Bobby Dodd Stadium being prepared for Atlanta United games

The artificial turf perimeter of Grant Field has been removed to make way for the installation of natural grass. (AJC photo by Ken Sugiura)
The artificial turf perimeter of Grant Field has been removed to make way for the installation of natural grass. (AJC photo by Ken Sugiura)

Georgia Tech has begun preparing Grant Field for Atlanta United’s arrival in March.

A project is underway at the 103-year-old field so that the playing surface will meet MLS specifications for the new franchise’s games. Tech will host games until Mercedes-Benz Stadium opens in the summer, with the season opener scheduled for March 5.

Grant Field’s natural grass surface has been ringed by artificial turf along the sidelines and behind the end zones, but that has been removed to prepare for the installation of grass.

A football field is 53 1/3 yards from sideline to sideline. MLS dictates that fields must be at least 70 yards wide and 110 yards long. The maximum width is 80 yards and the maximum length 120 yards.

Tech contracted with Atlanta United to loan Bobby Dodd Stadium earlier this year , an agreement that will pay the athletic association $45,000 for each game that the soccer team plays there and another $5,000 for each game that the club sells merchandise. Tech will also receive $2 for every ticket sold and will split net revenues on food and beverages.

That’s in addition to $275,000 for locker-room accommodations and $350,000 to re-install artificial turf on the field’s perimeter once the final soccer game is played.

The department was going to replace to replace the aging artificial turf that rings the field anyway, as it had hardened and become matted down. The deal with Atlanta United means that much, if not all, of the cost of doing so will be footed by the soccer club.

It stands to be a useful revenue stream for Tech, which is facing a budget shortfall of $2.7 million for the 2017 fiscal year and has made a point of finding ways to generate income from its facilities. Atlanta United might hold seven matches in Bobby Dodd Stadium if the targeted June 1 opening for Mercedes-Benz Stadium holds.

Using a conservative average attendance of 30,000, the Tech athletic association would stand to receive $770,000 on seven games, not counting revenues on food and beverage and the intangible benefits of bringing non-Tech fans onto the campus. Tech is projected to spend $75.6 million in the 2017 fiscal year. The department will have to staff and operate the games in a scope similar to a home football game.

When the stadium hosted the Rolling Stones concert in 2015, the department netted $300,000.

In the contract, dates surrounding the football spring game and graduation were protected.

The school will have another professional sports tenant this coming summer, the Atlanta Dream. The WNBA team will play in McCamish Pavilion for its entire 2017 and 2018 seasons as Philips Arena will be undergoing renovation.

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