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Tennessee plays Sept 4 in Atlanta’s new stadium.
Mike Strange / News Sentinel

HOOVER, Ala. — Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where Tennessee opens the 2017 football season, has 250 fewer seats than the Georgia Dome, its soon-to-disappear downtown Atlanta neighbor.

It’s got more of everything else.

Twice as many escalators and elevators. Nearly 2,000 more parking spaces. Thirteen times as much scoreboard square footage.

And, for thirsty Vol fans, 1,264 beer taps compared to 30 at the Dome.

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The new home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United, the SEC football championship game and assorted national events opens for business Aug. 26.

Tennessee will be among its first visitors, playing Georgia Tech on Sept. 4, two days after Alabama and Florida State open the Chick-fil-A Kickoff weekend.

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The new facility has risen a mere 83 feet from the Georgia Dome, which opened in 1992 and is due for demolition in November.

“The Georgia Dome was a very functional building that served its purpose,” Atlanta Falcons CEO Rich McKay said Tuesday at SEC Media Days. “We did not try to build a better Georgia Dome. We tried to create a really completely different fan experience.

“We wanted to change the game.”

Dome was no home for Vols

Tennessee hopes to change its Atlanta vibe.

If any help is needed pushing the plunger to implode the Georgia Dome,  Vol fans would volunteer. Following a win in the 1998 SEC championship game, the building became a place where Tennessee seasons went to die.

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SEC championship game losses happened in 2001, 2004 and 2007. The most painful was the 2001 upset to LSU that cost UT a chance to play for a national championship in the Rose Bowl.

Chick-fil-A/Peach Bowl losses ended the 2002, 2003 and 2009 seasons with a thud. 

A win over N.C. State in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game broke the gloom. But it turned out to be fool’s gold for coach Derek Dooley, who was fired before the season’s final game.

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Butch Jones begins his critical fifth season at Tennessee against a troublesome opponent in America’s newest sports palace. Mercedes-Benz Stadium will stage the 2018 College Football Championship game, followed by the Super Bowl in 2019 and the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in 2020.

The $1.5 billion stadium boasts a retractable roof. The scheduled opening for March 1 has been pushed back three times, most recently to a Falcons  preseason game Aug. 26. 

$2 hot dogs

Tennessee fans will be among the first guests. They, no doubt, will be more impressed by the $2 hot dogs and $5 beers  than the world’s largest sculpture of a bird (a falcon) on the plaza outside.

“I hope you’re wowed by the architecture,” said McKay, “but more wowed by the fan experience.”

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Affordable concessions are but one way the stadium hopes to make each particular visitor feel at home. Another is a void of permanent logos. Instead, there are 83,000 square feet of LED signage that can be coordinated with each event.

“We designed this stadium for the SEC championship game,” McKay said. “We designed it for the Atlanta United. We designed it for the Atlanta Falcons.

“We wanted the tenants who are going to come in here and play feel like it’s their home field, their stadium.”

Stadium specifications in Atlanta

                             Mercedes-Benz Stadium      Georgia Dome

Opening day                 2017                                   1992

Cost to build              $1.5 billion                       $214 million

Funding to build        Public/private                  Public

Construction time      39 months                       28 months

Parking spaces            21,000                              19,211

Stadium height            305 feet                           275 feet

Field level                     1,018 feet about sea level     985 feet above sea level