With team owner Arthur Blank announcing Mercedes-Benz Stadium construction delays, the 2017 MLS season could be impacted by Atlanta United FC not able to play at home until June.
Blank announced the stadium’s opening is now delayed to June 1, 2017. That won’t affect the Atlanta Falcons season, and it’s unclear how Blank will handle the expansion MLS franchise set to begin play in March 2017 — but the price tag will go past the budgeted $1.4 billion.
The stadium is a massive project on many levels — construction began way back in 2014, and you can see how large and cutting-edge the facility is in Zach Spedden’s preview — and while plenty of lead time was allowed for the project, delays in these situations aren’t uncommon. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
But the delay means Blank’s soccer team won’t have use of its home stadium for the first three months of the 2017 season, slated to be Atlanta United’s debut season. MLS teams’ 34-game schedules run from early March until late October.
Blank said Atlanta United remains committed to beginning play in 2017 and “fully anticipates” playing all 17 of its home games in the new stadium that season, meaning it would play on the road through the first three months of the schedule. But he said an alternate temporary venue will be lined up in Atlanta for the soccer team if needed, with a decision on that possibility coming later this year.
However, the news of Mercedes-Benz Stadium construction delays didn’t seem to generate much consternation in MLS league offices:
A Major League Soccer executive said Thursday the league is aware of the delay and not alarmed by it.
“MLS has extensive experience working collaboratively with our clubs on scheduling when dealing with delays on new stadiums,” Dan Courtemanche, the league’s executive vice president of communications, said. “In fact, only one club, (New York) Red Bulls in 2010, played their opening match in their new stadium. Most clubs went four-eight weeks on the road before their home opener when playing in a new venue. … Other clubs played in temporary venues.”
He cited seven examples of teams that opened new stadiums at least three months into a season.
“For us, it’s business as usual,” Courtemanche said of the Atlanta delay.