Atlanta United will launch their inaugural Major League Soccer season at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field on Georgia Tech’s campus. Rather than the expected long schedule of games on the road to start the season while Mercedes-Benz Stadium was being completed, the club has decided to use an alternate venue in order to have games in Atlanta during that period of time.
Darren Eales, president of Atlanta United, said:
“With the amount of excitement we’ve seen for the club, especially over the past few months as our season ticket sales have continued to rise, it was evident that playing at home for the first part of the season was in the best interest of our fans and our players. We’re very pleased that we are able to open the 2017 MLS season at Bobby Dodd Stadium.”
In a press release announcing the decision, the club cited a promise to be “as competitive as possible from Day 1” as a reason for deciding to begin its first season at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Home matches will be played there until Mercedes-Benz Stadium is ready later in the summer.
Tata Martino, manager of Atlanta United, said:
"It's very encouraging to know we'll be playing in front of our home fans much sooner than expected. From a competitive standpoint, having a more balanced schedule will give us the best chance at success in our inaugural season."
Another reason for the move is record-setting interest in the club’s first season. Referencing the season ticket sales breaking MLS records for an expansion team, Eales said:
“The support for our team has been nothing short of phenomenal and we’re thrilled to play in front of our passionate supporters three months earlier than we had planned to. Our fans will now see our team early in the MLS season and enjoy two home openers – our first-ever game in Atlanta at Bobby Dodd Stadium in the spring and the first game in the spectacular Mercedes-Benz Stadium next summer.”
The club is working to “secure comparable seating locations” for season ticket holders at Bobby Dodd Stadium to what they will have at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They expect to be able to provide information regarding seating locations by November 7.
College football has been played on the site since 1905 and grandstands were first erected by Georgia Tech students in 1913. The stadium was named Grant Field at that time to honor a donation from John W. Grant, a well-known Atlanta merchant and member of the Georgia Tech Board of Trustees. In 1988, the stadium name was modified to include the illustrious former Tech football coach Bobby Dodd.
It is the oldest on-campus site for major college football in the country. After many renovations, the facility seats 55,000 currently. The field was re-sodded prior to the 2015 college football season.
Two professional soccer teams have called the stadium home. The Atlanta Apollos played their 1973 North American Soccer League at Grant Field before folding at the end of the season. In 2001, the Atlanta Beat of the Women’s United Soccer Association played their inaugural season at the stadium before moving to Morris Brown’s Herndon Stadium for their next two seasons. It was also part of Atlanta’s unsuccessful bid to host FIFA World Cup games in 1994.
The 2017 MLS schedule will tentatively be released in December.