The College Football Playoff national championship trophy will be at stake Monday night when Georgia plays Alabama.
Photo: Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images
Photo: Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images

College football’s title game kicks off string of mega-events for Atlanta 

On a particularly busy day in mid-December, Atlanta Football Host Committee staffers were juggling more meetings than usual. 

College Football Playoff officials were in town from Dallas, wrapping up a three-day visit to finalize preparations for the national championship game.  And NFL staffers had arrived from New York, along with architects and a TV production crew, to start planning the broadcast compound and other space for next season’s Super Bowl.

That day’s overlapping visits from delegations representing the two mega-events reflected the prominent place Atlanta will hold in the sports world over the next few years.

College football’s national title game, pitting the Georgia Bulldogs against the Alabama Crimson Tide, will be played here Monday night. The Super Bowl will be played here on Feb. 3, 2019. And college basketball’s Final Four will be here in April 2020.

All three events will be held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

UGA roster for national championship game vs. Alabama

Hosting the marquee events in back-to-back-to-back years presents both challenges and synergies for the local host committee’s 13 staff members, who are tasked with planning and managing the events locally. 

The staffers have been at work for more than a year on the college football title game. All are expected to stay on the job through next year’s Super Bowl, and most then will transition to the Final Four.

“The synergies far outweigh the challenges,” said Carl Adkins, executive director of the Atlanta host committee for all three events. “We have a team with over 200 years of combined event experience just on the host committee, which lends itself to being able to switch from one event to the other.

“All of the issues are essentially the same. It’s just different elements within the different events that you’re dealing with in terms of complexity, or it’s a different (broadcast) network. But having that core group able to handle issues across all three -- we couldn’t have a better problem.” 

The trilogy constitutes Atlanta’s highest-profile string of sports 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. 

Adding to the coming stretch, the MLS All-Star game will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Aug. 1. Also, the Braves have submitted a bid to host baseball’s All-Star game at SunTrust Park in 2020 or 2021. MLB hasn’t yet awarded those games, which several other teams also are seeking. 

UGA to Atlanta: Follow AJC’s coverage of the national championship

As host committee staffers have prepared for the college football title game, often seeking to engage the public, their early planning for next year’s Super Bowl has gone on simultaneously but quietly. 

“We’ve intentionally tried to keep a low profile locally regarding the Super Bowl simply because we have not wanted the College Football Playoff to feel in any way, shape or form that we are not 100 percent focused on their event, which we are,” said Adkins, a former general manager of the Georgia Dome. “After CFP, it’s going to be full steam ahead with the Super Bowl.” 

Atlanta host committee officials will attend next month’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis and, on the day after the game, take the ceremonial handoff from organizers there at a news conference.

This won’t be the first time recently that a city hosts these three-events in consecutive years. 

The Phoenix area hosted the Super Bowl in February 2015, the college football title game in January 2016 and the Final Four in April 2017. All three events were held at the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium in Glendale, Ariz. 

Atlanta now starts the same stretch in a different order. 

College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock praised the work of the Atlanta host committee, led by Atlanta Sports Council President Dan Corso and Adkins, and expressed confidence in their ability to tackle the three events back-to-back-to-back. 

“No one will notice any falloff in any of the three events,” Hancock said. “All three will be very special, both within the community and for the outsiders who come in.” 

Hancock said the local organizers have shown a knack for “intuitively knowing what to do without waiting for us to tell them.” 

More than 1,100 volunteers were recruited and trained to cover more than 7,000 shifts in helping stage the college championship game and related ancillary events, Adkins said. Many of the volunteers are expected to fill similar roles for the Super Bowl next year and the Final Four the year after. 

Atlanta made bids for all three events while Mercedes-Benz Stadium was under construction and landed each in the desired year, agreeing in all cases to a long list of specifications for hosting. 

Hancock suggested it might be better for residents if a city “spread out the good times” rather than hosting so many marquee events in such a short period. “But my goodness, if you’re in line to get any of those three events, you really don’t care when you get them,” he said. “You just want to make sure you get them.”

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