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Monday, April 28, 2014

Kicking It In the A

Earlier this month, Major League Soccer announced Atlanta as the site for its newest expansion. The yet-to-be-named team (though I'm calling it SoSoDeFC until further notice), which will join the league in 2017, will play in the Atlanta Falcons' new home (the Stankonia Dome, as it's affectionately referred to on SBNation). And while I cover a variety of subjects from the sports and marching/athletic music diaspora, attention to a team five hours from me in a sport I don't particularly follow may seem strange - unless you've connected the dots.

We'll start with plain geeky interest. New stadia excite me (as does pluralizing stadium in the Greek manner), as do new teams. Soccer-specific stadia seem particularly cool, as they tend to be smaller, newer, and in a lot of ways, more versatile for other sorts of events. While I don't follow soccer in general or MLS specifically, I've got a soft spot for the lesser known leagues (see also: MLL). And Atlanta, of course, hosts such major marching events as the DCI Southeastern Championship and the Honda Battle of the Bands.

I'm particularly interested in how the new Dome will be set to make the change from football to football. Reports are that it will be convertable to just under 30,000 for soccer, a change that would involve both curtaining upper decks and retracting lower seats. So while it's still a football-first stadium, it seems plans are being put into place to give it a soccer-specific feel. Other soccer-specific stadiums, like the Philadelphia Union's PPL Park in Chester and the Columbus Crew's Stadium have hosted DCI shows, and at least the Crew's home gets favorable reviews on Marching Arenas.

The intentionality in its ability to convert makes me wonder: What other configurations may be possible? Football, soccer, and various concert configurations are obvious, but what may be done to accommodate other tenants? Expansion of available seats is already a given, and will likely be utilized for college football games like the SEC championship game, Chick Fil-A kickoff classics, and bowl games - the Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl, as well as the national semifinal in 2016-17 and likely a national championship game somewhere down the line. But what of other setups? Little needs to change for Honda, which routinely fills the dome. But for DCI, which has topped out at just better than 16,000 and opts for concert side seating, might they be able to curtain it down to take advantage of this setup? What of Georgia State football, the Atlanta Football Classic, or high school games or battles of the bands that may be held there?

The new stadium in Atlanta intends to change the game. Here's hoping that in being state-of-the-art, it brings multi-use stadiums into a whole new era.
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