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Flowery Branch residents to DeKalb: Don't get your hopes up | News

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Flowery Branch residents to DeKalb: Don't get your hopes up

DECATUR, GA (WXIA) -- Residents of DeKalb County have high hopes for a new taxpayer-backed soccer training facility, due to be built next year.

But the hopes may be too high, say some folks who live near another training facility that’s cited by the project’s backers.

A vacant juvenile court building on Memorial Drive in Decatur is where the new Atlanta United pro soccer team will have its headquarters and practice facilities. And, when backers talk about it revitalizing a dreary stretch of roadway, they have a very specific example in mind.

The Hall County town of Flowery Branch boasts openly of its ties to the Atlanta Falcons. When the Falcons’ training camp is open to spectators, the tiny town’s population spikes by 50 percent. Backers of the DeKalb County soccer project have similarly high hopes for a troubled stretch of Memorial Drive.

“I bet you didn’t know where Flowery Branch was prior to the Falcons going there,” said the county’s interim CEO, Lee May. “It has had a very catalytic effect in that area.”

But catalytic is not the word used in Flowery Branch from business owners like Janet Upchurch, who have watch Flowery Branch grow, mostly as an extension of Gwinnett County’s suburban sprawl.

She urges DeKalb residents to keep their expectations in check.

“Everything is good that brings economic development,” she said. “But don’t expect it to be the winning end-all that’s going to bring money and fame to your area. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

DeKalb County is contributing at least $10 million in tax dollars to the soccer complex, which, like the Falcons, is owned by billionaire Arthur Blank. In Flowery Branch, much of the property surrounding the Falcons’ complex remains undeveloped more than a decade after the team located their practice facility there.

“I think, realistically, it’s going to bring people to your area, but it’s not going to be this fabulous thing that they might think it is,” Upchurch said.

The Atlanta United will begin playing games in the new Atlanta stadium in downtown Atlanta in 2017, and hope to have the new practice facility finished in the same timeframe.



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