Houston Super Bowl Prep a Glimpse into Atlanta's Future

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


HOUSTON -- Like 500 or so other employees of Arthur Blank's businesses, Scott Jenkins will be in NRG Stadium on Sunday cheering for the Atlanta Falcons against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

But Jenkins, general manager of the still-under-construction Mercedes-Benz Stadium, also will have another Super Bowl on his mind -- the one that will be played in Atlanta's new retractable-roof stadium in two years.

As part of the preparation for the 2019 game, Jenkins and about a dozen others associated with the Metro Atlanta Host Committee long had planned to attend this season's Super Bowl at the NFL's invitation for an up-close, behind-the-scenes look at the enormous event. They just didn't know until recently that the Falcons would be there, too.

"We'd be going either way, but it's all that more special to have our team there," Jenkins said.

"It makes for a really exciting time, not only the anticipation of hosting the Super Bowl two years from now but being part of it with the team this year."

Atlanta has hosted the Super Bowl twice previously -- in 1994 and 2000 at the Georgia Dome -- and the opportunity to do so again was part of Falcons owner Blank's pitch for a new stadium. As big as the Super Bowl was when Atlanta last hosted the event, it has grown larger.

That's the point 2019 organizers expect to process this week in Houston.

"We want to make sure everybody gets a good sense of the enormity and the scale of the event," said Carl Adkins, a former general manager of the Georgia Dome and now the executive director of Atlanta's 2019 Super Bowl host committee.

"There are so many more ancillary events surrounding the game itself now," Adkins said. "In Houston, we want to clearly understand exactly how it's changed, because the game that worked in 2000 was very, very different. We want to make sure we clearly understand just how big it is."

By Monday, six days before the Falcons-Patriots game, the Super Bowl seemed to have already consumed the nation's fourth largest city.

Trains, buses and some buildings are wrapped in Super Bowl motif. Some downtown streets are closed to accommodate Super Bowl attractions, which already have drawn more than 100,000 people. Elaborate corporate and fan parties are scheduled at many venues through Sunday. More than 10,000 local volunteers are deployed in various roles.

Super Bowl Live, a nine-day outdoor fan festival downtown, features concerts and what the Houston host committee calls its "wow factor": a 90-foot-tall virtual-reality trip to Mars and back. The NFL Experience, housed at the George R. Brown Convention Center, offers participatory games, youth football clinics, merchandise sales and autograph sessions with NFL players.

This is the type of show that is coming to Atlanta in two years.

"The single most important sporting event for the United States," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called it Monday.

"People will be coming from literally around the globe to be right here in the city of Houston," he said.

Turner said his city expects $450 million in gross economic impact from the Super Bowl before making various adjustments, such as accounting for conventions that otherwise might have been here this week.

"I think when you minus out some things, it'll be about $350 million (in economic impact), conservatively speaking," he said.

Board and staff members from Atlanta's 2019 host committee, along with similar delegations from 2018 host Minneapolis and 2020 host Miami, will study the spectacle. Some already are here and others will arrive by Thursday. On Friday, the groups are scheduled for a full day of meetings with Houston organizers to be briefed on various aspects of hosting the event: volunteer programs, media facilities, ancillary activities, stadium set-up and tour.

"We're going in there to look at it from pure planning mode," said Atlanta Sports Council President Dan Corso, who also is president of the 2019 host committee.

"It's way more than a normal football game, with all the space that you take beyond the footprint of the stadium," Jenkins said. "It's all the infrastructure that goes in around it and the hugemediaaccommodations you make and, of course, the pregame show and the halftime show and the post-game celebration. There's a lot of things that go on that are out of the ordinary that we're going to be paying particularly close attention to."

Although Atlanta's plans for the 2019 event are preliminary and evolving, the city's successful bid to the NFL proposed Centennial Olympic Park as the site of Super Bowl Village, potentially featuring concerts, fireworks and "as the main attraction hot air balloon rides on Super Bowl branded tethered balloons." The bid proposed the Georgia World Congress Center as the site of the NFL Experience, the indoor interactive theme park.

Moments after Atlanta secured the 2019 game in a vote of NFL owners last year, Blank said he wanted his Falcons to do something no team has ever done: play in the Super Bowl in its home stadium.

First things first for the Falcons, though: playing in Houston's Super Bowl.

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January 31, 2017


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