ATLANTA - The Atlanta Falcons want their home-field advantage to be the best in the National Football League.
To help accomplish that, the team announced some changes along with some new traditions they want to establish this season.
These will all begin when the Falcons host the Philadelphia Eagles for Sunday Night Football this week.
“We want to be known throughout the NFL as the toughest place for an opponent to come and play," said Harry Hynekamp, vice president of fan experience of AMB Sports and Entertainment Group. "To do that we must deliver the very best fan experience."
Here are some changes Falcons fans can expect at home games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this season.
Falcon supporter groups
Falcons want their supporters to become a bigger part of the game day experience. The ATL Cast is a group made up of 1,500 season-ticket holders and fans that has been around for years. The group will have a new tailgating location and also lead a "Bird Walk" into the stadium.
“We are really trying to create home-field advantage, both in the stadium and across the entire city of Atlanta and metro area,” Falcons vice president and chief marketing officer Morgan Shaw Parker said. “We’re trying to bring the team, the fans and the city closer together.”
Along with the ATL Cast, the team's hype group known as the "Bird Gang" will walk around the tailgating areas to interact with fans. They'll be joined by special guests, Falcons cheerleaders and mascot Freddie the Falcon.
Speaking of Freddie, the team will unveil a second mascot Freddie Jr. later this season.
Tailgating and traditions
For those who don't want to participate in traditional tailgating, the Falcons want to offer a family-friendly experience. The American Family Insurance Fan Village will have fun activities for parents and kids to enjoy all season.
Throughout the tailgates, the Falcons are introducing a new way to let fans know that game time is approaching. Train horns will sound off when the gates open and again 90, 60 and 30 minutes before kickoff.
Each week, the Falcons will also invite an Atlanta icon or celebrity to sound the horn during pregame festivities. This week's "Celebrity Torn Horn Guest" against the Eagles is rapper Big Boi.
As part of the fan experience, Atlanta also wants to bring back a familiar tradition: The Dirty Bird.
The dance has been popular with fans since Jamal Anderson introduced the iconic dance during the Falcons' run to Super Bowl XXXIII. So you can expect signs promoting The Dirty Bird throughout the city soon - and maybe from Julio Jones when he scores a touchdown this year.
Pregame show, halftime shows and in-game entertainment
The Falcons are promising this year a pregame show that's not like anything else in the NFL. Fans are asked to be in their seats 30 minute before kickoff. The show will begin on the halo-shaped video board and extend to performances on the field.
At Sunday's home opener, fans will also receive a special card with a cell phone light cover to turn Mercedes-Benz Stadium red.
The Falcons don't want the energy to go away while the team is in the locker room during halftime. This season, there will be halftime entertainment featuring marching bands, drill teams and junior cheerleaders.
Other changes to know about
Aside from the pregame changes, the biggest change Falcons fans will notice is the cashless policy. The stadium already switched to cashless for Atlanta United this season.
Concession stands will require payment with credit cards, debit cards or mobile services.
The Falcons will play on a new artificial turf surface, which was installed in April. The stadium’s previous turf, FieldTurf’s “Revolution 360” system, was replaced with a newer FieldTurf system called “CORE.”
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