Atlanta gearing up for three marquee sports events

The bids have been won. Now the even harder work begins.

After going 3-for-3 in bids to host marquee sporting events over the next few years — the College Football Playoff national championship game in January 2018, the Super Bowl in February 2019 and the Final Four in April 2020 — Atlanta sports and hospitality officials are assembling organizations to plan and manage the events locally.

Carl Adkins, long-time general manager of the Georgia Dome, has been tapped to serve as executive director of the local host committees for both the college-football title game and the Final Four. He’ll begin working full time on the football game on Sept. 1. After those duties are wrapped up in early 2018, he’ll shift to the college basketball Final Four.

“The timing on it is perfect from my standpoint … to segue from one to the other,” Adkins said.

Meanwhile, an executive director to lead the day-to-day operations of the Super Bowl host committee will be hired by early next year and will focus solely on preparing for that event for two years, according to Atlanta Sports Council president Dan Corso.

Having the three events in back-to-back-to-back years in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium downtown will be Atlanta’s highest profile string of sporting events since a 1994-2003 stretch during which the city hosted the Olympics (1996), two Super Bowls (1994 and 2000), the Final Four (2002) and the MLB and NBA all-star games (2000 and 2003, respectively). The Braves also played in five World Series during the 1990s.

“In the ’90s and into the early 2000s, we were on an incredible run,” Adkins said. “I see this (upcoming stretch) as the second wave.”

The first of the three events to gear up preparations is the college-football title game, scheduled for Jan. 8, 2018, which will mark the first time the sport’s national champion is crowned in Atlanta. The Atlanta Football Host Committee met recently and elected officers, including Corso as president and Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau CEO William Pate as vice president.

Since 1991, Adkins has worked for the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, the state agency that operates the Georgia Dome. He became the Dome’s assistant general manager in 1995 and its GM in 2002. He was named the GWCCA’s chief commercial officer early this year, a position he’ll relinquish.

With the Georgia Dome destined for demolition after the new stadium opens next year, the role with the host committees “seemed like a perfect fit and a great transition and something I’m just thrilled at the opportunity to be a part of,” Adkins said.

“He has a very long history with big events,” Corso said of Adkins. “As we go through the planning stages for the 2018 championship game and the 2020 men’s Final Four, we are very convinced that his ability to organize and motivate and bring all the moving pieces together on those two big events is going to be invaluable. We’re very excited about having Carl in that spot.”

Adkins will remain a GWCCA employee, but the host committees will reimburse the GWCCA for his salary and benefits.

Funding for hosting the college-football title game and the Final Four will come from a portion of the Atlanta hotel-motel tax designated for major events. Funding for hosting the Super Bowl will come from the same tax and corporate contributions.

Adkins and Corso noted that plans will center around what was promised in the winning bids: staging the massive events in a “walk-able” environment that provides multiple venues for ancillary events in close proximity to Mercedes-Benz Stadium — the Congress Center, Centennial Olympic Park, the Georgia Aquarium, the College Football Hall of Fame and others.

“I think there will be tremendous efficiencies created in having all three events in three consecutive years,” Corso said. “It’ll be fun to see it all come together and see how all three events can work together.”

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