July 21, 2009

Altanta & MLS: The Obstacles

Stadium: This should be #1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 right now. There just isn't a suitable place to play, or a plan in place to build a new stadium. The Georgia Dome is too big and won't work as a Qwest-downsized venue. While the 51K+ for the Mexico-Venezuela game looked and sounded good, how would a 10-15K crowd appear in there?

Georgia Tech allowed the WUSA Atlanta Beat to play at Bobby Dodd for the first year of the league, then booted them out. It was the proposed location for Atlanta's World Cup 1994 bid. The downside is that isn't that much smaller than the Dome and Tech probably wouldn't allow it to be used anyway.

The next smallest stadium would be Herndon Stadium on the campus of Morris Brown University. The WUSA Beat played there after leaving Tech. The new WPS Beat aren't talking about playing there, which says about all that needs to be said. The size is pretty good, slightly over 15K. The field is too narrow and the stadium needs a lot of work to be of MLS standard.

Beyond that, we're talking high school stadiums that aren't suitable for pro sports. One idea that could be explored would be partnering with Georgia State University on a stadium for their new football program that could double as an MLS venue. This would be similar to what the Miami bid proposed at the new Florida International University stadium, except Georgia State hasn't built anything yet. They're planning on playing at the Dome for now, but could possibly be persuaded into working with Atlanta MLS on a stadium.

Getting too far out of the downtown area will limit the potential fan base, similar to FC Dallas' issues in Frisco and Pizza Hut Park. The WPS Beat are in talks with Kennesaw State to play at a new facility they're building with 8,500 seats. That facility will be 45 minutes away (on a good traffic day) from downtown and big soccer hotbeds like Gwinnett County. Forget pulling from the south side of Atlanta as well, at least on a regular basis. Same goes for talk of building a stadium in northern Gwinnett, you're cutting out Cobb and the south side.

The best location for a potential stadium is the old General Motors plant in Doraville, GA. It's on I-285 and the MARTA line, which would open up the potential fan base. That's why Arthur Blank's people have mentioned it as a potential site for a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. It's no secret that Blank hates the lease the Falcons have at the Georgia Dome and either wants it drastically reworked to improve Falcons' revenues or he wants out. Blank has to deal with this issue before he can truly commit to MLS.

It's a shame that nothing was able to be worked out a long time ago before Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was demolished. There was a group who was trying to save it for MLS expansion and other events, I think track was one of them. Unfortunately, the Braves needed more parking for Turner Field and it was flattened.

We'll explore more obstacles, and potential solutions, soon...

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