Atlanta United made a very interesting announcement on Wednesday. Instead of opening the 2017 MLS season with a strenuous and exhausting three-month road trip, they’ll begin the season playing their home matches at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium.
While some fans saw this as good news as it would give them a chance to see the team in Atlanta before the scheduled June opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, others didn’t feel so optimistic. Specifically season ticket holders who were under the impression that every home match would be at the new stadium.
Dirty South Soccer spoke to Atlanta United’s VP of Business Operations, Ann Rodriguez, to get more info on the news.
In regards to fans who may be unhappy to the point of asking for a refund on their season tickets, the message is simply have patience and wait and see how the 2017 schedule unfolds before jumping to conclusions.
“We want to get the schedule done and work through that so we can understand the central impact there. Right now if fans have concerns or questions they should reach out to our customer service group so we can talk to them and hear them out. Our initial thought is that we'd like to get the schedule finalized so we know how many games are at each venue.”
Back in 2010, the Philadelphia Union had a similar situation. Their brand new stadium (now known as PPL Park) didn’t open until June 27th. So, instead of playing all away matches until then, they played two matches at Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, and eight away matches to balance out their schedule.
Assuming construction on Mercedes-Benz Stadium stays on the current projected path, it is set to open at the beginning of June, similar to Philadelphia’s predicament. Common sense tells us Atlanta United and MLS will be working closely together to make sure to most amount of home matches as possible will be played in the new stadium.
The AJC’s Doug Roberson reports that Atlanta United’s contract with Georgia Tech to use Bobby Dodd Stadium runs through July (a contingency plan just in case construction times run over).
Some fans also voiced their concerns about season ticket seating arrangements and how it would translate to Bobby Dodd. Rodriguez says that the team will do their best to make sure the arrangements are comparable to MBS.
“This is new information for us. We just got the agreement completed, so we're going to work through and try to get everyone comparable seating assignments at Bobby Dodd. That includes honoring the group seating requests. We're going to work through site lines and group requests. We're going to do our best to get that sorted out as soon as possible.”
With a soccer team playing some home matches in a college football stadium, they could look out of place. However, Rodriguez says the team will do everything they can to make sure the games feel like they belong to Atlanta United.
“We have to get in the venue and really understand the layout and everything. But we'll do what we can to make it feel like an Atlanta United home game within the confines of our contract (with Georgia Tech).”
Concessions are also a big topic that fans have had questions about. The good news is that alcohol will be served during matches (it isn’t for Georgia Tech games), however the low-priced menu that Atlanta United will feature at MBS has not been confirmed as they will have to negotiate with separate vendors with Georgia Tech.
While this may not be the ideal situation for Atlanta United’s fans, it seems like a much better solution than forcing the team to be at a disadvantage with a three-month road trip to begin their first season.