August 15, 2017 Atlanta - The roof and screen boards are shown during a tour of Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Tuesday, August 15, 2017. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Reasons why Atlanta United won’t play Champions League match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium

The reasoning behind Atlanta United’s decision to play its CONCACAF Champions League game against Herediano at Kennesaw State’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium came down to trying to put itself in position to advance in the tournament and get a game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Catie Griggs, Atlanta United’s vice president of business operations, said the club investigated a variety of places and solutions as an alternative to playing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which isn’t available. None were as good as Kennesaw State, which has the correct field dimensions (115x75), a quality pitch and a familiarity of previously playing two U.S. Open Cup games there that the players like.

“For us, the key was ensuring we had the pitch that would provide us with the best opportunity to advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League and play in front of our fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium,” she said.

Atlanta United has 90 days held aside for MLS events in its contract with the stadium. The game against Herediano on Feb. 28 couldn’t be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium because it will be hosting two previously scheduled events, Monster Jam on Feb. 23 and 24 and Supercross on March 2.

So, the team began investigating options with the goal of trying to put itself in the best possible position to advance so that it could host a quarterfinal game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium,where it has set numerous attendance records.

It inquired about switching dates with Herediano so that it could host the first leg at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Herediano declined.

The team looked into playing at Georgia Tech, its home for most of its inaugural 2017 season. Among the reasons that the site wouldn’t work was the team wasn’t confident it could make the pitch quality enough for a single game.

The team also looked into playing at Georgia State, but the football lines are sewn into the turf and can’t be scrubbed off, as they can at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

CONCACAF inquired about playing at a site outside of Atlanta. Atlanta United said no.

Tickets for the game at Kennesaw State will go on sale in January. The team is working on its plans with CONCACAF, Herediano and Kennesaw State.

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