Sports in Atlanta

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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 new as of March 2017, Atlanta United FC of Major League Soccer. Atlanta United FC will call Mercedes Benz Stadium home along with the Atlanta Falcons starting in July 2017. Atlanta has also recently added a professional lacrosse team, the Atlanta Blaze.

Major league sports[edit]

Club Sport League Venue (capacity) Founded Titles
Atlanta Falcons Football NFL Mercedes-Benz Stadium (71,000) 1966 0
Atlanta Braves Baseball MLB SunTrust Park (41,500) 1871 1 (1995)
Atlanta Hawks Basketball NBA Philips Arena (18,100) 1946 0
Atlanta United FC Soccer MLS Mercedes-Benz Stadium (42,500) 2014 0
Atlanta Dream Basketball WNBA Philips Arena (18,100) 2007 0


The Atlanta Braves baseball team has been the Major League Baseball franchise of Atlanta since 1966; the franchise was previously known as the Boston Braves (1912–1952), and the Milwaukee Braves (1953–1965). 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.[citation needed] The Braves won the World Series in 1995 and had an unprecedented run of 14 straight divisional championships from 1991 to 2005.[citation needed]

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 were Atlanta's Negro League team from around 1921 until 1949. The Braves' Triple-A affiliate, the Gwinnett Stripers of the International League, has been based in the Gwinnett County suburb of Lawrenceville since 2009.

American football[edit]

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 [1]. 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 and XXXIV were held in the city. Atlanta is scheduled to host Super Bowl LIII in 2019.


The Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association began in 1946 as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, playing in Moline, Illinois. The team moved to Milwaukee in 1951, then to St. Louis in 1955, where they won their sole NBA Championship as the St. Louis Hawks. In 1968, they came to Atlanta.[2]

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 team has since moved to McCamish Pavilion on the campus of Georgia Tech due to planned renovations of Philips Arena conflicting with the WNBA schedule.


Atlanta was selected in April 2014 for an expansion team to join Major League Soccer and begin play in 2017.[3] The team, operated by Falcons owner Arthur Blank (co-founder of The Home Depot), will share Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the Falcons and will be named Atlanta United FC.[4]

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 won the championship of the now-defunct North American Soccer League in 1968.

Other sports[edit]

Club Sport League Venue Founded Titles
Atlanta Gladiators Hockey ECHL Infinite Energy Arena 2003 0
Georgia Swarm Box lacrosse NLL Infinite Energy Arena 2004 1
Atlanta Blaze Field lacrosse MLL Fifth Third Bank Stadium 2016 0
Gwinnett Stripers Baseball IL (AAA) Coolray Field 2009 0

College sports[edit]

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[edit]

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.[5] The stadium was built in 1913 by students of Georgia Tech. Atlanta also played host to the second intercollegiate football game in the South, played between Auburn University and the University of Georgia in Piedmont Park in 1892; this game is now called the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.[6]

Georgia State[edit]

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.

Kennesaw State[edit]

The Kennesaw State Owls, based in the northern suburb of Kennesaw, represent Kennesaw State University in 17 varsity sports in the Atlantic Sun 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.[7]

Ice hockey[edit]

In 1972, Atlanta became home to the Atlanta Flames of the National Hockey League. In 1980, the team had departed for Calgary, Alberta, becoming the Calgary Flames. In 1999, the NHL returned to Atlanta in the form of the Atlanta Thrashers. The Thrashers played in Philips Arena; however, the team moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba and became the current Winnipeg Jets in 2011, again leaving Atlanta without an NHL franchise.

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, has served as 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.

Rugby league[edit]

Atlanta Rhinos of the USA Rugby League represent the city of Atlanta at Rugby league. The club is linked with professional European Super League club Leeds Rhinos.

Rugby union[edit]

Atlanta is home to many rugby union clubs including the Atlanta Harlequins, ranked #2 in the United States in Division 1 for women's clubs under USA Rugby, the governing body for rugby in the United States.[8] 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 teams[edit]

In the Arena Football League, The Georgia Force has been Atlanta's team since the franchise relocated from Nashville in 2002. They played in Philips Arena 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.[9]

Tournaments and events[edit]

Races and marathons[edit]

Atlanta hosts the annual Peachtree Road Race, the world’s largest 10 km race.,[10] the Publix Georgia Marathon and half-marathon, the Atlanta Marathon, and many other annual races.

Tournaments hosted[edit]

Atlanta was the host city for the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics. Atlanta has also hosted Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994 and Super Bowl XXXIV, as well as 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

Other events[edit]

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.[11] 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 organization and events. Atlanta also hosted WrestleMania XXVII in the Georgia Dome on April 3, 2011.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "A Franchise Rich With Tradition: From Pettit To 'Pistol Pete' To The 'Human Highlight Film'." Atlanta Hawks. Retrieved on April 29, 2008.
  3. ^ Falkoff, Robert (November 16, 2007). "Commissioner outlines league goals". Major League Soccer, L.L.C. Retrieved March 21, 2008. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Bobby Dodd Stadium At Historic Grant Field :: A Cornerstone of College Football for Nearly a Century". Georgia Tech Athletic Association. Retrieved March 24, 2007. 
  6. ^ "Georgia And Auburn Face Off In Deep South's Oldest Rivalry." November 6, 2006. Retrieved on April 29, 2008.
  7. ^ "Kennesaw State Football Joins Big South Conference as Associate Member" (Press release). Kennesaw State Athletics. September 4, 2013. Retrieved October 6, 2013. 
  8. ^ [1], retrieved July 28, 2011.
  9. ^ Ladies Gaelic Football Na Fianna Atlanta, retrieved on November 12, 2009.
  10. ^ Shirreffs, Allison (November 14, 2005). "Peachtree race director deflects praise to others". Atlanta Business Chronicle. Retrieved January 1, 2008. 
  11. ^ 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.