Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Atlanta United FC match in 2018
Atlanta United FC match in 2018

Sports in Atlanta has a rich history, including the oldest on-campus NCAA Division I football stadium, Bobby Dodd Stadium, built in 1913 by the students of Georgia Tech. Atlanta also played host to the second intercollegiate football game in the South, played between the A&M College of Alabama (now Auburn University) and the University of Georgia in Piedmont Park in 1892; this game is now called the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry. The city hosts college football's annual Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and the Peachtree Road Race, the world's largest 10 km race. Atlanta was the host city for the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics, and Downtown Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park was built for and commemorates the games.

Atlanta is home to professional franchises for five major team sports: the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball, the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association, the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League, the Atlanta Dream of the Women's National Basketball Association, and Atlanta United FC of Major League Soccer. Atlanta has also has top-level teams in the Georgia Swarm of the National Lacrosse League, the Atlanta Blaze of Major League Lacrosse, Atlanta Rhinos in the North American Rugby League and Rugby ATL of Major League Rugby.

Atlanta was previously home to the Atlanta Flames (1972–1980) and the Atlanta Thrashers (1999–2011) of the National Hockey League.

Major league sports

Club Sport League Venue (capacity) First
season
Moved to
Atlanta
Titles in
Atlanta
Atlanta Braves Baseball MLB Truist Park (41,500) 1871 1966 1 (1995)
Atlanta Falcons Football NFL Mercedes-Benz Stadium (71,000) 1966 N/A
Atlanta Hawks Basketball NBA State Farm Arena (18,100) 1946–47 1968
Georgia Swarm Box Lacrosse NLL Gas South Arena (13,000) 2004-05 2016 1 (2017)
Atlanta United Soccer MLS Mercedes-Benz Stadium (71,000) 2017 N/A 1 (2018)
Atlanta Dream Basketball WNBA Gateway Center Arena (3,500) 2008 N/A

Baseball

The Atlanta Braves baseball team has been Atlanta's Major League Baseball franchise since 1966. The team was founded in 1871 in Boston, Massachusetts as a National Association club, making it the oldest continuously operating sports franchise in North American sports.[1] The club played 82 seasons in Boston (1871–1952) and used several nicknames, including Braves. The Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953, and played as the Milwaukee Braves from 1953–1965. In Atlanta, the Braves won the 1995 World Series, and had an unprecedented run of 14 straight divisional championships from 1991 to 2005.[citation needed]

The Braves' Triple-A affiliate, the Gwinnett Stripers of the International League, has been based in the Gwinnett County suburb of Lawrenceville since 2009. Before the Braves moved to Atlanta, the Atlanta Crackers were Atlanta's professional baseball team from 1901 until their last season in 1965. They won 17 league championships in the minor leagues. The Atlanta Black Crackers (I) and Atlanta Black Crackers (II) were Atlanta's Negro league teams from 1919 until 1949.

American football

The Falcons have been Atlanta's National Football League franchise since 1966. The Falcons recently completed construction of a new retractable roof stadium, Mercedes Benz Stadium, playing their first pre-season game there on August 26, 2017.[2] They have won the division title six times in two different divisions (NFC West and current NFC South), and two conference championships, going on to lose to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. Super Bowl XXVIII, XXXIV, and LIII were hosted in Atlanta with the first two taking place in the now-demolished Georgia Dome.

The Alliance of American Football's Atlanta franchise, the Atlanta Legends, began play in 2019. They played at Georgia State Stadium, but the league's football operations were reportedly suspended and the team folded.

Basketball

The Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association have played in Atlanta since the 1968–69 NBA season. The franchise began in 1946 as the Buffalo Bisons, briefly playing in Buffalo, New York, before moving to Moline, Illinois and becoming the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. The team moved to Milwaukee in 1951, then to St. Louis in 1955, where it won it's sole NBA Championship (as the St. Louis Hawks). A decade after winning the NBA title, in 1968, the Hawks came to Atlanta.[3] The Hawks have won six division titles and 18 playoff series since moving to Atlanta.

The Hawks' NBA G League affiliate, the College Park Skyhawks, is based in College Park (immediately southwest of Atlanta).

The Atlanta Dream are a 2008 expansion team in the Women's National Basketball Association. From their inception until the 2016 season, the Dream shared Philips Arena with their NBA counterpart; however, the Dream moved to McCamish Pavilion on the campus of Georgia Tech due to renovations of Philips Arena conflicting with the WNBA schedule during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. After one more season in State Farm Arena (after the Philips was renamed during the renovations), they moved their home games to the new Gateway Center Arena for the 2020 season.

Box Lacrosse

In 2015, Atlanta became the furthest south major league box lacrosse team in the National Lacrosse League (NLL) when John Arlotta moved the Minnesota Swarm franchise from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Duluth, Georgia, and renamed the team to the Georgia Swarm.[4] In the four )full) seasons in the Atlanta market, they have made the playoffs each year, including in 2017 winning the National Lacrosse League Cup in 2017.[5]

Soccer

Atlanta was selected in April 2014 for an expansion team to join Major League Soccer and begin play in 2017.[6] The team, operated by Falcons owner Arthur Blank (co-founder of The Home Depot), shares Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the Falcons and is named Atlanta United FC.[7] Atlanta United won the MLS Cup in 2018 (the city's fourth major pro sports championship). In 2018, Atlanta United launched its reserve team, Atlanta United 2, in the USL Championship.

The original Atlanta Beat of the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA, 2001–2003) was the only team to reach the playoffs in each of the league's three seasons.[citation needed] The new Atlanta Beat made its debut in Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) in April 2010, and the following month played its first game in the new soccer-specific stadium that it shared with Kennesaw State University in the northern suburb of Kennesaw. WPS played its final season in 2011 and folded just before its scheduled 2012 season; the Beat folded along with the league and are not part of WPS' effective successor, the current National Women's Soccer League.

Atlanta was previously home to the Atlanta Silverbacks of the North American Soccer League and the Atlanta Silverbacks Women in the W-League. In 2007, the men's Silverbacks had their best season, advancing to the USL Finals against the Seattle Sounders. The women's Silverbacks won the league title in 2011. Both teams briefly ceased operations after the 2015 season, the men's team due to lack of ownership in the NASL and the women's team because the W-League ceased operations. New ownership came to the rescue prior to the 2016 seasons, as both have resurfaced in the NPSL and WPSL, respectively.

The Atlanta Chiefs competed in the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) in 1967 and the North American Soccer League (NASL) from 1968 to 1973 and again from 1979 to 1981. Founded in 1967 as a charter member of the NPSL, the club was the brainchild of Dick Cecil, then Vice President of the Atlanta Braves baseball franchise who was the Chiefs' owners. The Chiefs capped off the 1968 season by defeating the San Diego Toros in the NASL Final 1968 at Atlanta Stadium in front of approximately 15,000 spectators. In doing so, they became both the first champions of the NASL as well as the first professional sports franchise in Atlanta to win a championship.[8] For the 1973 season, the team played as the Atlanta Apollos.

Ice hockey

In 1972, The OMNI became home to the Atlanta Flames of the National Hockey League. The Flames qualified for the playoffs six times in eight seasons, but failed to win a playoff series. In 1980, the team departed for Calgary, Alberta, where it currently plays as the Calgary Flames.

In 1999, the NHL returned to Atlanta in the form of the Atlanta Thrashers, which played in Philips Arena. The Thrashers won the Southeast Division in 2006–07, but were swept in their only playoff appearance. After eleven seasons in Atlanta, in 2011, the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, and became the current Winnipeg Jets.

From 1992 to 1996, Atlanta was home to the short-lived Atlanta Knights, an International Hockey League team. Their inaugural season was excellent for a new team, and was only bested by their sophomore season in which they won the championship Turner Cup. In 1996, they moved to Quebec City, Quebec, and became the Quebec Rafales.

Since the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, their former ECHL affiliate in Duluth, Georgia, the Atlanta Gladiators, became the area's only professional hockey team. The Gladiators moved to Gwinnett County in 2003 after seven seasons as the Mobile Mysticks, and has won three division championships, and a conference championship since 2006.

Other teams

Club Sport League Venue Founded Titles
Atlanta Gladiators Ice hockey ECHL Infinite Energy Arena 2003 0
Atlanta Reign Overwatch Overwatch League Coca-Cola Roxy 2018 0
Atlanta United 2 Soccer USL Championship Fifth Third Bank Stadium 2018 0
College Park Skyhawks Basketball NBA G League Gateway Center Arena 2019 0
Gwinnett Stripers Baseball International League (AAA) Coolray Field 2009 0
Atlanta Rhinos Rugby league North American Rugby League Atlanta Silverbacks Park 2014 1 (2017)
Rugby ATL Rugby union Major League Rugby Lupo Family Field 2020 0
Atlanta FaZe Call of Duty Call of Duty League Gateway Center Arena 2019 0

Field Lacrosse

In 2016, Atlanta fielded its first professional field Lacrosse team in Major League Lacrosse. The expansion franchise, Atlanta Blaze, took to the field at Kennesaw State University's Fifth Third Bank Stadium. The team made its first MLL playoff appearance in the 2018 season.[9] The Blaze later ceased operations in 2020.[10]

Rugby league

Atlanta Rhinos, formerly of the USA Rugby League, now in the professional North American Rugby League represent the city at rugby league. The club was formerly linked with English Super League club the Leeds Rhinos.

Rugby union

Atlanta is home to many rugby union clubs. On September 21, 2018, Major League Rugby, the top-level rugby union league in North America, announced that Atlanta was one of the expansion teams joining the league for the 2020 season.[11] The team name Rugby ATL was revealed on February 26, 2019.[12]

Other rugby union teams include the Atlanta Harlequins, who ranked number two in the United States in Division 1 for women's clubs under USA Rugby,[when?] the governing body for rugby in the United States.[13] From 2014 to 2016, the suburb of Kennesaw hosted the USA Women's Sevens, an event in the annual World Rugby Women's Sevens Series in the sevens version of the sport, but that event has since moved to Las Vegas.

Other sports

In the Arena Football League, the Georgia Force played in Philips Arena and Infinite Energy Arena in suburban Duluth since the franchise relocated from Nashville in 2002 until 2012.

The Atlanta Kookaburras are a successful Australian rules football club that compete in men's and women's divisions in the MAAFL and SEAFL and USAFL National Championships.

Atlanta is home to two of the nation's Gaelic football clubs, the Na Fianna and Clan na nGael Ladies' and Men's Gaelic Football Clubs. Both are members of the North American County Board, a branch of the Gaelic Athletic Association, the worldwide governing body of Gaelic games.[14]

College sports

Atlanta has a rich tradition in collegiate athletics, with two NCAA Division I programs in the city and a third in the metropolitan area.

Georgia Tech

Bobby Dodd Stadium

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets participate in 17 intercollegiate sports, including football and basketball. Tech competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and is home to Bobby Dodd Stadium, the oldest continuously used on campus site for college football in the southern United States, and oldest currently in Division I FBS.[15] The stadium was built in 1913 by students of Georgia Tech.

Georgia State

The Georgia State Panthers, representing Georgia State University, field varsity teams in 16 sports, also including football and basketball. GSU, like Georgia Tech located within Atlanta proper, is currently in its second stint as a member of the Sun Belt Conference. It had been a charter member of the league in 1976, but left in 1981. In 2013, GSU returned to the Sun Belt from the Colonial Athletic Association. The Panthers play football at Center Parc Stadium, which was originally built as Centennial Olympic Stadium for the 1996 Olympics before being converted to Turner Field, a baseball stadium for the Atlanta Braves.

Kennesaw State

The Kennesaw State Owls, based in the northern suburb of Kennesaw, represent Kennesaw State University in 17 varsity sports in the ASUN Conference (ASUN). KSU did not start a football program until 2015. Since the ASUN has never sponsored football, KSU announced that the new football team would join the Big South Conference.[16]

Tournaments and events

Running races

Giving itself the nickname "Running City USA",[17] Atlanta hosts several popular road running events. The annual Peachtree Road Race is the world's largest 10 km race.[18] Other annual races include the Atlanta Marathon and the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon.

Tournaments hosted

Atlanta was the host city for the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics and has hosted Super Bowl XXVIII (1994), Super Bowl XXXIV (2000), and Super Bowl LIII (2019). Atlanta has also hosted the NCAA Final Four Men's Basketball Championship, most recently in 2013. The city hosts college football's annual Chick-fil-A Bowl (Formerly known as the Peach Bowl). Atlanta hosted the NCAA Final Four Men's Basketball Championship in April 2002, April 2007, and April 2013.

Atlanta Motor Speedway
Atlanta Motor Speedway

Other events

Racing facilities include Atlanta Motor Speedway, a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) NASCAR race track in Hampton, and Road Atlanta in Braselton. In 2005 Atlanta competed with other major U.S. cities for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In March 2006, Atlanta lost to Charlotte, North Carolina.

In golf, the final PGA Tour event of the season, The Tour Championship, is played annually at East Lake Golf Club.[19] This golf course is used because of its connection to the great amateur golfer Bobby Jones, an Atlanta native.

Atlanta also was the home to the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling hosted two Starcade events, held each Thanksgiving night, by WCW. Atlanta also hosted WrestleMania XXVII in the Georgia Dome on April 3, 2011.

References

  1. ^ "10 Oldest Baseball Teams in America" oldest.org
  2. ^ "Falcons fans awed by new Mercedes-Benz Stadium". Ajc.com.
  3. ^ "A Franchise Rich With Tradition: From Pettit To 'Pistol Pete' To The 'Human Highlight Film'." Atlanta Hawks. Retrieved on April 29, 2008.
  4. ^ "Swarm lacrosse team moving to Atlanta". Star Tribune. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  5. ^ Gabriel Burns, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Georgia Swarm wins first Champion's Cup, Atlanta's third major league sports title". ajc. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  6. ^ Falkoff, Robert (November 16, 2007). "Commissioner outlines league goals". Major League Soccer, L.L.C. Archived from the original on April 1, 2008. Retrieved March 21, 2008.
  7. ^ "Falcons making progress on MLS for Atlanta". Ajc.com.
  8. ^ Hummer, Steve (March 9, 2018). "Remembering soccer's Chiefs, 50 years after they won it all". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Cox Enterprises. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  9. ^ Blaze, Atlanta. "Atlanta Blaze History". Atlanta Blaze. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  10. ^ "MLL Announced It Will Cease Operations of the Atlanta Blaze". Major League Lacrosse. February 16, 2020.
  11. ^ "Major League Rugby confirms Boston and Atlanta for 2020 - Americas Rugby News". www.americasrugbynews.com. September 21, 2018.
  12. ^ "ATLANTA'S NEW MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY TEAM PICKS A NAME". USMLR.com. February 26, 2019.
  13. ^ "AHWRFC". AHWRFC. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  14. ^ Ladies Gaelic Football Na Fianna Atlanta, retrieved on November 12, 2009.
  15. ^ "Bobby Dodd Stadium At Historic Grant Field :: A Cornerstone of College Football for Nearly a Century". RamblinWreck.com. Georgia Tech Athletic Association. Retrieved March 24, 2007.
  16. ^ "Kennesaw State Football Joins Big South Conference as Associate Member" (Press release). Kennesaw State Athletics. September 4, 2013. Retrieved October 6, 2013.
  17. ^ King, Michael (3 July 2018). "Atlanta named 'Running City USA' because of AJC Peachtree Road Race". WXIA-TV. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  18. ^ Shirreffs, Allison (November 14, 2005). "Peachtree race director deflects praise to others". Atlanta Business Chronicle. Retrieved January 1, 2008.
  19. ^ From 2007 to 2013, this was not the final event of the season, although it was the last event of the FedEx Cup points race, making it the last event featuring elite players. With the PGA Tour's change to an October-to-September season for 2013–14, The Tour Championship is once again the final event of the season.