- Tim Tucker The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
College Football Playoff officials call it the “Championship Campus,” a compact area in downtown Atlanta where several days of fanfare will precede Monday night’s national title game.
Events in advance of the game will include a three-day interactive fan festival inside the Georgia World Congress Center, an open-to-the-public “media day” in Philips Arena and a three-day concert series in Centennial Olympic Park.
All of those venues and others are within walking distance of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide will meet for the national championship.
The various ancillary events are expected to draw about 150,000 people over the weekend, College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said Wednesday.
A similar series of events has been held in conjunction with the national championship game each year since the playoff began in the 2014 season. But this is the first time all of the major ancillary events will be held in close proximity to the stadium where the championship game will be played.
“The footprint here is ideal for an event like ours, with the walkability from the downtown hotels and MARTA to the ‘championship campus,’” Hancock said. “It’s all setting up quite nicely.
“I think the difference people who have been to our game all four years will notice will be the energy level downtown as so many people -- Georgia fans and Alabama fans -- come downtown just to be a part of it and experience it. Outside the stadium, downtown will be awesome.”
What isn’t ideal is this week’s bitterly cold weather or the forecast of rain Monday.
“This is a January event, and we expect January weather,” Hancock said. “I don’t think it will lessen any of anybody’s enthusiasm for the event.”
The proximity of venues to downtown hotels always is a big part of Atlanta’s pitch when the city pursues major sports events, including its successful bids for the 2019 Super Bowl and 2020 college basketball Final Four.
“I do think that becomes one of the key differentiations between Atlanta and other markets in hosting big sports events,” said Dan Corso, president of the Atlanta Sports Council. “Our compact, focused footprint … is one of the biggest things we have going for us, certainly one of the top selling points.”
It has become an important selling point because marquee sports events increasingly are multi-day spectacles with several days of buildup before the actual competition.
The College Football Playoff will exemplify that trend with a deep lineup of activities from early Saturday morning through Monday night’s championship game.
Playoff Fan Central, a family-friendly festival with interactive games, youth sports clinics, pep rallies, autograph signings and more, will be held in 300,000 square feet of space in the Georgia World Congress Center. It will be open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door, with kids 12 and under admitted free with a ticketed adult.
Another indoor event will be Saturday morning’s “Media Day” in Philips Arena. About 1,000 media members will interview players and coaches from both teams – Georgia from 9-10 a.m. and Alabama from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Admission is free for fans, who can sit in the stands and listen on hand-held radios to interviews.
Outdoors at Centennial Olympic Park, a free concert series, called AT&T Playoff Playlist Live, will be staged, along with fireworks shows. Park gates are scheduled to open at 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and noon Monday.
The lineup of recording artists performing includes Jason Derulo and Charlie Puth, along with special guest Lizzo, on Saturday night; The Chainsmokers, along with additional performances by Bebe Rexha and Spencer Ludwig, on Sunday; and Darius Rucker in a pregame event Monday, along with opening act Brett Young.
In addition, seven-time Grammy Award-winning artist Kendrick Lamar will perform at a free non-ticketed watch party in the park during the game Monday, with the performance integrated into ESPN’s halftime telecast. The game will be shown on a three-story-tall video screen in the park.
Other planned events include: Championship Tailgate Plaza, an outdoor gathering place with three days of fan activities in International Plaza next to Mercedes-Benz Stadium; Taste of the Championship, a gourmet food event benefiting the College Football Playoff’s “Extra Yard for Teachers” initiative on the eve of the game at the Georgia Aquarium; and the Extra Yard 5K race Sunday morning in downtown Atlanta.
“With all of the events going on, the atmosphere is going to be memorable forever for anyone attending,” said Carl Adkins, executive director of Atlanta’s host committee for the game. “It’s going to be a celebratory atmosphere.
“There are so many different ways for the fans to plug in and for the locals to be a part of it, even if they don’t have a game ticket.”
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Events in downtown Atlanta leading to Monday’s College Football Playoff championship game include:
Playoff Fan Central: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Georgia World Congress Center.
Media Day: 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Philips Arena.
AT&T Playoff Playlist Live: Centennial Olympic Park will open at 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and noon Monday for a series of free concerts. (Entrance will be at Marietta Street and Centennial Olympic Park Drive.)
Championship Tailgate Plaza: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday, International Plaza outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Extra Yard 5K race: 8 a.m. Sunday, starts at International Plaza.
Taste of the Championship: 7 p.m. Sunday, Georgia Aquarium.
Watch Party: Starts at 7 p.m. Monday, Centennial Olympic Park.
The game: 8 p.m. Monday, Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
For more information on various events, go to www.atlchampgame.com/event