Atlanta United will build a 3,500-seat stadium, several practice fields and a two-story headquarters on DeKalb County land near the Kensington MARTA station. The soccer complex area is highlighted in green, and the blue area shows the location of the Kensington MARTA station. (Source: Google Maps and DeKalb County)

Atlanta United soccer complex deal approved by DeKalb Commission

The DeKalb County Commission voted 4-3 Tuesday to approve an incentive package for Atlanta United FC to build a $30 million soccer complex along I-285 near Memorial Drive.

Atlanta United will construct a 3,500-seat stadium, three practice fields and a two-story team headquarters behind the DeKalb Jail, according to a Memorandum of Understanding. An indoor training facility and additional fields may be built later.

Under the deal, DeKalb will spend $7 million for 6,000 square feet of office space and $5 million for land preparation. Atlanta United will be able to use the land without having to pay property taxes for 30 years before it reverts back to the county.

The vote came after the commission denied allowing comments from the public on the proposal. More than a dozen residents stood and sometimes shouted in opposition to the proposal.

Commissioners opposed to the deal said it wasn’t a good investment of public money.

“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,” said Commissioner Jeff Rader. “Let’s step back on this decision, put the facts on the table and do a deal that’s better for everybody.”

Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May told the commission that the county needed to pursue this development as a way to encourage economic growth.

“It’s not about a sports facility. It’s about having a financial investment in a corridor that’s desperately in need,” May said. “I’m talking about the public good that will be generated because of this public investment.”

Atlanta United will use the fields for practices, and they also may be used for youth soccer tournaments and school graduations when the team doesn’t need them.

The team, which will play its first season in 2017, will host its professional soccer matches in Atlanta’s new downtown stadium, where the Falcons will also play. Both Atlanta United and the Atlanta Falcons are owned by Arthur Blank.

Commissioners Larry Johnson, Mereda Davis Johnson, Sharon Barnes Sutton and Stan Watson voted for the deal, while Commissioners Kathie Gannon, Nancy Jester and Rader voted against it.

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