Release from Atlanta United:
Citing the franchise’s promise to be as competitive as possible from Day 1, Atlanta United announced today the team will begin its inaugural campaign in 2017 playing a normalized schedule with a balanced slate of home games across the MLS season. To that end, the club will open play in the spring of 2017 at Georgia Tech’s historic Bobby Dodd Stadium, with home matches played there until Mercedes-Benz Stadium is ready for play next summer. Previously, the club had planned to play its first three months entirely on the road.
“Our aim is to build a championship caliber soccer club and to be as competitive as we can from the start,” said Darren Eales, president of Atlanta United. “With the amount of excitement we’ve seen for the club, especially over the past few months as our season ticket sales have continued to rise, it was evident that playing at home for the first part of the season was in the best interest of our fans and our players. We’re very pleased that we are able to open the 2017 MLS season at Bobby Dodd Stadium.”
Last week, Atlanta United named Geraldo ‘Tata’ Martino the club’s first head coach. Martino was briefed on the decision to play a balanced schedule by Eales during contract negotiations and the former Argentina national team coach endorsed opening home play at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Record-setting interest in the team from fans across metro Atlanta was a key factor in the decision. The club recently announced MLS-record ticket sales for an expansion team when it crossed the 22,000 threshold. Atlanta United has also staked claim to having one of the largest supporters sections in MLS, with just over 3,000 tickets sold to date.
“The support for our team has been nothing short of phenomenal and we’re thrilled to play in front of our passionate supporters three months earlier than we had planned to,” continued Eales. “Our fans will now see our team early in the MLS season and enjoy two home openers – our first-ever game in Atlanta at Bobby Dodd Stadium in the spring and the first game in the spectacular Mercedes-Benz Stadium next summer.”
Construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium continues to progress rapidly, with completion of the highly-complex roof steel structure scheduled for completion on October 14. Removal of several cranes and work on the lower bowl will accelerate shortly thereafter and several other areas of the stadium are already in completion stages.
Steve Cannon, chief executive officer of AMB Group which is the parent company of Atlanta United, said the company expects to begin moving into offices and warehousing areas at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as early as April of 2017 and take control of the rest of the building in phases throughout the spring and summer. Atlanta United will debut in Mercedes-Benz Stadium later in the summer when the building is ready for play and according to the MLS schedule, which is expected to be unveiled in January of 2017.