The MLS has seen unprecedented growth over the last decade with twelve new franchises having joined since 2005 with Orlando City, New York City FC, Minnesota United and Atlanta United being the latest. With Atlanta being a city which boasts successful NFL, MLB and NBA teams it seems only a right a soccer franchise was created.
The formation of a new club brings with it the need for facilities and foundations and one that is of upmost importance is a home; a stadium. Atlanta United started life off in the home of the Georgia Institute of Technology football team but have recently teamed up with the Atlanta Falcons NFL team and Mercedes-Benz to create one of the world’s most advanced and state-of-the-art stadiums in the ‘Mercedes-Benz Stadium’.
Home to 42,000, 71,000 or 83,000 the new home of Atlanta United brings unprecedented flexibility with changeable capacity depending on which event is taking place be that Soccer, American Football or a music event. This leviathan of modern stadia is set break new ground in environmental and technological boundaries with world record figures for many of its features such as the largest sporting electronic display screen. So in this session, attendees were treated to a special interview with Atlanta United President, Darren Eales with Bristol Sport Communications Director, Lisa Knights, asking the questions.
The topics discussed during this session were:
- What makes the stadium special
- The first game
- Taking football to the US
- Atlanta’s sporting credentials
- Building a fan base
Speaking about the cities sporting culture Darren said “a lot of people have said it’s not a sporting city but in Atlanta we’ve got this young millennial audience. So what we’ve found is we sort of hit this nerve where Atlanta United is Atlanta’s team that the whole city is getting behind and we’ve seen that with the numbers of people coming out and it’s been great because it’s changed this lazy narrative that Atlanta’s not a sporting city.”
Darren spoke about creating history and how it was a massive challenge for a new club, saying “post match we wanted to have a connection with the fans and the team so the fans vote for their man of the match, who receives a ‘golden spike’ which they then hammer into a railway track of 17 holes for each of the 17 home games. So in 20 years time we will have 20 of these tracks in our new stadium that will be us creating history already.”
Darren also spoke of the record breaking figures Atlanta have achieved saying “our first game of the season (in our temporary home, the Bobby Dodd Stadium) we had 55,000 come to watch which meant we were the fourth biggest game in the world watched that weekend. So you had Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and FC Barcelona ahead of us. We’ve kept it going, we’ve sold out every game so far in a temporary venue. We’re averaging 46,500 which in Europe would put us 24th making PSG 25th.”
This session proved to be extremely insightful with Darren producing some fascinating stats that show Atlanta is already generating interest without even kicking a ball in their new home, be that merchandise sales, ticket sales or figures relating to the new stadium. The club board have really considered every aspect of building a brand new team with each detail examined and thoroughly thought through. Praise must be given to Arthur Blank the club’s owner who has given Darren and the other board members free reign to create something special and they haven’t disappointed, with the buzz around the city already at a high the first match in the ‘Mercedes-Benz Stadium’ is due to be memorable occasion.