Cover photo courtesy of Atlanta United FC
We all should have seen it coming. After being delayed from March to July, the opening of the new Mercedes Benz Stadium will be delayed once more until late August. No longer will Atlanta United be the first team to play on the field. Instead the Atlanta Falcons will be the first team to play there in a preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals (this of course assuming it is not delayed again). The first game Atlanta United will play at Mercedes Benz Stadium will be in early September against FC Dallas.
Courtesy of Mercedes Benz Stadium
This delay comes from issues with the roof and the steel. The explanation given to the fans was that there were normal “steel delays.” This begs the question that if these were normal delays, why were they not originally budgeted into the time frame. The general assumption though is that the delays with the functioning of the retractable roof were unplanned.
This of course sparked outrage amongst the fans, specifically season ticket holders. Most were expecting to have the whole season be played in a brand new stadium which would be adapted specifically for soccer. Then, fans were told that the first game in the stadium would still be an Atlanta United game, only four and a half months after they originally were told on July 30th against Orlando SC, a team who is expected to become United’s rivals due to their proximity. Now fans are being told that Atlanta United will not play there until September when there will only be a month left in the season. Fans who bought season tickets who paid money under the assumption that their tickets would be in a band new, state of the art stadium are understandably mad at the outcome and the amount of delays. This has also come as a shock due to the fact that up until now, Atlanta United have seemingly done everything right. And they have been rewarded with a huge and loyal fanbase. This will test the forgiveness of the fans however and it will be interesting to see how the fans handle their reactions to the delays.
The front office of Atlanta United have already stated that they will try to push back home games so that fans can still get as many opportunities to experience Atlanta United in Mercedes Benz Stadium as possible. The team has already announced that two games originally scheduled to be played in August have been moved in order to play more games at home in September. For the team on the field, this means more multi-game road trips which will be hard so late in the season.
While the fan response has not been positive, there can be some good that can be taken out of this situation. First, the atmosphere at Bobby Dodd has been incredible and this means more home games there. Secondly, it came out recently that the Mercedes Benz field would be AstroTurf and not the turf specifically made with soccer in mind. Bobby Dodd is grass which means more games that will allow the players to play on a surface they are comfortable with. Overall, this is extremely disappointing for Atlanta United as a team as well as for the fanbase who bought into being the first team to play at the new stadium and to have most of their home games there.