As one of the USL‘s newest teams, Atlanta United 2 has plenty to prepare for as its debut approaches, including its use of Coolray Field.
Originally opening in 2009, Coolray Field was primary designed as the home of baseball’s Gwinnett Stripers (Class AAA; International League)–a franchise known as the Braves until rebranding in December. In addition to baseball, the venue will now host professional soccer, as it is home to Atlanta United 2.
While the arrangement of an MiLB team and a USL club sharing the same facility is hardly unique, it will be a first for this Gwinnett County, GA venue. Leading up to their first game at Coolray Field, Atlanta United 2 players are anticipating that the facility will be a fine soccer venue. More from The Gwinnett Daily Post:
Tricky to adapt to? Perhaps, but it’s not new to 24-year-old defender A.J. Cochran, who spent the last two seasons with St. Louis FC. USL teams in Louisville, Ky., and Reno, Nev., also play on baseball fields.
“It will always be a little different to play on a baseball field,” Cochran said. “Being in the league the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure to play on a couple of them. It will take probably the first 10, 15 minutes to get used to the surface. After that, you get acquainted to it really well. I could also be an advantage as well. A lot of teams come in and aren’t used to playing on a surface like that.”
[Jack] Metcalf, a native of Liverpool, England, said he looks forward to sharing the home field with the Stripers, whose seasons will overlap when Gwinnett’s season begins in April.
“The stadium looks great and I’m sure they’ll do a great job with the field,” he said. “They’ve done a great job with everything else. It’s one of those things, once we make it our home, that’s our home field and we’re going to defend it as best we can.”
Last year, Reno, Louisville, Tulsa and Harrisburg were among the cities where an MiLB team and USL club played in the same facility. That list will grow in 2018, as all four USL expansion clubs–Atlanta, Fresno FC, Las Vegas Lights FC, and Nashville SC–will play at minor league ballparks. Another addition to that list is Sounders 2, which is slated to play the 2018 and 2019 seasons at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium in anticipation of a new soccer-specific facility in Tacoma.
Atlanta United 2 will make its regular-season debut at Coolray Field on March 24, when it hosts New York Red Bulls II.