Right now, it looks like an igloo that might be parked in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip.
On Saturday, its transformation will be complete into a gleaming, three-story palace constructed of steel, aluminum and wood with a 72x56-foot stage ready to welcome the throbbing hip-hop of Run the Jewels and the frenzied rock of the Foo Fighters.
But a couple of weeks ago, the massive structure that seemingly popped out of nowhere next to the parking garage at Atlantic Station was a skeleton of steel beams tended to by a hive of 100-plus local construction workers.
Their mission throughout the 45-day build out? Construct a venue big enough to hold 8,500 fans for DirecTV’s annual Super Saturday Night pre-Super Bowl extravaganza. But also make it as snazzy as a hip club and posh enough – e.g., requisite VIP areas – to meet the expectations of celebrities and corporate bigwigs.
The 72,000-square-foot Atlanta venue is masterminded by Jack Murphy, the CEO of JEM Management and a 30-year veteran of live event production. This is his 13th year working with DirecTV and the ninth year they’ve partnered for a Super Saturday Night.
“I’m very protective of this program,” Murphy said, as he gestured toward the makeshift venue. “Without DirecTV as a partner, I wouldn’t do it.”
Past DirecTV Super Bowl run-ups have included multiple nights of concerts, culminating with the Saturday night bash (Jennifer Lopez starred in last year's concert in Minneapolis, and Taylor Swift the year prior in Houston, during the Atlanta Falcons' Super Bowl visit). But, said Murphy, "there was a lot more activity going on this year" and competing with it seemed unnecessary.
Tapping the Dave Grohl-fronted Foo Fighters to headline the 2019 edition proved successful, as the 3,000 tickets put on sale to the general public sold out immediately (the rest of the tickets are distributed to sponsors and celebrities). However, fans who can't experience the concert and venue in person can still watch as it streams live on Twitter and on DirecTV Audience Network (Ch. 239) or DirecTV Now starting at 10:30 p.m. Saturday.
A frequent Murphy refrain is, “We’re not better than anybody else, we’re just different.” But it’s apparent even in an incomplete state that the climate-controlled venue, modeled on the Armory in Minneapolis – the setting for last year’s DirecTV concerts for which his team only designed the interior – is impressive.
“We’re building an environment for a brand and a band activation,” Murphy said. “You walk into the space and it’s kind of quirky – it’s not like walking into a typical arena space.”
A quartet of 40x40 cubes coated in translucent vinyl greets visitors in the front – swirling lights projected at night make them even more noticeable to drivers along I-85 – and hanging pyramids to broadcast video will be ready for Saturday.
An elevated lounge area for VIPs is constructed on the first floor (fans who purchased tickets will stand below on the general admission floor), while a large open area on the second floor will hold 400-500 DirecTV members. A third level allows for even more privacy for high-end guests.
Bars, concession stands and, yes, bathrooms, will be located throughout.
“It’s got to be organic,” Murphy said. “This is the biggest activation any person will see.”
While Murphy declines to cite cost other than joking, “a lot…with a few zeros on the back end of that,” he does note that the event injects about $4-$5 million into the local economy when labor, construction material purchases, crew accommodations and dining and other factors are tallied.
The second biggest question surrounding the venue following, “what IS that?” is, “what happens to it after the concert?”
Well, what goes up must come down and by Feb. 20, the temporary venue will be disassembled and Murphy’s thoughts will turn to his next assignment, Super Bowl 54 in Miami.
But it will be mission greatly accomplished, given Murphy’s goal.
“It’s important that we have a visual,” he said. “That we stick out.”
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Navigation tips if you’re attending the concert:
Event traffic plan around the Atlantic Station begins Feb. 2 at 3 p.m. and ends at 3 a.m. on Feb. 3. Rideshare and public transportation are strongly encouraged.
- Fowler St., State St. and 20th St. NW will be closed to all vehicles except those with a Special Event Placard are limited to Pedestrian Foot Traffic only. Lime/Bird Scooters, Bikes, Skateboards, Roller blades are prohibited on closed streets. Please park any of these vehicles inside of garage.
- All traffic on 17th St NW besides rideshare vehicles and Atlantic Station Shuttles will be diverted to 16th St. NW
- Parking garage entrance is located at 221 16th St. NW. This is the only garage access during event traffic plan hours. $14 max per day.
- Public Transportation: Take the MARTA rail system via the Gold or Red line to The Arts Center Transit Station. Continue up the escalator to the Bus depot to catch the FREE Atlantic Station Shuttle. Shuttles run around the clock starting at 5 a.m. on Feb. 2 through 1 a.m. on Feb. 4. For real time shuttle information, please visit https://asfreeride.transloc.com
- General Admission/Foo Fighters Fan Club Entrance is on Fowler Street. This entrance is easily accessible inside Atlantic Station by entering stairways 9 & 12 and going to Level P2 OR parking on Level P2 and following the signage to the General Admission Entrance on Fowler Street.
- Box Office is located at the General Admission entrance on 20th Street. and Fowler Street. There are NO ticket sales onsite. Hours: Fan Club: 3 p.m. – 9 p.m.; VIP Will Call/Ticket Resolution: 6 p.m. – 11 p.m.