The eight-game home schedule that Atlanta United will play at Bobby Dodd Stadium required both the club and the athletic assocation to accommodate one another. Some details of their landlord/tenant arrangement as the club awaits the opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Stadium size to be reduced
A sellout of 55,000 is expected for the opener, but capacity will be scaled back thereafter. Georgia Tech assistant athletic director Elizabeth Lancaster said her understanding was that only seats in the lower end of the upper north section will be available for the second and third home games (March 18 and April 30). After that, a maintenance plan that had already been in place at Tech for the upper north will completely close off the deck, which holds about 10,000, for the remaining five games.
Atlanta United will use Georgia Tech’s football locker room and visiting teams will use the visiting locker room at the south end of the stadium.
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Because of the configuration, while teams normally enter the field together through a tunnel at midfield, the protocol for games at Bobby Dodd will be different. Atlanta United will enter the field from the northwest tunnel and the visiting team will enter through the southwest tunnel and then meet at midfield and walk onto the field from there.
Atlanta United will plays four consecutive road games between March 31 and April 22 to give Georgia Tech use of the field for its football spring practice, which concludes with the spring game April 21.
After spring practice, the field will be re-sodded at Atlanta United’s expense. The field was last re-sodded in 2015 after the stadium hosted the Rolling Stones. The cost then was about $90,000.
“(The re-sodding) is an incredible benefit for Georgia Tech and so great for our student-athletes to have a brand-new field for the start of the football season,” Lancaster said.
Tech will receive $45,000 rent for each of the eight matches to be played at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The athletic association will also receive $2 for every ticket sold, will receive a share of the net revenues on food and beverages sold during games and $5,000 for each home game in which the team sells merchandise. The MLS team will also write checks to Tech for $275,000 for locker-room accommodations and $350,000 for changes to the field after the final soccer game is played July 4.
Beyond financial incentives, Tech sees other benefits to bringing metro Atlantans who might not otherwise visit Tech to its campus.
Changes to the field
To fit a playing surface that fits MLS regulations – between 100 and 120 yards long and between 70 and 80 yards wide – Tech had to make adjustments to Grant Field.
A concrete strip that ran the length of the west sideline was broken up and removed and replaced with artificial turf. A ring of artificial turf around the field was also removed and natural grass was extended out, creating a larger surface of natural grass.
After the 2017 Tech season, new artificial turf will be laid down in place of grass around the edge of the field to cover some of the sideline areas that gets significant wear.
Contributing to the effort
About 30 members of the Tech athletic department staff will be involved in game-day operations in service to Atlanta United. Lancaster has been the department’s operations liaison with the soccer team. She arrived from North Carolina last September and has taken on this extra responsibility in addition to her primary job of managing Tech’s football and men’s basketball home games.
“We’re honored to be able to be a part of it,” she said. “We’re excited to be able to host the first-ever MLS game here in Atlanta for Atlanta United, and for Georgia Tech to be a piece of that history is something that we’re excited and honored and humbled by.”
Soccer is not at all foreign to her, however. She oversaw the management of soccer games at North Carolina and further played for the Tar Heels’ powerhouse women’s soccer team.
Been here before
This is not the first time that soccer has been played at Bobby Dodd Stadium. In 2001, the Atlanta Beat women’s professional soccer team played their inaugural season there before moving to Morris Brown College. Also, in 1973, the Atlanta Apollos, who received the new name after the Chiefs franchise had a change of ownership, played at Grant Field.
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