Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank confirmed what many have assumed for months: that the next MLS expansion franchise will be playing at a new Atlanta stadium in 2017.
Blank, founder of The Home Depot, has spearheaded development of a new downtown retractable-roof for his Falcons. With the project in the final design stages, now’s the time to plan for a future MLS team. And Blank thinks MLS and international soccer is a perfect match for a new Atlanta stadium, according to a radio interview with a local station:
“We think it’s a tremendous fit for Atlanta from a variety of standpoints,” Blank said. “Our new stadium is being designed to accommodate potentially the World Cup and international soccer games with the roof expanding. The roof, obviously, is retractable, which means we can open and close it to any level we want to. The field will be designed to accommodate soccer. We’re enthused about that. We think the fan support in Atlanta will be incredible. An urban, downtown soccer stadium will be a tremendous hit in Atlanta.”
The new Atlanta stadium will be smaller than the Georgia Dome, seating only 65,000. But that’s plenty for MLS soccer, as well as NFL football these days.
MLS expansion is expected to be announced at an April 16 event.
One issue that’s sure to pop up: the status of the NASL Atlanta Silverbacks. Silverbacks games are considerably more laid back than MLS matches: Silverbacks Park seats only 5,000, with an expansion to 10,000 planned for the future. At this time, Silverbacks ownership and NASL officials foresee the two teams coexisting in the large Atlanta market, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Bill Peterson, commissioner of the North American Soccer League, where the Silverbacks are members, said Tuesday that he doesn’t think a second team in the city will be a threat.
“Atlanta is a city that will benefit from more than one soccer club,” he said. “It may raise awareness and excitement throughout the region. This could be a good thing for all of us, whether we are competing on the field or off the field.”…
But Peterson acknowledges that Jerkunica and the rest of the Silverbacks ownership group likely will have a lot to think about over the next three years as it relates to the business of running a franchise: community and corporate sponsors, community and government support, etc.