Domer Donaldson seems like more an attorney this chosen profession as a geologist when queried about the tifo that will be unveiled before the MLS Cup between Atlanta United and Portland on Dec. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Can you tell anything about it?
“Absolutely … not,” he says with a laugh.
Is it as expansive as the red, black and gold full stadium tifo that was done for New York Red Bulls playoff game?
“All comes down to the eye of the beholder,” he said.
Is it participatory, like the full stadium tifo that required the more than 70,000 people in Mercedes-Benz?
“All are participatory to a certain extent,” he answers.
“It’s going to be a good one,” he said as reassurance.
That is saying something considering some of the tifos that have been designed by three of Atlanta United’s four supporters groups – Terminus Legion, of which Donaldson, 36, just became president, Footie Mob and Resurgence – the past two seasons.
The disco ball is the most famous.
“(The idea was) Presented to the rest of the group, and everybody was like ‘Oh crap! Let’s do that,” Donaldson said.
It was designed by Josh Tsao and Alex Morrison of Resurgence, cost almost $40,000 to produce and required 130 volunteers from all of the supporters groups spending six hours in Mercedes-Benz placing individual pieces of colored foil on every seat. It took weeks of planning. A sponsorship helped offset the cost. The foil was ordered from Germany. The logistics and purchases were handled by Allison Noffsinger and her husband Ben Reed, who are members of Resurgence.
There was also the homage to Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino before the semifinal against NYCFC. The statue of Martino was designed by Chi Sato of Footie Mob and the full look done by Vera Zeigler of Resurgence, which also designed the banners to the side and the ribbons, as well as the logistics. Christian Rincon of Terminus Legion helped to brainstorm the idea. A framed photo of the tifo was later presented to Martino as a birthday gift.
Donaldson said it was one of the best examples of what happens when the groups can get past egos and collaborate.
The groups decided in January to do a fantasy draft to split up the design of the tifos that would be done for 11 of the 17 home games during the regular season. Terminus Legion, Resurgence and Footie Mob would take the lead for the design for the games they received. Members of Faction, the fourth group, would help each group produce each tifo. They reduced the number of tifos in order to increase the budget per tifo. Resurgence coordinated at least six of the tifos, as well as leading the final tifo.
The tifos typically represented each group’s culture and identity:
- Celebrate the Troops was designed by Terminus Legion before the Red Bulls game near Memorial Day.
- The Danger Zone, featuring likenesses of Atlanta United players Michael Parkhurst, Leandro Gonalez Pirez and Franco Escobar as an homage to the movie Top Gun with influences from the cartoon Archer, was done by Footie Mob.
- Martino as the Grim Reaper was done by Resurgence for the home-opener against D.C. United.
“It makes it fun being able to see the different ideas that come from the different groups,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson estimates the groups have spent hundreds to thousands of hours in the design and production of the 13 tifos (11 in the regular season and two in the playoffs) done this season.
“We want to celebrate this team as hardcore as we can,” he said.
The look on the Atlanta United player’s faces as they spun slowly in circles taking in the disco ball was exactly the effect that the groups, collectively known as the Hype Depot, which is an homage to team owner’s Arthur Blank’s co-founding of Home Depot, hoped to see.
“We want our players to look at it and be mesmerized,” Donaldson said. “Everybody likes to talk trash. Are we going to strike fear in the opponents? No. But there are only a couple of supporter groups that compare to what we do on a weekly basis at Mercedes-Benz.
“We took pride in those Red Bulls players and fans looking around going, ‘We can’t do this.’”
One of the team’s whose supporters can rival the work done by Hype Depot is Portland. Donaldson expects the Timbers supporters to bring their own banner to unveil before the championship game.
But for this game because of the site and logistics what Portland’s supporters can produce likely won’t rival whatever it is being done by the Hype Depot.
Donaldson, who said he actually comes from a family of attorneys, would give these details:
Zeigler, nicknamed Tifo Queen, Tsao and other artists from Resurgence came up with parts of the design in October. Zeigler, Tsao and Sato hammered out the design of the main display on Saturday. Zeigler also wouldn’t share any details other than, “the tifo will match the moment.”
Members of the groups will start sewing and painting on Monday. It will take the members at least five hours of work a day over the next four days. The tifo will be taken into Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Friday.
Donaldson has no idea how much the production will cost because all of the supplies haven’t been purchased. But he said the money doesn’t matter.
“Like the players at the last match, just slowly looking around and going ‘Wow,’” he said. “That’s what we do it for, those guys.”