Blank bids for MLS expansion franchise

October 14, 2008

ATLANTA -- Arthur Blank, who already owns two pro sports franchises in Atlanta, is aiming for a third.

Blank's management and investment company, the AMB Group, announced Tuesday it has submitted a bid for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise. He already owns the Falcons and the Arena Football League's Georgia Force.

"Filing this application represents an important next step as we continue to explore the possibility of bringing Major League Soccer to fans throughout metro Atlanta," AMB spokesman Brian Farley said in a statement.

MLS, which has 14 teams this season, awarded expansion franchises to Seattle (2009) and Philadelphia (2010) and plans to add two more by the 2011 season. Atlanta is contending with Las Vegas, St. Louis, Portland, the New York City area and the Canadian cities of Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver.

The expansion fee is expected to be around $40 million, and any successful bid would likely have to include plans for a soccer-specific stadium with seating for around 20,000.

MLS teams have already opened eight such facilities, with plans for at least three more in the works among the current and future franchises.

"We're also looking at how best to create a sports and entertainment center that can not only serve as a premier soccer destination but also a community resource for soccer enthusiasts at various levels of play throughout the region," Farley said.

Suburban Cobb County could be an attractive choice for a new stadium. Sam Olens, chairman of the county commission, said a proposed site near Kennesaw State University would be ideal, though financing remains a hurdle. Some public money would likely be required.

"The ability to link a soccer franchise with KSU is a very exciting opportunity from the county's perspective," Olen said.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press