The formal program for the Atlanta United parade and rally is ended, although fans are lingering near Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Several downtown streets were closed to allow the parade to pass. Baker Street, Marietta Street and Andrew Young International Boulevard were reopened just before noon, according to the WSB 24-hour Traffic Center.
Team Captain Michael Parkhurst: “It feels damn good to be a champion guys ... I hope you guys feel like champions because this cup is ours and this cup is yours.”
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez thanks the owner and president of the team, the coaching staff, fans and manager “Tata” Martino in Spanish remarks. The interpreter says he also said “we have one more in us for next year.”
The formal program is over. The team is dancing on stage to “We Ready,” jumping up and down with the MLS trophy cup. the crowd is dancing, cheering and chanting, showered with red, black and white confetti in a drizzling rain.
Team Manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino is greeted by chants of his name and “One more year.” He had announced in October that he would be leaving the team.
Speaking in Spanish, Martino thanked the fans for their support and for braving the cold weather. He urged them to keep up their energy for the next season.
Each member of the team was announced, culminating with team captain Michael Parkhurst taking the stage carrying the MLS Cup.
The crowd burst out in a chant of “A-T-L” before the formal program began.
“It’s time to let the world know that we united and we conquered,” said a smiling Gov. Nathan Deal, who gave a nod to Blank’s plan to bring United to the city. “They had the foresight when they built this beautiful stadium to make it large enough to accommodate soccer. That has proven to be a success on many fronts.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said, “I’m so proud to say, for people like me growing up on the west side of Atlanta, soccer is everything. I am so thankful for Arthur Blank. Thank you for believing in the city of Atlanta.”
Blank said, “We knew Atlanta was a great city. We knew Atlanta was a sports city. Now we know Atlanta is a championship city.”
Darren Eales, Atlanta United president, also thanked Blank for his work backing the team. “In only our second season we’ve won a championship, it’s just incredible. ... What a team, what a job they’ve done. Every time we’ve had a blip, they’ve bounced back and showed focus and energy.”
Eales added, “To all the haters who say Atlanta wasn’t a sports city ... The South has got something to say. That’s all I want to say.”
The AU team is being announced and welcomed now. Tons of cheers and excitement follow as the golden spike is carried to the stage. “We’re champions, baby!” One man shouts repeatedly.
Team chant “We Ready” is played.
It’s become absolutely packed as the parade arrives - a sea of red, black and energy.
People are filling in from the stage to the stairs leading down to the lawn. Many more fans carrying large flags have made their way to the front.
Some team officials, team owner Arthur and Angie Blank, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms have been announced, (Arthur Blank got the most applause) but we are still awaiting the team.
The 8-foot-long golden spike is arriving. The ceremonial spike is a feature at every game, hammered in before play starts and harkening back to Atlanta’s roots as a railroad town.
The MLS Cup trophy is also going to be hoisted.
As the Atlanta United championship parade draws closer to the Home Depot Backyard, a lot near Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the crowd has grown even larger in the past half-hour. Thousands are streaming in to enjoy the first such sports championship parade in decades in Atlanta.
The Home Depot backyard is filling up quickly as the team bus nears. We can hear drums approaching as a big screen plays parade coverage.
At the celebration, team owner Arthur Blank will be joined by Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
It’s an intensely enthusiastic and diverse crowd, some who were drinking beers and hopping the barricade to get closer, watched the parade inch by.
The frigid air was filled by red smoke, glittering gold flags and banners sporting prideful sayings, such as “Atlanta Influences Everything.” Andrea Castillo wore a Falcons beanie and held a big cutout sign of Arthur Blank’s face. Why does she love him? “Because he brought us another championship.”
“He’s the unofficial mayor of Atlanta,” Joshua Garmon chimed in.
The couple collected memorabilia being passed out and stuck it in a clear bag. Passersby stopped to get a photo of her holding Blank’s head. “It’s been 20-something years since we’ve a parade,” Castillo said, smiling.
Amy White, 45, and daughter Kate White, 12, took the morning off from work and school to celebrate Atlanta United. Kate plays club soccer and first got interested in Atlanta United after going to a “club night” game with her team. For Amy, United’s success is a welcome change of pace from other Atlanta sports.
“We’ve all been let down before. It’s good to finally have someone to be excited about,” Amy White said. “It also feels like we’re at the start of something. Soccer is just starting to get big in the US and we’ve got a great team here in Atlanta.” Amy and Kate are from Marietta.
Uncharacteristically, United players were using their hands to throw soccer balls, small squishy soccer balls to the crowd lining Marietta Street going nuts with “Vamos, Vamos, Vamos ATL!” chants at Park Avenue.
The crowd includes a large number of school-age children. One young fan screamed “Thank you for getting us out of school!” to owner Arthur Blank as he sat atop a United-wrapped sports car. He smiled and waved.
As the chanting mob shuffled up Marietta, city workers with leaf blowers came behind them to clean up the mess of Atlanta United inflatable cheers sticks and the squishy balls on the sidewalks.
As the bus carrying team members rolls down Marietta Street, fans are in the street, walking alongside. Some are tossing items up to the team members to be signed and tossed back down.
Parents are carrying children on their shoulders and others are flapping t-shirts and scarves or waving gold and red flags.
At the top of the bus, the silver MLS Cup can be seen.
As fans wait for the parade to arrive at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, they wave flags, dance to a DJ and perform team cheers.
The crowd has fans of all ages, including many elementary and middle school aged kids who have come with their parents to celebrate the team’s big victory.
Coke has provided palettes of commemorative Atlanta United cans as souvenirs.
Wear Atlanta United gear today and get a discount at these restaurants
Stevan Simic, 31, wasn’t going to miss the Monday morning parade. Simic grew up playing soccer in Atlanta, so once the city got its own MLS team, he was all in.
“The moment we got here, I knew it was time to be an Atlanta United fan,” Simic said. “Growing up in Atlanta, it means so much to have your team do something like this.”
Despite Atlanta United being in only its second year, Simic expected them to bring home the MLS Cup. “With the team they put together and how they were playing, I was not surprised,” Simic said.
Gregory Shenton, 44, came to the Home Depot Backyard from Smyrna to mark Atlanta United’s win. A long-suffering Atlanta sports fan, he was glad to have a reason to celebrate.
“This hasn’t happened in 23 years. This is a special moment in Atlanta,” Shenton said. “It restores hope that the Falcons or Braves could come through and bring home a championship.”
Shenton, who went to the championship game with his son Logan, 8, has been a season ticket holder for Atlanta United since the team’s inception. He credits team owner Arthur Blank with creating a positive sports culture.
“He brings back the tradition of Ted Turner, when winning was first,” Shenton said.
The parade has kicked off with an open-top bus carrying team members.
Pedro Rodriguez, 38, pulled his three sons out of school so they could see the parade. The sons, ages 5 to 12, were with him at the big game Saturday.
He said it was truly special to share his love of the sport with his boys. A native of Torreón in Mexico, he said he moved to Atlanta in 1996, which means he missed the city’s last championship win by the Braves. He said he hopes United doesn’t get rid of too many players this offseason.“It takes a while to gel,” he said.
Crowds are building for the 10 a.m. start of the victory parade for Atlanta United. Jonathan Jones, 21, stood by at a barricade looking at a closed and empty street, waiting for his team to arrive.
“This is the first championship in my lifetime, and I actually like the team,” he said. He hasn’t been able to go to an Atlanta United game, and he only caught parts of Saturday’s MLS Cup from the concession stand of a Hawks game at State Farm Arena. But he rearranged his work schedule to be downtown on Monday morning.
“A championship is big,” the GSU student said, pausing to decline a man selling souvenir AU buttons from a piece of cardboard hanging around his neck. “This is my chance to celebrate with them.”
The morning’s wet, cold conditions along the parade route are not keeping away enthusiastic fans of Atlanta United. Many are already lining the route. But some are seeking out a last-minute warm-up: The Chick-fil-A at the College Football Hall of Fame was jammed with fans in all sorts of Atlanta United beanies and scarves.
The Atlanta United players and supporters this morning will resume celebration of the team’s first championship win with a parade on downtown streets, beginning at 10 a.m. Even the chilly weather and drizzle are unlikely to dampen the party that began Saturday night when 73,000 fans celebrated the win.
Atlanta police began closing streets along the parade route around 9 a.m. and they were expected to remain closed until about noon. Extra officers, including SWAT and canine units, will be positioned along the way.
On the corner of Baker and Peachtree streets, nearly an hour before the parade was set to begin, a police officer on a horse waved an Atlanta United flag as his breath fogged up in the cold.
A few dozen fans, discernible by their red and gold fan gear and happy faces, mingled or stood by the metal barricades lining the parade route. The occasional “Go Atlanta!” could be heard over the sound of downtown morning rush hour traffic.
The celebration caravan will start at the corner of Peachtree and Baker streets.
From there the parade moves west on Baker street past the Georgia Aquarium and Centennial Olympic Park; then south on Marietta street; then west on Andrew Young International Boulevard and it ends at the Home Depot Backyard, next to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
A pep rally will begin at the Backyard at noon. Besides the team members, guests will include Gov. Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and team owner Arthur Blank.
All these proceedings will take place with temperatures hovering in the high 30s and a smattering of rain.
People attending the ceremonies near the stadium should arrive early, Kreher advised. The grounds accommodate about 15,000 fans and will be closed off after that.
Police are encouraging spectators to take MARTA to the Georgia World Congress Center station and to leave backpacks and large bags at home.
Several MARTA bus routes will also be changed because of the parade, according to the transit agency. The affected routes are 26, 40 and 816.
The team and beloved manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino brought the city its first sports title since 1995 when the Braves won the World Series. Martino had earlier announced he would be leaving the team at the end of the season.
Arriving downtown around 9 a.m., Derick Stripling and wife Melissa, both 40, don’t care if it’s dreary; they’re just happy the city has a big win. They said the tailgating before the Cup match Saturday surpassed the partying in Houston for the SuperBowl two years ago.
“It’s just one for the city,” she said. Derick, a native of Perry, said Atlanta’s want for soccer has been brewing. “You felt the desire.”
Fans of the United turned out in huge, loud numbers throughout the season to support the team. Mercedes-Benz Stadium roared with enthusiasm, setting numerous attendance records.
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