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Atlanta United won’t open Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Posted April 18, 2017

Doug Roberson - Atlanta Journal Constitution

Atlanta United will not open Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a game on July 30.

Instead, because of delays in the “normal surveying and analysis of the roof structure, as well as steelwork in the roof” that will push back the opening of the $1.5 billion stadium, Atlanta United’s scheduled first game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be Sept. 9 against Dallas.

The July 30 game against Orlando City will now be played at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium at 5 p.m. on July 29. There will be no more Atlanta United games at Bobby Dodd Stadium after July 29, according to Arthur M. Blank Group CEO Steve Cannon. He said there is no contingency plan to play any more home games anywhere other than at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Other Atlanta United home games scheduled for Mercedes-Benz Stadium against Minnesota United on August 13 and the L.A. Galaxy on August 19 will be rescheduled for later dates at the stadium. MLS is working on the schedule. Cannon said there is no timetable for announcing the new dates for the home games.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium will instead open in late August with an NFL preseason game. Cannon said the retractable roof will be fully operational.

Team owner Arthur Blank has said several times in the past that Atlanta United would open Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The goal is included on the stadium website. Blank and president Darren Eales said last week during opening of the team’s training academy on April 11 in Marietta that July 30 was still the target date for the opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium Brett Jewkes, CCO of the Arthur M. Blank Group, has also consistently pointed to a July 30 opening date when asked about potential delays for the opening.

Asked if something had changed in the past week, Cannon said on Tuesday that they weren’t “100 percent” on the July 30 date as of last week. Cannon said they “wanted to hold on to that until the last possible moment because we were thinking about our fans. As information came to us we made the best possible decision.”

During the training camp announcement, MLS Commissioner Don Garber even said that the opening would be in September. Eales, in his remarks, described Garber’s statement as a “slip of the tongue.”

Major League Soccer issued this statement: “We know that Mercedes-Benz stadium is going to be a state-of-the-art venue, and we look forward to it serving as the home for Atlanta United We have adjusted the MLS schedule for the July 30 match and will announce the additional two changes soon.”

Mercedes-Benz Stadium was supposed to open in March with a soccer event. In Jan. 21, 2016, it was announced that the opening of Mercedes-Benz was pushed from March 1, 2017 until June 1, 2017. Blank attributed the delay to the design process for the steel structure that will support the stadium’s complex retractable roof and massive video board.

The team announced in October last year that it would play its home games for part of its inaugural season at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium, and would move into Mercedes-Benz Stadium upon its completion. It was announced in January that the first game in the new stadium would be July 30.

An Atlanta United spokeswoman said in an email that season-ticket holders will receive a credit for each seat they own. They can expect to receive that refund back to their account within the next week. This was communicated to them today via email. The team also offered some concessions to supporters when Bobby Dodd Stadium move was announced. Cannon also encouraged any dissatisfied fans to reach out to the team.

“On balance, the Bobby Dodd Stadium experience has been excellent,” he said. “We will manage through this timeline issue and ultimately we will delight our Atlanta United fan base.”