Atlanta’s Super Bowl planning includes focus on winter weather risk

The City of Atlanta is just about 9 months away from hosting the biggest game in the world.

As Atlanta prepares for the Super Bowl in February, the memory of the ice storm that marred the mega-event’s last visit to the city in 2000 looms large.

Atlanta’s unpredictable winter weather is an important variable that must be taken into consideration in planning for the event, a host committee executive said during a Super Bowl panel discussion that drew about 200 people Wednesday night.

“We know it can be 65 degrees or it can be 19 degrees,” Brett Daniels, the committee’s chief operating officer, said. “That is one of the things our board has talked about -- that we’ve got to be ready regardless of the weather.”

With some ancillary activities slated to be held outdoors during a 10-day buildup to the Feb. 3, 2019, game, including concerts in Centennial Olympic Park, Daniels said organizers are working through these questions: “What are we doing to make sure that if it is icy the sidewalks are clear? If it is cold, what are we doing to provide warmth? What are we doing to provide shelter if it’s raining?”

He added: “We know we have to build a plan for the weather. We want to expect the best and be prepared for the worst.”

Wednesday’s panel discussion touched on many aspects of planning for Super Bowl LIII,  ranging from transportation to public safety to emergency preparedness. In sum, Daniels described the process as “a massive juggling act.”

Panelists included Daniels, Grady Health System chief of emergency medicine Dr. Hany Atallah, Delta Air Lines chief marketing officer Tim Mapes and Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau president and CEO William Pate.

“We want to show the city off,” Pate said. “We want it to be the best Super Bowl ever.

“We’ll have people from all over the world coming here and viewing it on television, so it’s a great marketing opportunity for us to show all of the things that are happening downtown. Just think about the last time we had the Super Bowl and all of the changes that have happened to the city since then. ... This is a great opportunity for us to refresh people’s perspective about the city as a whole.”

Atallah said Grady will be prepared “hospital wide” for any eventuality and may increase staffing levels during Super Bowl weekend.

“From a Delta perspective … we are well aware of what is going to be required of us,” Mapes said. “We will be more than ready.”

Daniels acknowledged Atlantans will have very limited access to game tickets, which are controlled by the NFL. But he said the 10 days of festivities, including outdoor concerts and an indoor fan festival, will allow locals to participate in the Super Bowl spectacle.

“What we want to do is create memories and experiences. Downtown Atlanta will be bustling,” Daniels said. “We’re trying to find ways for over a million people here in the community to touch part of the game.”

About 17,700 people have submitted applications to serve as volunteers during the Super Bowl festivities, Daniels said. About 10,000 will be chosen for the volunteer force, dubbed Team ATL.

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