So The Benz is going to be delayed. I don't like it. You don't either. The thought of potentially playing the first Atlanta United home game inside Turner Field irks me to my core. It's like a bad dream.
However, we need to face reality: the team needs to play home games. In Atlanta.
Teams are naturally better at home. That's not some new revelation, but most professional teams aim to win all their home matches and split the away games. If Atlanta starts their first three months (around 12 matches) on the road, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that AUFC will have a slow start and a poor record.
Team President Darren Eales is aware of the challenges facing expansion teams and has already taken steps to combat them by affiliating with the Charleston Battery this season.
"We’ve looked at all the data and the average is around 13 points between the teams that come in without any history or without a USL team unlike a team like Orlando or Seattle that comes in with a team that is already existing."
Eales, fresh to the MLS scene, is clearly doing whatever he can to get ahead of the competition. But the stadium delay is an obvious blow to that philosophy, which is why playing the first three months of their inaugural season on the road should not happen.
Here are a few temporary venues Atlanta United should consider inhabiting in 2017:
Find a way. Just do it.
Plot the grass early enough so it's as perfect as it can be. Grass over turf can be tough sometimes, but if it's done right it'll work fine. We are not playing out first match in 2017 on an American football field with American football lines. Sell every seat. Give away the remaining tickets if it's within reason. There is absolutely NO reason (barring weird scheduling issues) the opening match and the ensuing home matches can't be played in the Georgia Dome.
Bobby Dodd Stadium
My only issue with this is, Go Dawgs!
Suck it up UGA grads. This is bigger than your infatuation with a football team (notice how specific I am). Put aside your differences and accept that Bobby Dodd Stadium is a serious contender should the Georgia Dome be unavailable to host the beautiful game for some ungodly reason. It seats 55,000, well within the 18,000 seat requirement for an MLS stadium. Football lines would not be an issue as Georgia Tech plays on Bermuda Grass and March is obviously not football season.
The only reason I would be opposed is because Bobby Dodd may be too perfect. Open air stadium on grass? It may be difficult to transition from that to The Benz's planned turf-field.
Back to the bad dream...
I know we would all hate it. But playing the games in Atlanta should supersede playing in a baseball stadium. It should be noted that Turner Field has been sold to Georgia State University, and by 2017 could be a baseball diamond-less Turner Field by that point. Admittedly, I don't know what the timeline for any remodeling or conversions would even look like, but it should be a consideration.
It would be a visual, and therefore, visceral betrayal! MORE BAD DREAMING!
This would look exactly like Busch Stadium when the US Men's National Team hosted St. Vincent & the Grenadines. I did not like it. Neither did anyone else. But for the sake of playing matches in Atlanta, (you know what I mean) I will suffer through the visual and visceral betrayal.
University of Georgia could have an outside chance of hosting Atlanta United's first home-match.
It would be a drive for most of us, but there would be no better night setting than Sanford Stadium packed with 92,000 rabid fans. The stadium hosted Olympic soccer matches in 1996 so it's within the realm of possibility that Atlanta United would ask the University of Georgia to host their first match. It could also be a ridiculously amazing opportunity to market to millennials. Seeing a soccer environment first-hand could attract many of those students to attend matches during their summer break.