Organizers gearing up for logistics of city hosting three of sports’ biggest events over next three years

Organizers gearing up for logistics of city hosting three of sports’ biggest events over next three years

By Gary McKillips, Correspondent


Landing big sports events is one thing. Making sure they come off flawlessly for fans, sponsors and television audiences around the world is yet another. That’s the challenge facing Atlanta when three of the biggest events in the world — the College Football Playoff National Championship (2018), the Super Bowl (2019) and the NCAA Men’s Final Four (2020) — come to the city.

To cope with this new reality — being the first city to be awarded these three events in three consecutive years — the Atlanta Sports Council, a division of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, created a Championship Hosting Division to focus on streamline the planning and production of major sports events.

Dan Corso, president of the Atlanta Sports Council, said the Championship Hosting Division provides oversight to the organization and planning of the event after the bid process has been completed.

Named to head the new division was Carl Adkins, formerly general manager of the Georgia Dome. Adkins called the new organizational structure a “unique model and one that will provide continuity to all three events.” Corso added an established host committee will give Atlanta an edge in recruiting big events.

The payoff for running these three events successfully could be immense. Although Corso said it’s too early to speculate on the economic impact, this year’s Final Four, College Football Playoff and Super Bowl cumulatively generated an estimated $800 million for their communities.

The Super Bowl garners the largest payback for the host city and the highest TV ratings. Approximately 111.3 million domestic viewers tuned into this year’s Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons in Houston.

Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay said Atlanta’s operations teams will work with the state, city, the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, Central Atlanta Progress, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the community “to ensure we execute the best possible experience.”

The Falcons have taken measures to ensure that will happen. McKay and others visited with members of the Houston host committee to learn what challenges they faced for the 2017 Super Bowl. They will do the same in 2018, when the Super Bowl moves to Minnesota.

The catalyst for all three championship events is Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The multipurpose, retractable roof facility is scheduled to open next month with a series of events, including Falcons preseason games and Atlanta United regular-season matches. The stadium will play host to the college football championship on Jan. 8.

Adkins said one of Atlanta’s most important assets is the walkability of the downtown area around Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The area features a multitude of hotels, making ancillary events easy to stage.

Asked what keeps him up at night when thinking of all the upcoming events, Adkins said “security. In this day and age, it’s always a concern.” He noted, however, “Atlanta’s public safety team has been outstanding and has doubled-down on all events in the past.” The Georgia Highway Patrol, Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Atlanta police are assisting with the planning for all three events.

Gary McKillips is a contributing writer for the Atlanta Business Chronicle, an affiliated publication.