By Robyn Saghini @robynsaghini
Tuesday, April 11 – Marietta, GA
On a beautiful, sunny spring Tuesday, Atlanta United FC had a housewarming party. A handful of fans (and lots of media folks) were invited to attend the grand opening of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Facility in Marietta, GA, just northwest of Atlanta.
Building the future.
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) April 11, 2017
This training center has been in the works for almost two years now. First, it was going to be in Dekalb County, just down the street from the location of the very first Home Depot ever (a nod to Arthur Blank‘s former career). Somewhere along the line, it was discovered that the site that was chosen was not an ideal location. From what I remember, the site was previously a landfill and the ground wasn’t suitable for building on.
After what I’m sure was a bit of a scramble for the ATLUTD front office, a second site was located, just off of I-75 in Marietta. Construction began about 14 months ago at the new site and today was the ceremonial grand opening. The team has actually been practicing at their new home for about a week already and seem to be settling in pretty well.
— Gregory Garza (@gmgarza4) April 12, 2017
The facility is gorgeous. There are floor to ceiling windows everywhere and the entire building feels really open and bright. There is a main entrance, which is the door all of the players, from U12s through the first team will walk through. To the right of the lobby are the team offices and to the left are the locker rooms and gym.
Just off the lobby, which overlooks two of the training fields, is the Tactics Room, where the team can study game tapes. This room also holds the trophy case, which already holds a few treasures like the first game ball, Josef Martinez‘s hat trick game ball, signed by the team, and the Soccer in the Streets ATL Champions League trophy that the ATLUTD staff won last year (more on this event in May, when the staff will field another team and I’ll be there with orange slices cheering them on!).
Nearly the entire facility was open for us to explore, so of course we started with the dining hall. They even had food for us to sample – which was great because I skipped lunch to get there on time. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember hearing Darren Eales (ATLUTD President) and Carlos Bocanegra (Technical Director) talk about nutritionists and something or other before. All I know is that the food is delicious and the views of the fields were incredible.
Next, we headed downstairs to the gym, where I nearly fell flat on my face because the first person I saw was Tito Villalba (insert heart eyes emoji here). It must have been a conditioning day for a few of the guys. Tito was on a bike, Ty Mears was running on a treadmill and a few others were working with weights while the rest of the team was out on the field. I managed to get a pic of Tito talking to one of the coaches and Martinez before I was told not to take pictures. Whoops! 😉
We also ran into Josef again in the locker room, where I gave him the Terminus Legion scarf I was wearing. 🙂 Have I mentioned yet how adorable and sweet all of the guys have been? Because they are.
After the first team locker room, we quickly checked out the academy teams’ locker rooms, which are basically giant walk-in closets with cubby holes for the players’ stuff. No fancy round room with 22-foot high ceilings and windows at the top. Just gray and boring. The idea is to make each locker room a little nicer than the next so that the players want to keep moving up until they get to the first team.
We walked around outside for a while and talked to some of the front office staff. We did get to meet the Fox Sports South reporter, Brittany Arnold, who hung out and talked to us for a good 20 minutes.
On a side note, we are still waiting on construction updates on Mercedes Benz Stadium. During his speech, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said something like “when we get into Mercedes Benz Stadium in September,” which caused a bit of gossip later. And as I was writing this, I saw the helpful tweet below pop up. So that’s that, I guess.
The Mercedes-Benz Stadium question is on everybody’s mind, and we got a few answers today… https://t.co/JoGhX4O3Hz
— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) April 12, 2017
All in all, it was a pretty great day. The boys have their home now. Things can only go up from here, right? On to Montreal this Saturday! How do you say “A-T-L” in French?
Images courtesy: Robyn Saghini
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