It’s been common knowledge that Mercedes-Benz Stadium wasn’t going to be completed by the time the 2017 MLS season begins in March. That obviously was a tricky situation for Atlanta United, as it raised the question of where they’d play their home matches (or how they’d handle home matches) in the interim. That’s been resolved now with the club coming to an agreement to play at Bobby Dodd Stadium until Mercedes-Benz Stadium is ready.
That’s good news for supporters, right? Well, maybe not. Here’s some of the pros and cons I see with Atlanta United playing in Bobby Dodd Stadium:
- The team is expected to play a normal home schedule, as opposed to one with all road games toward the front of the season and home games toward the back. That was the likely option that was on the table for the club before today’s announcement. In Bobby Dodd Stadium, the team has a well-known, landmark location to call home temporarily, and it won’t be a full three months until they can be seen in their own city.
- Bobby Dodd Stadium is convenient to the North Avenue MARTA station, meaning supporters can hop on the train and be a short distance from the action. MARTA is a brief ten-minute walk, so you don’t have to drive (if you don’t want to). Of course, since you live in Atlanta, driving in Midtown (especially on the connector) is highly discouraged pretty much any time of day. It’s not the five/six minutes you’ll get with Dome/GWCC or Vine City Station at the Dome, but it’s still a quick walk.
- I get that some supporters are upset that the stadium won’t be done in time (which is a different matter), but it’s not worth asking a refund because of it. (DSS spoke to a team official to clear the air on any concerns that would come up.) However, I do feel their pain in that they are paying for a premium experience that they won’t get at Bobby Dodd. The stadium is over 100 years old and was last renovated in 2003. Thirteen years doesn’t seem like that long ago, but in stadium terms, that’s ancient times in this day and age. Also, all of the amenities that MBS will feature obviously won’t be in play (especially club seats, even though Bobby Dodd has luxury suites), but the lower concession prices and pre-game buffet might be. We’ll have to see.
- One of the main attractions of Mercedes-Benz Stadium was the technology they would use to eliminate the cavernous feel of playing in an NFL stadium in order to make it more intimate. At Bobby Dodd Stadium, they’re going to have to find a way to eliminate the cavernous feel of playing in a college football stadium to make it more intimate. I’m sure they have a plan that has yet to be communicated, but I wish they had hinted at it a little more during today’s announcement. I understand that they’ll do what they can, but tarping off the upper levels just won’t feel (or look) the same, so hopefully it won’t be as simple as that.
This isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s the best solution for now and a temporary fix. The good news is that instead of nine months, fans will be able to see Atlanta United up close right away when the new season starts just six months from now.