Atlanta United shares plan for ‘world-class’ training ground

Atlanta United unveiled its plans for a $60-million “world-class” training complex on Franklin Gateway in Cobb County on Monday. Team owner Arthur Blank said the complex, in combination with Mercedes-Benz Stadium, will make Atlanta the soccer capital of the southeast and nation.

Construction on the 30,000-square foot center will be completed by April 2017. The six fields — three grass and three artificial — are scheduled to be finished by January 2017. The team’s training camp for its inaugural season will start near the end of January. Because of the construction schedule, the team will likely attend MLS preseason training camps out of town until things are finished.

“I’m really excited about what we will build,” team president Darren Eales said.

Eales said there were three philosophies that helped determine the center’s design:

  • To continue Blank’s vision of building a world-class club;
  • To increase the team’s credibility and visibility in global soccer;
  • To continue its commitment to youth development.

The training center will house the team, the academy and the front office. It won’t be as large as what was proposed when the center was going to be constructed in DeKalb. The footprint in Cobb isn’t as big and the topography is slightly different. However, the philosophy behind the training center will be similar.

“Everyone feels connected to the team the whole way through,” Eales said.

That goes for the supporters as well. Blank said that training and practices will be open to the public.

The rooms in the center will be interconnected so that focus should be on what’s happening on the fields. One of the artificial fields, described by Eales as the show field, will have the same dimensions and same turf as what will be at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It will be sunk into the ground with berms on the side so the team’s supporters can watch select practices and any games that are hosted there. There will also be an observation deck from which people can watch.

The first team will practice on the grass fields that will face the southeast side of the building, which will be composed of glass. The front of the building will also be made of glass so that people walking in can see the training grounds. There is one door through which everyone, from those who work in the cafeteria to the players on the first-team, must walk through to enter the center. Eales said he and technical director Carlos Bocanegra thought that one door will help foster the unity the club wants.

The first-team locker room will be round, centrally located and with a high ceiling that will allow natural light. The Atlanta United logo will feature in the center of the room.

The academy will be in a wing, with the size of the locker rooms increasing by age group as the players are promoted and get a step closer to the first team. A first-team player will mentor a U18 player, with that cascading through the ranks.

“We want the kids to get glimpses of their first-team heroes,” Eales said. “We want everyone to prepare to be professionals. It’s about getting academy players to the first team and the matches.”

Continuing with the goal of the focus being on the fields, there will be a gym with a large door on one side of the building that can be raised to allow indoor/outdoor practice possibilities. Also facing the fields will be the tactics room and the physical therapy room.

“The idea is it’s a football training ground,” Eales said. “You want it to be about the pitch and the training.”

Because soccer players have the whole world as a marketplace, Blank said they tried very hard to listen to players, coaches and learn from other team’s best practices when the complex was being designed.

Eales said the training center and Mercedes-Benz Stadium should help he and Bocanegra as they recruit players for their first team.

“‘You’d have to be made of stone to not be impressed,” Eales said.

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