- By D. Orlando Ledbetter The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
They haven’t swept up all of the confetti here, but Atlanta is on the clock for Super Bowl LIII.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made the official hand-off of the ceremonial football to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at the Mall of America on Monday following Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
“We’ve known it’s coming and we’ve been planning and preparing, but it really hit home today when you are standing up there with commissioner Goodell and they hand that ball off,” said Brett Daniels, the chief operating officer of the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee. “We had the luxury in the past to say that we’re after Houston or after Minnesota, but there is nobody we’re after, it’s us. All the focus is on us moving forward.”
The Super Bowl will be played Feb. 3, 2019, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Falcons owner Arthur Blank is confident that issues pertaining to the hypothetically retractable roof – which still doesn’t open and close like it’s supposed to and has leaked – will be resolved by “late spring, early summer.”
An Atlanta delegation of about 30 people received a day-long look at the inner workings of the Minnesota Super Bowl from NFL officials on Friday. They took a tour of several venues. They also were briefed to show the Atlantans what’s headed to town and how the game has evolved and expanded since the city last hosted the Super Bowl in 2000.
“There is one thing that has not changed and will not change and that is the hospitality and charm of the people of Atlanta,” Daniels said. “We look forward to (Super Bowl fans and guests) experiencing that.”
After taking the football from Goodell, the Atlanta officials showed a video built around the theme of “WeAreATL” which was narrated by Atlanta native Chris Bridges, the rapper known as Ludacris.
“This is a special day for Atlanta,” said Dan Corso, the executive director of the Atlanta Sports Council. “We are now just under a year from hosting our third Super Bowl. We look forward to welcoming everyone to Atlanta which has transformed since our last Super Bowl in 2000.”
Lance Bottoms complimented the Minnesota Host committee and the hospitality of the army of volunteers.
“We have so many stake holders who are already at the table including the City of Atlanta, our public safety partners, the Sports Council, the Metro Chamber, Arthur Blank and the folks over at the Georgia World Congress Center,” Lance Bottoms said. “None of us could pull this off alone. Meetings have been taking place. I’m the new person at the table, but this has been well thought out. The planning has been going along seamlessly.”
While the bugs at the stadium are being worked out, the Atlanta infrastructure is already in place.
“What I keep hearing repeatedly is to make every day count,” Lance Bottoms said. “At this point, we obviously can’t afford to lose a day. I’m glad to have a seat at the table and be a part of what’s to come.”
Daniels, a former Dallas Cowboys executive, knows that Atlanta must match or surpass the sheer numbers and hospitality of the Minnesota volunteers.
“We are definitely preparing for that,” Daniels said. “All of our thoughts have gone into how do we manage that, how do we recruit it and train them so that we show them that Southern hospitality and charm that we have in Atlanta.”
Atlanta hosted Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994 and Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000. Atlanta was awarded Super Bowl LIII on May 24, 2016.
Super Bowl XXXIV is most remembered for the ice storm that hit the Friday before the game and shut down parts of the city. It was the second of two chilling storms that struck that week.
Ice coated major roads throughout the region caused massive pile-ups including a 47-car wreck on I-20 west of Atlanta. The rain continued for much of the day Saturday as temperatures hovered near the freezing mark, forming a quarter-inch thick coating of ice on most surfaces.
“It will be us preparing for the worst, but expecting the best,” Daniels said. “We know that we’ll be ready regardless of what happens. We’ll be prepared for it, but we just hope that we’ll have those beautiful 50 and 60 degree days.”
The Atlanta contingent also visited other key aspects of the week-long spectacle including: Super Bowl Live, an outdoor fan festival in downtown Minneapolis; the volunteer operations center, from which 10,000 locals are deployed and a Rolling Stone magazine party that feature T. Pain, Migos and 21 Savage.
In addition to host committee staffers, the Atlanta delegation included representatives of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Atlanta Sports Council, the Georgia World Congress Center, the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Falcons and city government.
The Atlanta Super Bowl will be more centrally located around the new stadium, the Georgia World Congress Center and Centennial Park.
“(It’s) one of the unique things about Atlanta and what makes it such a great city for hosting any major event whether if it be a sporting event like the Super Bowl or conventions as well,” Daniels said. “With that downtown core we have all of the facilities in place with the stadium, Georgia World Congress Center, Philips Arena and Centennial Park and then it’s surrounded by all of those major hotels. I think our city sets up incredibly well for this event.”