0

Stadium enhances lure of Silverbacks complex

As they motor from Interstate 285 East to Interstate 85 North, across the top of the famed Spaghetti Junction, drivers can't help but peer toward the growing complex to their right.

A site that used to be far from scenic now has three lighted soccer fields, one inside the area's new soccer stadium, RE/MAX Greater Atlanta Stadium at Silverbacks Park.

The development's continued expansion has certainly changed the landscape in the area where I-85 and I-285 meet near the Gwinnett-DeKalb border, and it will continue to do so in the future. A four-phase plan has the goal of making the stadium a 15,000-seat venue with an upper deck.

"We hope that one day it's a landmark for Atlanta, even though you've got another landmark, Spaghetti Junction, right there," said Michael Oki, director of Silverbacks Park. "Hopefully one day everybody knows, that's Silverbacks Park right there."

Each day, more and more people are becoming aware.

The park is a hub for soccer players in the area, including the Silverbacks' professional men's and women's teams. The three soccer fields, complete with FieldTurf artificial turf, host various leagues and events for adults and children, but the centerpiece is the new stadium, which opened June 3.

The first phase of the process began two years ago, when

Silverbacks Park opened with its three soccer fields. Phase II was unveiled this year with a 3,000-seat stadium. By next season, the club hopes to add 1,000 more seats and complete work on locker rooms, a restaurant and the concourse.

Phase III calls for an expansion to 7,500 seats along with the addition of a health club and the relocation of the Silverbacks' administrative headquarters. The eventual plans for Phase IV feature an upper deck that will push capacity to 15,000.

The Silverbacks seek to continue to make their teams more competitive, as well as attract high-profile soccer events like national team and international games. Up until this season the club didn't have its own home stadium - it played games at DeKalb Memorial Stadium - but now practices and games are held at a facility strictly for the Silverbacks.

The building process is in its fledgling stages, but the long-term goals are certainly lofty.

"We hope that one day, and some people laugh at this, but we're serious that one day we want to be playing a team like Real Madrid," Oki said. "We want a team like that playing the Atlanta Silverbacks. We want a team like that to come over here and play. We want to be able to play the top teams in the world and beat them."

While the long-term plans are eye-catching, Oki is quick to point out that the venue is currently impressive. It's also home to a pair of successful pro teams.

"It doesn't take 15,000 seats to make this place special," he said. "Even with 3,000 seats now, there isn't any park for soccer in this area like it. Not just in Atlanta, but in the Southeast. Charleston has one a little bigger.

"Our owners have traveled the world looking at facilities and ours really is a world-class facility."