United, Mercedes-Benz Stadium transforming Atlanta’s sports
2 months ago, 23 Oct 03:21
Last Sunday, history was made here in Atlanta when the home football (soccer as the Americans call it) franchise, Atlanta United, qualified for continental action, barely two years after the team’s formation.
Coached by former Argentina and Barcelona manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino, United extinguished German star Bastian Schweinsteiger’s Chicago Fire 2-1 to cement their position at the top of the Major League Soccer (MLS) Eastern Conference with 69 points.
The points tally is the highest in the history of the MLS, and United still have one regular season game to play, away to Toronto FC on November 9, before engaging in the playoffs.
The “Five Stripes” - as the Atlanta side is fondly known, representing its five pillars of unity, determination, community, excellence and innovation – will now play in next year’s Concacaf Champions League.
The continental tournament features 16 teams for Fifa’s Concacaf region, namely four from Mexico and USA, one each from Canada in Northern America and from Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama in Central America with the Caribbean qualifying one club and the final slot decided at a playoff between Central America and Caribbean clubs.
To make it to this stage after just 14 months of existence and of playing in the top flight is stuff fairy tale stories are made of. United’s remarkable story is magnified by the equally amazing story of their home venue, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in downtown Atlanta.
The stadium, which has a capacity of 42,500 (that can be expanded to 72,243) shattered MLS attendance records on Sunday when its 901,033th fan walked through the turnstiles, an all-time best average of 53,002 fans per match.
Other than hosting Atlanta United, the Roman Pantheon-inspired Mercedes-Benz Stadium, an architectural masterpiece conceived by Bill Johnson of 360 Architecture, and which was completed just last year, has already been selected as the host of next year’s Super Bowl, the world’s richest sporting event which will be held in 103 days’ time on February 3, 2019.
The stadium’s highlights include a retractable roof that takes just eight minutes to open and as many to close, when desired, and the world’s largest video board that covers 63,800 square feet, installed by South Dakota-based company Daktronics.
Besides United, the “Falcons”, “Hawks” and “Braves”, respectively Atlanta’s American football, basketball and baseball franchises, have been crucial to the sporting landscape at this Georgia State capital, home of civil rights movement legend Martin Luther King Jnr.
Atlanta United and the Atlanta Falcons are both owned by billionaire businessman Arthur Blank whose worth topped $4.6 billion (Sh460 billion) this year and who has been instrumental in the construction of the new stadium.
Blank is the co-founder of America’s home development and construction company, Home Depot, which he and Bernie Marcus formed in 1978 after being fired from their jobs at a regional hardware store.
Through the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, the tycoon has committed $37 million (Sh3.7 billion) towards community transformation that seeks to give back to society by “investing in the next generation, catalyzing social change and advancing the arts.”
The foundation, ...
Category: topnews news sports