Atlanta United Supporter Experience

Now that MLS Atlanta has a name, I thought I would focus on the supporter experience. Over the last couple of years I’ve visited soccer venues around the country at varying levels of the US Soccer Pyramid. Most of the time I have been able to meet the local Supporters Group, if not stand with them during the match, and the combination of venues and the ways supporters do match days has been percolating in my brain for a while. After a couple of conversations with ATL soccer fans, I started to finally develop what I would like to see as a supporter of Atlanta United.

Pre-Game

Pub to Pitch Web Page Header

Getting to the match could be done by car or MARTA but I would suggest a third option—the Party Bus. I did this in Chicago and Dallas and I had an awesome time. It works something like this: routes are set up and a bus comes to a series of pre-determined bars, picks you and your friends up, drops you off at the stadium and then picks up you 20 to 30 minutes after the match and drops you back off at the bar. Several benefits: hanging out with fellow supporters, drinking on the bus to and from, not having to worry about parking or driving. I’m a big fan of this. (Granted that the venues in Chicago and Dallas are both a ways out from the city center, hence the creation of this option, while the new stadium will be downtown.)

march to match

The question for me before the match is do you do an on-site tailgate or meet at the bar and do a big march in? During my trip to the Pacific Northwest, I got to march with the Emerald City Supporters. They meet at Fuel, have a beverage, cash out, meet in the park and then march through the city, singing and chanting, to the stadium. It was awesome.

tailgate

I’m not against this option but I think I like the tailgate experience better. Love the camaraderie and the smell of the grill and taking beers out of the kiddie pool and playing a little cornhole and just hanging out. It seems to fit the Southern vibe. This could be followed by a short march into the stadium from the parking lot, not too dissimilar to what I have seen done in Columbus and Chicago and Charleston.

"Food Truck Fridays" at RDV Sportsplex

One more thing. Something I would like to see added to the tailgate are food trucks. Detroit City has these (especially the Mac and Cheese one) and it’s wonderful. Something beyond burgers and hot dogs and just adds to the experience.

Supporter Section

northern guard

Where supporters watch the game can depend on the group itself, the venue and the front office. The Regiment and Queen Anne’s Revenge stand in a corner of Blackbaud as does the Crew Supporters Union in Columbus. Timbers Army (Portland), ECS (Seattle) and Section 8 (Chicago) are behind a goal. The Northern Guard take up an entire side at Cass Tech. I imagine that the supporters of MLS Atlanta will be big enough to pull off the behind the goal set up at new stadium. Supporters buy General Admission tickets and stand and wave flags and display tifo and let off smoke. I think smoke getting trapped inside the retractable roof could create a great atmosphere. Plus the confetti cannon. Orlando City has done an awesome job with this.

DBG

Another option would be the Party Deck a la the Dallas Beer Guardians. Three to four rows of seats or bleachers, but then a wide open area for standing/hanging out and most importantly easy access to beer. Downside is it makes it hard to display tifo but I think this could be overcome. (Unfortunately based on the concept drawings for the new stadium, this consideration was not factored in but I loved the idea.)

In terms of fan participation, I would strongly encourage developing ways to prepare supporters, from the first time fan to the hardcore, every week supporter. A couple of things I have picked up from other groups is putting lyrics on the website and producing videos that capture the potential experience and printing cards with lyrics, section rules and best game day practices. These allow fans to be educated and to participate fully in the event.

capo

One note for future capos. Love their passion and energy but there needs to be a capo for the capos who could alert them to event actually happening on the field rather than making it through the usual list of chants and shenanigans. Too often I see capos leading the song, getting people fired up and not having any sense of what is happening on the field. Don’t bother finishing the I Believe chant when the opponents have just put the third goal in with five minutes remaining. Just sayin.

Post-Game

I would suggest either a post-game tailgate or a bar close to the stadium. Talk about the day, the game and what’s next. That is if everyone hasn’t caught the Party Bus.

Kickoff for Atlanta United is about 20 months away. The stadium is coming together and the organization is slowly being filled in. Can’t wait for the first match. Let me know what you like, what you don’t like and what you want to see in the comments below.

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