Atlanta United scraps DeKalb site in favor of Marietta

Atlanta United FC has abandoned plans to build a $35 million soccer complex in DeKalb County and instead will build in Marietta, the team announced Friday.

Citing site preparation costs that were far more than expected, the team and DeKalb officials said they reached “a mutual conclusion that the site is not a viable location for the complex.” The county was prepared to spend up to $5 million on land preparation, but team tests indicated the cost would exceed $20 million.

“We are grateful for DeKalb County’s partnership in working through the due diligence process,” said Atlanta United Owner Arthur Blank in a prepared statement.

“After reviewing the reports together, we are in agreement that the economics of the site have changed so significantly that neither party is comfortable asking the DeKalb taxpayers to take on the additional financial burden,” Blank said. “Unfortunately, the site just doesn’t work for this specific project.”

The news comes just three months after DeKalb commissioners voted to offer the team $12 million in incentives - including the $5 million for land preparation - over the objections of angry residents.

“As Interim CEO, I always am looking for opportunities for collaborations where all sides come out winners,” DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May said in a prepared statement.

“After reviewing the reports with Atlanta United FC, we decided together that the numbers going into it have changed so much that proceeding would not be a responsible decision for either party, and certainly not the DeKalb taxpayers,” May said. “We hope to work with Arthur Blank on another project in the future.”

The team planned to build the complex on 41 acres near Memorial Drive. It includes a 3,500-seat stadium, a corporate headquarters and several practice fields that it plans to open before its inaugural season begins in 2017.

In August DeKalb commissioners voted 4-3 to approve the incentives, which also included $7 million for 6,000 square feet of office space.

Prior to announcing the deal with DeKalb County, Atlanta United had been negotiating with the city of Marietta for a site off Franklin Road, where the city has used tax revenue to buy and raze two apartment complexes – and where Home Depot is receiving property tax abatements to build a new Technology Center in the area that keep some 500 jobs in the county.

Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin did not return messages Friday afternoon. It is unclear if the previous 30-year deal offered by Marietta is still on the table.

Cobb Commissioner Bob Weatherford said landing the soccer team would be a huge win for the city and the county.

“Last time I checked, Marietta is in Cobb County,” Weatherford said. “I think it would help the redevelopment of the area and give us an anchor there. It would be a catalyst, along with Home Depot, that’ll give that area credibility.”

Commissioner Bob Ott said a soccer facility would be “huge in furthering the city’s attempt to clean up and make that area more appealing and desirable.”