE: Nainggolan staying at Roma ]

The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.

FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.

Report: USMNT’s Arriola drawing transfer interest abroad, in MLS

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Paul Arriola’s motor was constantly running as the United States men’s national team claimed its sixth Gold Cup title, and it could drive him all the way from Club Tijuana to Europe or a prime spot on an MLS roster.

There’s a snag, though.

[ MORE: Everton wins Europa opener ]

Arriola is reportedly wanted by Real Salt Lake and clubs in both the Netherlands and Portugal, but the LA Galaxy has what Goal.com describes a “dubious homegrown player” claim on Arriola, who participated in a minimal of practices with the Galaxy when he was younger.

As you’ll see below, there isn’t much “homegrown” about it and, to its critics, it is peak MLS monopolized tomfoolery. Here’s how Goal describes it:

“He was already a U.S. youth national team player when he traveled the 120 miles from Chula Vista to take part in a handful of training sessions with the LA Galaxy academy and eventually the Galaxy first team.

“The Galaxy are believed to hold a homegrown player claim on Arriola, and would have the right of first refusal on making Arriola an offer if he comes to MLS. The Galaxy’s current salary-cap situation might not allow them to make a serious bid for Arriola.”

But… here’s how the Galaxy described his choosing to sign for TJ instead of a pro deal from LA in 2013:

“It’s a little disappointing,” Galaxy technical director Jovan Kirovski told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday. “He went through our system, we offered him a contract and he decided to move on and go somewhere else. But that’s going to happen. It’s something that has happened before, and it’s something that will happen again.”

Arriola’s response in the same article? “I thank the Galaxy for giving me a wonderful opportunity to train with their first team and be a part of their first team which really taught me a lot.” That doesn’t read as much like he “went through their system.” He played in at least one U-18 game, debuting in October 2012, did more training with TJ in December 2012, and signed for the Mexican side in May 2013.

Should that qualify him as Homegrown?

https://www.transfermarkt.com/paul-arriola/leistungsdaten/spieler/189876

Did Arriola spent significant time with LA, or is it possible the Galaxy might reap rewards from having an already established youth national teamer to practice when he was a kid? Whether you’re okay with that or not, consider that it encourages clubs to pilfer rights without actually registering or training the player.

Not to mention there is no guarantee that playing in the Netherlands or Portugal will be better for his development than MLS. Benfica or Ajax and potential action in European tournaments? Maybe. NAC Breda or Tondela? Maybe not.

Nevermind the quagmire that is American youth soccer clubs’ not earning money from transfer fees, the Arriola drama seems baseless. We don’t know the Galaxy will hold the player hostage, but they would actually be depriving MLS of a talent, as LA would theoretically get nothing should TJ sell him to a European club.

In any event, check out Arriola’s use chart from Tijuana and you’ll see why he’s valued by Bruce Arena as well as his suitors. He’s a Swiss Army Knife. Here’s hoping Tinseltown doesn’t stop him from a proper next step (assuming he’s ready to leave Liga MX).