Atlanta has long been on MLS’s radar. Atlanta Falcons owner and Home Depot founder Arthur Blank submitted a bid to MLS in 2008, but later withdrew based on the inability to secure a stadium deal. Once the stadium issue was resolved, the bid was resubmitted, and MLS announced the expansion franchise in April 2014.
All it took to get the deal done was a $1.4 billion stadium deal – a deal that will be financed largely through private funds (70-80%), with the remainder raised by the city of Atlanta through an existing hotel-motel tax.
The stadium, unlike most MLS stadiums, will be dual purpose, and will also be the home to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. The retractable-roof stadium will be versatile, with 65,000-75,000 seats for football, depending on configuration, and is expandable up to 83,000 for basketball — it will host the 2020 NCAA Final Four.
For soccer, the idea is to curtain off the uppermost deck, creating a more intimate feel. For MLS games, the stadium will hold 29,322 fans.
Design features of the stadium include a unique petal shaped retractable roof design that can open or close in eight minutes. It will also feature a floor-to-ceiling wall of windows looking out on Atlanta, and a five-story, 360-degree HD videoboard, touted as the largest in the world.
“I’m excited for the franchise, for our fans, all of the stakeholders,” Blank told ESPN.com. “Any owner would say [about their own stadium] that this is going be the finest stadium, but it’s more important to me that people who are more objective than I would probably look at it and say it’s going to be finest sports-entertainment facility in the United States and one of the best in the world.”
Almost two years ahead of its debut, Atlanta United is already highly anticipated by Atlanta-area soccer fans.
The team recently hired U.S. soccer legend Carlos Bocanegra as its technical director, a popular choice after his 15-year career in professional soccer including stints in MLS, France’s Ligue One, and four years in the English Premiere League with Fulham. Bocanegra will oversee scouting, player development, wellness and youth academy programs. He is a well known face for the franchise.
Ticket sales for the new franchise have also been remarkable, with Blank recently announcing that the team has 14,000 season-ticket deposits, almost half of the capacity of the new stadium.
The team and Dekalb County also announced the Atlanta United FC headquarters and training facility will be located in Decatur.
Atlanta United will build a 20,000-25,000-square-foot corporate headquarters for the soccer club, three outdoor practice fields and a 3,500-seat outdoor stadium. In addition, Atlanta United will pay the County 15 percent of net revenue derived from any naming rights sold for the complex and any revenue-generating branded events. Ownership of all assets reverts back to DeKalb County at the conclusion of the 30-year lease, including potential extensions. DeKalb County will provide, via ground lease to Decide DeKalb – DeKalb’s economic development agency – approximately 41 acres of county-owned land near Kensington Road and Memorial Drive. Decide DeKalb is responsible for demolition of existing buildings that are no longer useful county assets, as well as other land preparation of the property.
“We are very pleased to call DeKalb County home,” said Atlanta United President Darren Eales. “This location will not only provide the space, functionality and flexibility we need for our first team and youth academy, but it also allows us to truly become part of the fabric of the community. We are excited to be able to share the Atlanta United experience with our supporters and neighbors.”