For the first time ever, the Atlanta Falcons decided to hold a “Fan Day” event at Mercedes Benz Stadium as part of their publicly open practices during the preseason. This event looks to be a replacement for the very popular “Friday Night Lights” events that the team had put on in previous years at local high schools.
For just $5 per ticket, fans were able to get into the stadium to walk-around, enjoy the affordable food options and take in the practice in the comfort of an air-conditioned stadium. The value appeared to be apparent to many, as over 60,000 people bought tickets to see the event. All proceeds from the event will go to the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee’s capital improvement project.
A little after noon, the stadium roof opened automatically, taking around 10 minutes in total. While the roof opened, a video played on the halo board detailing Atlanta’s rich and diverse history. The crowd cheered loudly for shots of Martin Luther King Jr, Mike Vick and Matt Ryan as they appeared overhead.
To be honest, the crowd seemed very energetic and gave the stadium an atmosphere that outpaces what you normally see during preseason games.
This was the first padded practice of this preseason for the Falcons, so as you can imagine, players were getting a little feisty. The defense looked very good in drills, with Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley getting off the ball very quick.
The offense looked rusty, which is to be expected. Calvin Ridley dropped a few contested catches, something that we knew was a weak point in his game coming out of college. Julio looked to be in top-form and his timing with Ryan didn’t appear to suffer in the least.
On a broader scale, the view of the practice made it easier to see how hands-on this coaching staff really is. We’ve mentioned it before on the site, but this is a very large coaching staff that is actively coaching up guys after every single drill. The immediate feedback/correction loop is a key component of Dan Quinn’s coaching philosophy and it was even more apparent from above.
In total, the event was a great one. It is a good way for fans to see and experience the stadium without paying an arm and a leg to do so. It also sent an incredible message to the team about the kind of support they can expect to get this year from their fans. While the smaller atmosphere of the Flowery Branch practices makes it easier to pay attention to the individual battles, my hope is that they’ll repeat this event in the future. It’s clear that the fans have a definite appetite for it.