Last week, I had the chance to tag along with media covering the Mexico-Paraguay friendly for hard-hat tour of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta United President Darren Eales led the tour and told the group about some of the stadium's interesting soccer-specific aspects.
"When I came on board, most of the design had been done, but we were able to tweak a few things," he said.
My main takeaway was that Eales was able to influence the final design to include things he's seen in Europe and South America that haven't made their way to MLS stadiums yet.
First, the locker rooms will be, in Eales' words, "bloody unbelievable."
The home locker rooms will have a central area for the players, a warm-up/kick area next to it, and a large hydrotherapy area for players to recuperate after matches.
Eales was especially excited about a dining and family area that will sit right next to the home team's locker room:
"Pre-match meals will be held in this room, and then after the game, that's when the families can come to visit the players after a game. So again, trying to create something that a lot of other clubs don't have that you would see traditionally at European stadiums. But also to have that family feeling of club and to make it a club that players want to join."
There will also be a separate head coach's office for entertaining visiting coaches, something many European managers enjoy.
Atlanta United also looked to NFL teams like the Dallas Cowboys for inspiration, with players exiting the locker room and walking to the pitch through fans gathered in the Mercedes-Benz Club. And the players' entrance onto the field will be extra dramatic:
"We're going to have one of those tunnels like you have in South America and Europe. Imagine what we can do with the new stadium. We can cut off the lights, have a spotlight, and everyone comes out of this little tunnel like they do in South America or if you play in Central America. A lot of the clubs in MLS come from the corners, and it's not that feeling of the crowd waiting in anticipation."
Sounds like the stadium's going to be pretty awesome for us soccer fans. Although I'm sure they could always use a few more suggestions for pre-game theatrics. Got ideas? Leave ‘em in the comments.
My suggestion: Let's take a page from the Hawks and be the first MLS team to use 3-D pitch projections.