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.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

Kazee bracing for fine from the NFL 
Kazee bracing for fine from the NFL 

Falcons free safety Damontae Kazee will likely hear from the league office today about his fine for the hit he put on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton on Sunday.   “Next question,” Kazee said when asked if he’d heard from the league office.  He’s likely to become the third Atlanta player to be fined this season...
What Drew Brees had to say about the Falcons
What Drew Brees had to say about the Falcons

Here’s what Saints quarterback Drew Brees had to say during his Wednesday press conference with the New Orleans media:  “Completions are good right? Those are positive plays. Trust and confidence in the guys I’m throwing to. Getting time to be able to do it with the guys up front it's everybody working together. Just time on...
Remember when? How things have changed since Braves’ last playoff game
Remember when? How things have changed since Braves’ last playoff game

The Braves are closing in on their first playoff appearance since 2013, and they could secure the berth on their home field this weekend. When the Braves last played in the postseason, they weren’t even in the same stadium they’re playing in now. Check out this video of how things have changed on the local sports scene since the Braves...
Exclusive: Name, logo revealed for new pro football team in Atlanta
Exclusive: Name, logo revealed for new pro football team in Atlanta

The Atlanta franchise in the new Alliance of American Football, which will kick off its inaugural season in February, will be named the Atlanta Legends. “Atlanta makes legends — that’s what the city does,” league co-founder Charlie Ebersol said. “It does it historically, it does it in terms of sports. When I think...
CoMo: A nice little town with a pretty good football team
CoMo: A nice little town with a pretty good football team

ATHENS — I really need to check out the Gateway Arch. All these years of going to Missouri and I’ve still never visited the most famous monument in that state. Located in St. Louis, Mo., the Gateway Arch is, of course, an enormous stainless steel structure that was built in the 1960s to symbolize the westward expansion...
More Stories