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On site in Marietta: Signing the training ground arrangement

Dirty South Soccer sat in on the Marietta City Council meeting that produced an agreement for the new Atlanta United training facility.

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AUFC President Darren Eales with Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin. Both are signing the preliminary "Memorandum of Understanding" for the Marietta training facility.
AUFC President Darren Eales with Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin. Both are signing the preliminary "Memorandum of Understanding" for the Marietta training facility.
Andrew Wagner

Atlanta United FC and the city of Marietta agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to construct a 32 acre facility and training ground for the club on Franklin Road on Nov. 11. After a crumbled deal in DeKalb, Atlanta United reverted to its backup plan six months in the making.

Dirty South Soccer went to the site of the proposed training facility: 861 Franklin Road to see the state of the land Atlanta United would be leasing. The city of Marietta and Franklin Road have a 20-year history of "redevelopment," which the club is becoming a part of.

The basics of the  Memorandum of Understanding both parties signed show:

  • A 32-acre property with room for six fields.
  • Offices and training rooms for both the first-team as well as the academy will be a part of the site
  • A 20-year lease with options up to thirty years total.
  • AUFC will "use its best efforts to invest a minimum of $40M to improve the facility on or before March 31, 2017."
  • "Design and Construction is expected to commence no later than January 1, 2016."

At City Hall Council Chambers, the timeline for the evening became clear. A town hall discussion was open to anyone who wished to engage in a Q&A, then the City Council discussed specifics within the MOU and suggested amendments. Finally the council voted on the preliminary acceptance of the deal. The full MOU is available to read at the bottom of this post.

Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin

The town hall session brought out a few concerned Marietta residents along with some who were pleased to finally see development on Franklin Road:

  • In reference to the failed DeKalb bid, Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin said, "Our dirt is better than their dirt," to much laughter. Mayor Tumlin insinuated that Marietta had long since evaluated its quality of soil whereas it appears DeKalb did this on the back end, resulting in their loss of agreement with AUFC.
  • The property has already been re-zoned to commercial use.
  • Mayor Tumlin confirmed that there "was not an economic study done as to the benefits for Marietta."
  • This led to a great deal of concern for lifetime Marietta resident Larry Wills. When asked by DSS, Wills told us, "There's no cost-benefit plan. There's no payback for the city of Marietta." Wills raised many objections over the course of the evening, even to the point of summarizing his concerns a final time for approximately ten minutes when Council asked for objections prior to the vote.
  • When asked what would happen to the site should the Atlanta United project fail, Mayor Tumlin said, "If it ceases to be used for soccer, they give it back to us."

In between the sessions, DSS spoke to the City Manager, Bill Bruton. He said that Atlanta United recognizes that "they've got to have this facility up as soon as possible." Prior to the vote, when asked if he anticipated any possible setbacks to the deal, similar to DeKalb, Bruton said, "no, not after tonight."

A key speaker during the council discussion was Marietta Ward 7 Councilman Philip Goldstein. Goldstein was very outspoken in regards to key issues he has with the initial MOU. At one point, he acknowledged that he has over 40 years experience in the field of commercial real estate and was not consulted regarding this deal.

Goldstein stated, "This memorandum of understanding leaves a lot of room for improvement." He added that once all the details were ironed out the arrangement is, "a home run for the soccer organization and it's a home run for Marietta." Eventually, Goldstein did, in fact, vote in favor of the deal.

A six to one vote approved the deal and sets AUFC on track to tentatively begin construction in as little as a month and a half.

After the vote, Eales told DSS there will be an aggressive timeline for construction ensuring the facility is completed by March 2017 for the club's regular season.

"Our aim would be March 2017," Eales said.

"We want to be there ready in preparation for the season. It is going to need a lot of work, but that’s what we’re gonna certainly aim to do."

While the Marietta site will not feature a full-fledged stadium like the renderings in DeKalb showed, Eales discussed having a field that is reserved for academy matches.

"This site doesn’t lend itself to a stadium, with the size of the site," Eales added.

"I think, from our perspective, we will have  a 'show pitch,' which will be that pitch. It’s partly for our academy players, as we want them to have one pitch that they can play on a weekend, that is for them, that feels special."

"It is that idea of, 'you train during the week, but you have to be a professional on the weekend.' It won’t be anything spectacular, but it will be, in a sense, a step up. "

AUFC Marietta MOU