Atlanta United dropped a bombshell yesterday with the news that they will start their season at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Georgia Tech instead of the expected three month road trip while the Mercedes-Benz Stadium is being completed.
The unexpected announcement has created a bit of an uproar, due to Bobby Dodd Stadium not being able to replicate the amenities of the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Some fans have claimed that this was a bait and switch situation.
I do agree that the conversation would be different if the alternate venue was known before tickets went on sale. Would the ticket sales be the same as they are now? Maybe so, maybe not. I don’t think there would be a dramatic drop off in tickets sold if Bobby Dodd was known as the venue before people bought their season tickets.
The biggest issues seem to be for people who bought club seats or other VIP packages that just won’t be easy to reproduce at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Also, families who bought season tickets for their kids and people who bought season tickets due to the roof might have skipped afternoon games at Bobby Dodd Stadium on the metal bleachers and concrete.
The move has come about suddenly and Atlanta United is still working to figure out the conversion process for seating locations and amenities. Let’s hope they are able to figure out a way to make this palatable for as many fans as possible. There are quite a few fans who invested their money into seats and now feel let down.
From the club in their initial press release:
“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.”
"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."
“Opening at Bobby Dodd Stadium will be beneficial for our players on many levels. It's challenging physically and mentally to play consecutive games on the road. Starting the beginning of the season at home will give our players the opportunity to get acclimated to Atlanta and settle into a consistent training regimen, which is especially important as an expansion team."
It appears from the quotes from the club that competitive reasons drove the decision to make this move. There is no question that avoiding a 10-12 game road trip when building a club from scratch will give them a better chance to gel and come together as a team.
The move raises expectations for a successful team on the field, due to the investment to make it possible. Playing at Bobby Dodd Stadium will cost the club a large amount of money that it would not have spent otherwise. We’ll see if it pays off.
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