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  • James Clotfelter

Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta United FC


Photos by James Clotfelter, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Mercedes-Benz Stadium 1 AMB Drive

Atlanta, GA 30313



Year Opened: 2017

Capacity: 42,000 - 72,000

 

Trains, Spikes, and Stripes

While there may have been doubts about Atlanta becoming a soccer city when the 2017 MLS franchise expansion was announced, any concerns about lukewarm fan support or the club’s commitment to success were quickly put to rest. Atlanta United now stands as a model example of how new franchises approach expansion.


Atlanta United’s success, both on the field and through the turnstiles, has contributed significantly to Atlanta becoming a soccer hotbed in North America. So much so, that it was recently announced that US Soccer will be moving its headquarters to Atlanta. Through invested ownership and a passionate fanbase, Atlanta United is proof that expansion franchises do not inherently have to be at the bottom of a league. When the Five Stripes are in true form, “The Benz” is a dangerous place to play.


Food & Beverage 5

Food and beverage have become a staple of the Mercedes Benz Stadium fan experience since its inception. This is due to the “fan first pricing” that Atlanta United’s owner, Author Blank, implemented in the stadium. This policy marked cliché stadium concession items to prices you cannot find in any other stadium. Basic items such as hotdogs, pretzels, popcorn, candy, and water can be found for $2. Pizza, cheese nachos, and French fries are $3. Bottomless souvenir sodas are $4, while domestic 12oz beers and cheeseburgers are $5.


The stadium also offers higher-end options that are priced on par with what you would expect to find at other MLS stadiums. Tallboys, imports, and cocktails can be found throughout the stadium for anywhere between $9-$12. The Athens, Georgia-based Terrapin Brewery is a prominent local brew that can be found across the stadium. 


From brisket sandwiches and loaded nachos to whole pizzas, vegetarian selections, and plenty to satisfy the sweet tooth, the wide array of concession options ensures something for every palate. In addition to the concession staples on every level, there are specialized kiosks scattered around every concourse.


It is at these “pop-up stands” where you will find unique items. We point newcomers to the food from these pop-up stands because this is where you can get unique items such as brisket grilled cheese, cheesesteaks, chicken hibachi, buffalo mac ‘n’ cheese, and vegan options. For these items, you can expect to pay $8-$12.


As you would expect in a stadium in the south, Chick-fil-A stands are easy to find. There is also a new Moe’s Southwest Grill concession stand. If you prefer a sit-down meal, you can purchase access to Molly B’s restaurant where you will find different seafood options, burgers, and chicken, along with a view overlooking the pitch. You really cannot go wrong with food choices here; there is truly something for everyone.


Atmosphere 4

Mercedes Benz Stadium is an architectural masterpiece. The building was intentionally constructed to provide a home-field advantage by being loud. Every seat is a chairback. The seats on the 100 and 300 levels are red, while the 200 level is black.


The stadium consists of three decks that rise above one another with more vertical separation than horizontal. This design feature does two things, first, there is not a bad seat because the “nose bleeds” are up rather than out, so you feel on top of the action. Second, a much more engaged environment is created because you are on top of the field rather than behind it, which makes the stadium louder.


The design of the perimeter is metal and built to create an echo, which once again, only makes the building louder, and is also the reason concerts are not great here. The video board was the first 360-degree “halo” video board of its kind and lies below the circular retractable roof that is designed to look like a falcon when it opens and closes.


There is a monstrous window at the east goal line that displays the skyline of Atlanta and allows for sunlight to be an aesthetic even if the roof is closed, and the supporter section is on the 100 level in front of said window. There are many lounge and bar areas situated around the stadium, some of which are open to the public while others are private.


The 100-club level seats that are positioned around mid-field allow access to a private lounge beneath the section, and on-field access during the match. The private boxes lie in between the 100 and 200 levels, the 200 and 300 levels, and the field level behind the goal. On the 300 level, there is a “100-yard bar” that is open to everyone. The floor is painted like a football field with yard lines, hence the name, and consists of many different food and beverage options.

       

Before the match, the supporter groups will do a march around Downtown Atlanta where they are waving their flags, burning fires, and singing the club’s songs as they enter the stadium. At about 90 minutes before the match the player enters the stadium off the team bus. Fans can line up where the players enter after entering the stadium themselves. This spot can be found on the outdoor concourse beside the falcon statue.


The pre-match festivities continue with the nailing of the spike, with is here a local celebrity nails a fake railroad spike into a platform, which is a reference to Atlanta United’s railroad history. During the singing of the national anthem, the fans echo the words, “stripes”, “red”, and “night”. And the final pre-match tradition is the playing of “We Ready” by Atlanta native Arthur Eversole, who tragically passed away in 2022.

       

During the match, the bulk of the atmosphere is generated by the supporters’ section. They are equipped with drums and flags, and they will sing the team's songs throughout the entire 90’ no matter what is happening on the field. I believe that this is a great way to get immersed in the atmosphere of an Atlanta United match, but it can be difficult to watch, especially as a neutral due to the flags constantly waving.


There are a few simple chants that the entire stadium takes part in, and they will be very easy to pick up on when you are there. When goals are scored the is a sometimes overwhelmingly loud train horn that is sounded throughout the stadium, and fire shoots out from pillars in front of the supporters’ section. 


Neighborhood 3

The matchday experience at the Benz may be amazing, but the location is not. The stadium is situated in Downtown Atlanta, which is not great for a variety of reasons. There are a few restaurants along the outside of the park where some fans make an appearance. Unfortunately, these restaurants are sparse in number and can be on the pricier side of things. We would recommend you swing by the CNN center which holds a very good food court at a reasonable price.


There isn’t exactly nightlife in Downtown Atlanta as it is mostly office buildings. If nightlife is what you seek, much of Atlanta’s nightlife can be found in the Buckhead neighborhood, and you can get there on MARTA. We would advise you not to stray too far away from the stadium at night as downtown can be unsafe if you don’t know where you are going. A positive to being located downtown is its proximity to State Farm Arena, the Georgia World Congress Center, CNN Center, World of Coke, and the College Football Hall of Fame. The College Football Hall of Fame is a must-see for anyone visiting Atlanta for the first time.


Fans 5

The first thing the front office of Atlanta United did was instill a strong winning culture. This led to the fanbase, or the “17s” as they call themselves, setting a “cup or nothing standard” for the team year in and year out. With that being said, the past few years have not been as successful, which revealed the 17s as dedicated. It is easy to show up for your team when cups are flowing in and out, but Atlanta United has consistently dominated the MLS attendance charts even in the less successful years of 2021 and 2022.


Atlanta United even ranks among the top teams in world attendance. Not only do they show up at home, but Atlanta United fans have constructed a reputation for showing up on the road. The attendance for the match we were in attendance for was announced at 42,000.


Atlanta fans do not get enough credit in the fandom. They love their city and use their teams to represent their city, so most of the local’s pride can be found in their teams. The supporters label themselves “rowdy and proud” and that runs true. Fans are attentive to what is happening, and they love to show their appreciation for getting the ball forward, but they also are quick to display their frustration when the five stripes start to sit back. Atlanta is a very diverse city that brings in people from all different backgrounds.


These different backgrounds also bring their own sporting culture. The diverse cultural background within the fanbase has created many different supporter groups encompassing European, Latin-American, Hispanic, and straight from the SEC college football fan. All these different styles of fandom come together beautifully on matchday to create one of the most passionate fan bases in the league.


The supporters’ section is the generator for the noise in the stadium. They are standing and singing the team’s songs throughout the entire match. They are also responsible for the giant tifo displays that are shown before the match. Most of the supporters’ section is made up of members of the different supporters’ groups. The groups are registered members-only supporters’ groups and often stay very active within the community by organizing and participating in many community service programs. 


Access 3

For non-locals, and locals alike, the downtown streets and highways can generate either frustration, confusion, or both. If you do select to drive to the match, you should take exit 56B off I-20 which will take you past a good chunk of parking options.


The are many different types of parking lots downtown, some are run by the team, and some are not. Parking can also be quite expensive in this area... just a warning. You should buy your parking pass in advance on Spot Hero as you will find walkable options for around $20. Otherwise, there is a chance you might pay $40 paying at the site.


We would advise you to take the public transit MARTA because there are two train stops for the stadium. These two stops are Vine City and the GWC stop. The only problem with this is that there are not too many access points, or rail lines to get on a MARTA train, so it will be crowded, but it will still be the least frustrating way to and from the stadium. There are also two rideshare pickup and drop-off locations outside the stadium.

      

The stadium itself is a very easy one to navigate. Gate lines tend to move at a decent speed, but you should get here early just in case it takes a little longer than it should. All tickets are mobile tickets, and the venue is cashless. Apple and Google Pay are supported at all concession stands. The concourses are wide and walkable, and the stadium is equipped with a lot of escalators and ramps to allow for easy access between the levels.


There are small team apparel stores placed all over the concourse, but the main one can be found on the 100 level towards the east goal and is two stories tall.


Return on Investment 4

This is the pinnacle of fan experience in the MLS, but surprisingly enough, it is a very affordable experience.


Tickets are about in the middle of the pack when compared to other teams. We would recommend the cheapest ticket at the Benz as there is not a bad seat. Ticket prices can vary from match to match, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $20-30 dollars to get into the stadium.


Parking options vary depending on whether it is a weeknight or weekend match, but you can expect to pay around $20 using Spot Hero, however, a MARTA ride costs $5 roundtrip.


“Fan First Pricing” allows fans not to break the bank on concessions if they do not want to. As mentioned before, you can get hotdogs for $2, hamburgers and soda for $4, and beer for $5. Other select items, like cheesesteaks, loaded nachos, tacos, brisket, etc., are more expensive, falling around $8-$14.


Extras 5

Mercedes Benz Stadium has no shortage of extras. The two-story team store is very fun to peruse through.


There are two shiny metallic statues outside, one of a soccer ball by gate 1 and one of a falcon by gate 3. You can also watch the player walk off the bus by the gate one outdoor concourse. On the 100 concourses, you can find a wall with the football helmet of every high school football team in the state of Georgia. Molly Bs has a restraint built into the stadium that is in the shape of a bird’s nest. Walk-up bars are scattered across every level on the concourse and equipped with standing-room-only views of the stadium.


Finally, Atlanta United proudly hangs up their banners, one from the 2019 US Open Cup, one from the 2019 Campeones Cup, and last but certainly, one from the 2018 MLS Cup.


Final Thoughts

The Atlanta United experience is something that every sports fan, soccer or not, should experience. The stadium itself is something to behold, and the fans bring a sense of atmosphere that not many other fan bases in the league can compete with. Aside from Atlanta United, it will be exciting to see what kind of new soccer adventures will be brought to the stadium in the upcoming years with the World Cup and US Soccer’s new Atlanta headquarters.

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