The Georgia Dome

Atlanta, Georgia, 1992

Architects: Heery International; Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates
Rosser Fabrap International, Inc.; Williams-Russell and Johnson, Inc.
Roof Structural Engineers: Weidlinger Associates

Listen to the Introduction

Opened in 1992, the Georgia Dome is home to the Atlanta Falcons, and like the Minneapolis Metrodome, its origins lay in a sports franchise's threat to leave Atlanta for a city that would offer a more profitable stadium. The state of Georgia had been trying to establish Atlanta as the convention center of the south in any case, and Governor Joe Frank Harris supported the idea of building a multipurpose arena that could both accommodate the Falcons' needs and add to the 2.5 million square feet of existing exhibition space in downtown Atlanta. A complex funding package ($14 million for the site, and $174.5 million for the building) included city, county, and state contributions and avoided incurring any direct taxpayer liability by relying on industrial revenue bonds and monies raised from an increase in hotel/motel tax in Atlanta and surrounding areas.

Heery International's Scott Braley, who was the project manager for the Georgia Dome, described the 80,000-seat Georgia Dome as "a building that just happens to have a stadium inside of it." 275 feet tall, the Dome's 615 x 750-square-foot space is covered with the world's largest fabric-covered tensegrity roof structure -- a roof type envisioned by R. Buckminster Fuller and first built by David Geiger for the Seoul Olympic Gymnastics Arena in 1988 in Korea.

Designers attempted to alleviate the placelessness viewers feel inside most covered stadiums by including two large, glass-covered atriums that allow visitors to look out on downtown Atlanta. From most vantage points the Georgia Dome seems as much suburban mall as sports arena, containing not only an international telecommunications center but also multiple pizza and Haagen-Dazs stands, twelve permanent restaurants, and an automated bank teller.

Cultural Impact

Despite its multipurpose design, the Georgia Dome nevertheless illustrates how completely finances now dominate the interests of American sports. Whereas the Astrodome in Houston had 51 rentable luxury suites, the Georgia Dome has over three times that number--185 "executive" suites that range in price from $20,000 to $120,000 per year. The way the structure accommodates television broadcasting further exemplifies how business interests now have come to dominate stadium design. In 1961, Earl ("Curly") Lambeau, the coach of the Chicago Cardinals, warned that if professional baseball and football teams continued to solicit revenues from the broadcasting industry, "our stadiums may have to be turned into [television] studios." The Georgia Dome nearly is that, containing not only the obligatory two 19 x 26-foot Sony Jumbotrons but also three broadcast-quality television cameras, a fully-equipped, on-site production studio, video editing facilities, satellite broadcasting capability, and an on-site full technical staff during all sporting events.


"Atlantans Plan Big Dome." Engineering News-Record. 219 (22 October 1987): 14.

Burke, John. "Georgia Dome is Super." New Orleans Times-Picayune (13 September 1992): 4.

Dore, Jeff. "Football at the Dome? Just a Bad Floor Show at a Big Restaurant." The Atlanta Journal/Constitution (15 November 1992):4.

Harriman, Marc S. "High Wire Act: Atlanta's Multipurpose Arena Advances Tensile Structures to New Heights." Architecture 81, no. 11 (December 1992): 73-77.

Noll, Roger, editor. Government and Sports Business. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute, 1974.

Setzer, Stephen. "Raise High the Roof." Engineering News-Record. 228 (16 March 1992): 24-28.

Sheeley, Glenn. "Checking Out the Georgia Dome." The Atlanta Journal/Constitution (19 March 1992): 3.

Various topical articles in The Atlanta Journal/Constitution.

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