After much deliberation, we've decided that Atlanta does, after all, need a new football stadium. However, before you accuse us of jumping on the Arthur Blank bandwagon, we should clarify that the stadium should contain about 50,000 less seats than the current one. And should be designed for the "football" played in every other country in the world; ideally, it would look something like this.
Atlanta could do well for itself by following the successful example of Houston and building a soccer-specific stadium and procuring, hopefully along with it, a new MLS franchise. This isn't a sports column so we won't make the long case for soccer's success in the United States, but if you are looking for an economic growth story in the sports industry, soccer is the place, and Atlanta can use every growth driver it can find to kick-start flagging development and investment in the City.
The past few years Atlanta has hosted some large international 'friendlies' (i.e. exhibition games), which had great attendance including games with the Mexican national team and two club exhibitions featuring Club America, a popular Mexican club team, and Manchester City and AC Milan, two powerful European clubs. Atlanta was in the mix to be a host city had the US won the 2022 World Cup before Qatar's promise of brand-spanking-new-air-conditioned stadium dashed those plans. Atlanta and its suburban surrounds have a plethora of top-notch youth programs and the soccer-mom track is strong around I-285. Add to the mix a strong and growing international community which includes a large Latino population, and Atlanta has some great fundamentals to support the world's game. Despite all these positives, the city doesn't get USA national team games nor will it ever attract a MLS franchise because of its lack of a soccer-specific stadium.
Soccer may never rise to the level of a fandom as the all-american sports of baseball and football, but the growth potential for the global sport is clearly attracting major business in the States. You don't have to look much further for a bellweather of the lucrative potential of the sport than ESPN's recent aggressive pursuit of international soccer TV rights. (ESPN's growing attention alone may be enough to create a market here). Marketers are also paying close attention. Atlanta-based Aarons Rents was a prominent sponsor of one of the international friendlies played here. If Atlanta wants to continue to bolster its reputation as a major sports town and an international city and not miss out on a growth engine other cities as such as Houston have latched on to, it should start putting some energy into building a soccer specific stadium and attracting teams to fill it. We already have a great location in mind.