I had a chance to head down to Mercedes-Benz Stadium yesterday for the Founding Member open house and open training session. Before the event, I had yet to step inside and take it all in, but after experiencing it for the first time, I can say that it is a truly impressive venue. No expense was spared in making this a world-class experience for both the fans and athletes. You could see Atlanta United players taking pictures of the inside of the stadium as it was the first time the vast majority of them (if not all) had been in there.
Players making it into the stadium. First time getting a look at the new digs! pic.twitter.com/ZoxvtB2jH6— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) August 19, 2017
“It’s unbelievable,” Brad Guzan said. “I was fortunate enough to be in here a few days ago and get a quick peek. To be here is going to be nice. After seeing how the fans have turned out for us week in and week out at home, to have something like this (open house) is the least we could do for them.”
“Unbelievable” was the word Julian Gressel used as well. “I’d say it’s the best stadium in the world. When I walked in the first time, I really couldn’t get out of the awe. I’m really excited for the first game and can’t wait to start playing.”
“It’s a beautiful stadium,” Tata Martino said. “It’s a point of pride for this city and the U.S. to have a place like this. Last summer I had a chance to see some really nice stadiums during Copa America like (Levi’s Stadium) in Santa Clara, but this stadium is exceptional, and I think it’s great for the city to have a place like this.”
From a supporters’ viewpoint (and we’ll have more in that department from one of our very own DSS writers later on), it was fun to see and hear the chants throughout the session. And it was loud at field level, even with over 20,000 people in attendance. Imagine what it will be like with 42,000 or even 70,000 in attendance during a match?
The question was how the field would play, and from what I saw, there were no issues. The turf was watered down before the training session to help with the ball movement during the course of the morning, and afterwards, the general consensus was that it performed well.
Greg Garza came in very familiar with turf fields having played on turf over the past several years at Estadio Caliente with Xolos in Liga MX. “It’s something I’m used to,” he said. “I’m sure it will take a bit of adapting for all of us and everyone that comes to play here. It is what it is.”
“I thought it played well today,” Michael Parkhurst said. “It was fast. They wet it before training and it stayed wet, so it was fast. Pretty soft underfoot - no complaints.”
Jeff Larentowicz agreed. “It was good. It’s nice. We have it at the training facility and I think it’s the same turf. Getting used to (it), playing on it week in and week out, it’s nice to get game after game after game here.”
Overall, no one had a bad thing to say about the place. It’s great to see the investment Arthur Blank made in making this not a NFL stadium where an MLS team happens to play, but a top-of-the-line experience tailored to both teams. All that’s left is the sold-out opening match here on September 10 against FC Dallas.