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USL’s ATL UTD 2 to change venues in 2019

Jun 14, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Storm clouds roll through during a lightning delay of the game between the Atlanta United and the Charleston Battery at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United 2, the United Soccer League Championship affiliate of the MLS Cup champions, will have a new home for the 2019 season.

The club will play its home matches in Kennesaw, Ga., at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. In 2018, its inaugural season, ATL UTD 2 played its home games at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville, Ga.

Coolray is a baseball field, home to the Triple A affiliates of the Atlanta Braves, the Gwinnett Stripes. For ATL UTD 2 to play there, turf had to be laid on top of the field. The club drew an average attendance of 2,574 at Coolray Field, with attendance reaching its high mark for ATL UTD 2’s season opener against NYRB II, an announced crowd of 5,615.

“Coolray Field was an excellent home during our first season,” Atlanta United Vice President of Business Operations Catie Griggs said in a statement. “We are extremely grateful to everyone at Coolray Field, the Gwinnett Stripers and Atlanta Braves organizations, Gwinnett County Sports Commission and all of our Gwinnett-based fans who made our inaugural campaign memorable. Lawrenceville will forever be the first home of ATL UTD 2, and for that, Coolray Field will always hold a special place in our club’s history.”

ATL UTD 2 went 7-17-10 in its first year of existence. The team, coached by Scott Donnelly, went 4-5-7 at home.

Atlanta United is no stranger to Fifth Third Bank Stadium. The MLS team played its 2018 U.S. Open Cup fourth round match against the Charleston Battery there, drawing an announced sellout crowd of 9,742 fans, the most to ever attend a sporting event in the stadium’s history.

ATL UTD 2 played half a match there in 2018, finishing off a lightning-suspended match against the Ottawa Fury.

Fifth Third Bank Stadium is the home for Kennesaw State University’s football, women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse teams. It has also hosted rugby matches, concerts and festivals. The stadium is also the home of a Major League Lacrosse club, the Atlanta Blaze.

The stadium was built in 2010 as a soccer-specific venue for the Atlanta Beat, a team that played in the now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer league. U.S. women’s national team stars Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd played on the team, but the league folded in 2012.

Because of Fifth Third Bank Stadium’s initial design, it’s more suitable as a venue for soccer. There are seats close to the field, there’s seating behind one of the goals for supporter’s section and an artificial surface doesn’t need to be laid down on top of the playing field, which is reinforced natural turf.

The stadium in Kennesaw is located in the same metro Atlanta county as the club’s training ground in Marietta. A bus ride from the training grounds to Fifth Third Bank Stadium would last just nine miles. Coolray Field in Gwinnett County is 43.5 miles from the training grounds, a trip that could last more than 90 minutes, depending on Atlanta’s traffic, which can be nauseating.

“We are excited to make Kennesaw our new home next year,” Griggs said. “Fifth Third Bank Stadium features an award-winning, top-class playing surface and is a venue designed for professional soccer. In addition to its convenient proximity to the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground, hosting our home matches in Kennesaw provides ATL UTD 2 the best environment to develop while also strengthening the Atlanta United brand close to home.”

ATL UTD 2 will open its 2019 at home, at Fifth Third Bank Stadium, against Hartford Athletic on March 9.

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