After months of speculation, Atlanta United FC has confirmed that Bobby Dodd Stadium will be used as its temporary home next season.
The issue of where the United would begin the 2017 MLS season arose when it became clear that Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which they will share with the Atlanta Falcons, would not be ready until at least June. At that point, there were two options for the team, which were to play on the road until Mercedes-Benz Stadium was open or seek a temporary facility.
Initially the United were planning to play on the road until at least June, but reached an agreement with Georgia Tech to use Bobby Dodd Stadium. Primarily a college football venue, Bobby Dodd Stadium makes sense for the United on a few levels. Its location within Atlanta allows the team to build its fan base, and the facility is fairly intimate for college football at 55,000 seats.
While the team still expected to return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium by June, the United is making sure that its stay at Bobby Dodd Stadium could be extended. More from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
The contract between Atlanta United and Georgia Tech will end in late July, which [team president Darren] Eales said is a contingency. The contract was signed within the past 10 days. The goal is to play games in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in June. A copy of the contract between AMB Group, or Atlanta United, has been requested from Georgia Tech.
Officials from Major League Soccer approved the use of Bobby Dodd, which features natural grass with strips of artificial turf running along the edges of the sidelines. The width of the grass and turf is 72.3 yards. The length of the field is 129 yards. FIFA’s prefers fields of minimums of 70 yards wide and 110 yards long. Eales said the club will work with Georgia Tech to replace the strips of artificial turf with natural grass. The stadium seats 55,000 for football.
Eales said that Atlanta United will request from MLS a balanced schedule with the same number of home games at Bobby Dodd that the team would have had at Mercedes-Benz Stadium if it were open.
Cannon noted that Atlanta United will now have two openers: one at Bobby Dodd and one at Mercedes-Benz. Also, Atlanta United will play its first home games in the oldest stadium – Bobby Dodd has been in use since 1913 – and will play its last home game in the newest stadium. The steel components of the roof of Mercedes-Benz Stadium are scheduled to be finished on Oct. 14. Once the roof is complete, the cranes will be broken down and removed and the completion of the lower bowl will accelerate.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium is expected to host upwards of 80,000 spectators for major events, but its soccer capacity will be about 29,000.
Image courtesy Georgia Tech football.