Georgia’s First MLS franchise to build training facility

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Photo courtesy of Atlanta United FC

Ella Burge

DeKalb County commissioners voted four to three on Atlanta United Futbol Club’s proposed facility along I-285 on Tuesday, Aug. 4.

Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and co-founder of Home Depot, announced the latest addition to his enterprise in over 18 months ago.

Atlanta United FC is Georgia’s first Major League Soccer (MLS) team and MLS’s 22nd franchise. The team released its name and logo in early July and starts playing in 2017.

“We are excited to have Atlanta United FC as the cornerstone of our new Downtown DeKalb and as the catalyst for revitalization of the Memorial Drive Corridor,” DeKalb County Interim CEO Lee May told Atlanta United.

Atlanta United FC has sold over 25,000 season tickets so far. “We knew Atlanta would be the gateway to tens of millions of people that love their county, but also love the sport of soccer,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said at the founding members event on Jul. 7. “There is something so special happening here in Atlanta, it really, really motivates us to continue to work hard to build the great sport of soccer in the United States.”
Atlanta United FC has sold over 25,000 season tickets so far. “We knew Atlanta would be the gateway to tens of millions of people that love their county, but also love the sport of soccer,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said at the founding members event on Jul. 7. “There is something so special happening here in Atlanta, it really, really motivates us to continue to work hard to build the great sport of soccer in the United States.”

The facility will occupy 41 acres of DeKalb County land near Kensington Road and Memorial Drive, and construction will end  by Jan. 2017.

The proposed facility will include a 3,500-seat turf stadium, three grass practice fields, two surface parking lots and a two-story corporate headquarters, according to the request for proposal.

A second phase featuring indoor facilities as well as three more grass practice fields may be added afterward.

The approved phase will cost approximately $35 million, $12 million of which will come from DeKalb County. Approximately $5 million of the $12 million will go toward demolishing the 19 existing buildings on the property. The other $7 million will be spent on approximately 6,000 square feet of office space in the new headquarters for the county’s Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Department.

DeKalb County will also provide 30 years free of property taxes for the club.

The DeKalb County commission closed the discussion to public comments, but that didn’t stop residents from protesting.

Residents attending the commission vote didn’t hesitate to stand and shout in opposition to the commissioners’ discussion, according to the AJC

After Sports Illustrated leaked Atlanta United FC’s name and logo two weeks early, owner Arthur Blank gathered the press and over 4,000 fans on Jul. 7, 2015, at the SOHO lounge to publically release the team’s look. The team’s red, black and gold kits include the red and black scarf pictured on Blank.
After Sports Illustrated leaked Atlanta United FC’s name and logo two weeks early, owner Arthur Blank gathered the press and over 4,000 fans on Jul. 7, 2015, at the SOHO lounge to publically release the team’s look. The team’s red, black and gold kits include the red and black scarf pictured on Blank.

Although Commissioner Jeff Rader voted against the facility, he believes more discussion is necessary.

“We all want Atlanta United, and they know DeKalb is the best site for their training operations, but we have to negotiate a better deal,” Rader told the AJC. “Let’s step back on this decision, put the facts on the table and do a deal that’s better for everybody.”

May disagrees, arguing that it’s not about a sports facility.

“It’s about having a financial investment in a corridor that’s desperately in need,” May said in a statement. “I’m talking about the public good that will be generated because of this public investment.”

Varsity girls soccer coach Stephen Gathany agrees with May. He said that putting more money into DeKalb will increase growth.

“I think from a long term standpoint, from an economic standpoint, [the facility] will help DeKalb grow,” he said. “Those commissioners need to get with the program.”

Though Atlanta United will play professional matches in the Mercedes Benz stadium currently under construction, the new training facility will “bring national attention” to DeKalb, according to Gathany.

“When you bring a youth team in are they going to stay downtown,” he said. “No, they are going to stay [in DeKalb]. Are they going to eat downtown? No, they are going to eat in DeKalb.”

Atlanta United president Darren Eales told the AJC that the facility will be “one of the top training grounds in all of MLS.”

 

Photos courtesy of Atlanta United FC