GHSA moves football finals to Georgia State

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Georgia's Class AAAA dates back to 1978.

The high school football state championship games will be played at Georgia State Stadium, the former Turner Field, on Dec. 13-14, the Georgia High School Association announced Tuesday.

The GHSA is moving out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Falcons and Atlanta United, largely because of the expense.

"The cost of being at that venue was very expensive, and justifiably so," GHSA executive director Robin Hines told last week. "It's a great venue. We just have to make a decision on whether we can afford it or not."

In the end, the GHSA could not.

Georgia State Stadium, the former Braves stadium south of downtown Atlanta, was the most practical alternative. Rebuilt for football, it has been the site of high school football games put on by the Corky Kell Classic. It keeps the finals in Atlanta, where they’ve been played the past 11 seasons.

Georgia State’s field has a capacity of 24,333, far less than 71,000 of Mercedes-Benz, but plenty to accommodate two-day crowds that have averaged around 45,000 in recent years.

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“Charlie Cobb [athletic director] at Georgia State University has been tremendously supportive in planning with the GHSA an event that will provide a first-class experience for our student-athletes and benefit our participating schools,’’ Hines said Tuesday in a release.

The GHSA finals were scheduled the past two years at Mercedes-Benz, which charged roughly $600,000 for the two-day rental. The Georgia Dome, which staged the finals from 2008 through 2016, charged about half that.

The price tag for Georgia State was not immediately announced.

Prior to 2008, each state final was played in the high school stadium of one of the finalists. They then moved to one neutral site at the Georgia Dome.

The 2019 finals will be the first scheduled outdoors since 2007, although six 2017 finals were moved outdoors to high school sites because of a winter storm that ruled out playing at Mercedes-Benz as scheduled. In 2018, all the games were postponed four days into mid-week at Mercedes-Benz after the Atlanta United soccer team reached the MLS finals and took priority.