The Atlanta United FC debut season could be affected by stadium issues, as the projected new home of the MLS squad and the Atlanta Falcons may not open until the beginning of the NFL season.
There’s been no official announcement about where Atlanta United will play next season, past the stated goal to play at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But with a new opening date of June 1, 2017, the beginning of the MLS season is in serious doubt — and if the opening moves to the beginning of September, as is potentially the case, then the whole season needs to be remapped. The Atlanta Falcons are already preparing a backup plan that would see the team play the entire 2017 preseason on the road or at alternative Atlanta locales. So how will this affect the Atlanta United FC debut season?
The Georgia Dome won’t be an option: the current Falcons home will be torn sometime after the last March event there. Of course, those plans could change; keeping the Georgia Dome open would solve many issues, giving FC a temporary home and the Falcons a preseason cushion.
There are also two football options. The University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium would be a huge venue for MLS, with a capacity of 92,746. Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium would be much closer: it’s a more intimate venue (seating 55,000) and closer to the fan base Atlanta United FC is working to cultivate.
One interesting thing to note — Falcons President/CEO Rick McKay isn’t promising Atlanta United will have the debut event at the new stadium:
“I’m not sure we know yet,” McKay said. “I would say to you that there’s a very good chance that Atlanta United opens the stadium as the first event. That’s kind of what we thought we’d think at this point in time. But with respect to other events that we’ve already had offered to us or brought up to us that are really cool events, we’re not going to say what those are yet. You’ll like them.
“There are a couple out-of-the-box ideas that have been brought to us that would be really cool and would be neat for Atlanta and a worldwide stage, so let us just work through that a little bit. I still believe if you’re just asking for who’s going to run on this field first, it pretty well should be Atlanta United. But as far as the opening event and those types of things other than Atlanta United, that remains to be seen. That would be a mystery.”