Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host its first Atlanta United FC match on Sunday, providing the venue a chance to showcase its compatibility with soccer.
Though it has already hosted four football games–including two Atlanta Falcons preseason contests, as well as a pair of college football games–one of Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s early marquee events will be the debut match for Atlanta United FC. The club is set to face off against FC Dallas on September 10, a day that will give fans a glimpse of some of Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s more unique features.
The facility is designed with both MLS and NFL in mind, meaning that many of its amenities can be adjusted to fit either sport. For instance, digital signage can be updated to reflect Falcons or United branding, while mechanical curtains can close off the upper deck to create a seating capacity and atmosphere that is more conducive to soccer. Another feature is retractable seats, something that can allow for a wider pitch.
This is a crucial feature, according to United president Darren Eales, as it allows Mercedes-Benz Stadium to accommodate more than MLS matches. More from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Mercedes-Benz Stadium addressed the first issue with retractable seats in the corners that allow the 53 1/3-yard wide football field to become a 75-yard-wide soccer pitch. This affected about 900 seats.
Soccer fields, like baseball fields, vary in dimensions. Atlanta’s is near the top end of MLS field widths, which range from 70 to 77 yards. (Field lengths in the league range from 110 to 120 yards, with Atlanta’s 115 yards long.)
“You can see that if we couldn’t retract the corner seats we would be in trouble,” Eales said as he stood on the field recently. “It’s something that costs money to do, but it was right thing to do.
“It’s very important … in particular for Atlanta United because we want to go as wide as we can. We are a young dynamic team, and we want to stretch the field. We also want to host the World Cup, and FIFA has dimensions for their international games. A 75-yard-wide pitch puts us in a great position for the World Cup.”
United will move into Mercedes-Benz Stadium after using Bobby Dodd Stadium as a temporary venue. The club found success at that facility on the attendance front, drawing 416,864 fans over nine matches, with a league-leading per-game average of 46,318.
Image courtesy Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
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