ATLANTA -- After months of controversy, the new $1 billion Atlanta Falcons stadium is about to become a reality.
The city ceremonially broke ground on the stadium Monday night, with NFL and MLS commissioners flying in for the big moment.
"I always like to say, leave it up to [Falcons owner] Arthur Blank to have groundbreaking ceremony in prime time," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed promised that the new stadium would create jobs and enable the city to compete for world-class sporting events.
The retractable roof stadium is scheduled to open in March 2017. The Falcons will share the space with Atlanta's new Major League Soccer team.
"Our goal is for this building a landmark to the city and to the state -- not just for the events, but for people to come and visit and to enjoy all the other wonderful activities that surround us where we are tonight," Blank said.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who is funding part of the stadium, recently agreed to modify its architecture plans, including adding underground parking and realigning nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Blank said that he wants Super Bowl LIII, which will played in 2019, to be held at the new stadium. Voting for that game will likely take place in May of 2015. Owners are expected to vote on the 2018 on Tuesday.
5 things to know about new Falcons stadium
What's happening now? Crews are demolishing and excavating land now that will hold the new stadium. That land includes Friendship Baptist Church, which is scheduled for demolition in July. Roads are also being rearranged, with MLK Jr. Drive already half torn down.
Will anything slow construction down? The team and city have cleared some of the biggest hurdles, including a legal challenge about the bonds used to finance the stadium. The basic design has already been revealed, and architects are now finishing the final plans.
What about the surrounding neighborhoods? Many eyes are watching the Vine City and Westside areas to make sure they benefit from the stadium. The team has pledged to spend about $30 million to help develop those areas. The Blank Foundation announced the first major project, Westside Works,on Monday night. It will operate out of a local school in Vine City and English Avenue. They will train and hire more than 100 people locally to be involved in the construction of the stadium.
"We've been committed to that area for many, many years, and my goal is not only to build a great stadium – which is going to be the easier part of the equation – but to make permanent changes and be partnering people in the community and other stakeholders to make those changes in those communities," said Blank.
What's the latest on tickets? Fans are still waiting to hear the details on season and general ticket prices. The Falcons will sell personal seat licenses - a one-time fee for, basically, the right to hold season tickets.
What's the price tag? What began as a billion-dollar project is now projected at $1.2 billion. Falcons owner Arthur Blank will pay any cost overruns from here, but it still shapes up to be the most expensive stadium in Atlanta history by a large margin.