College Football Playoff title game returning to Atlanta

The biggest event in college football is on the way back to Atlanta.

Previously played here in January 2018, the College Football Playoff national championship game will return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in January 2025, several people familiar with the matter told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Atlanta will become the first city to host the CFP title game twice. The playoff began in the 2014 season.

A bid group led by the Atlanta Sports Council has been negotiating for several months to bring the January 2025 game – the title game of the 2024 season – here. The AJC reported in June that an announcement could come this summer and that there was no other known bidder for the game after Las Vegas was ruled out because of a scheduling conflict.

The Sports Council declined to comment Monday but called a news conference at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for an unspecified announcement Tuesday afternoon. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Sports Council President Dan Corso are scheduled to participate in the announcement.

The championship game will be part of what is shaping up as a compelling stretch of sports mega-events headed here later this decade.

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In June, Atlanta was chosen as one of 16 North American cities that will host matches in soccer’s 2026 World Cup. Earlier this month, an NCAA delegation visited Atlanta to assess the city’s bid to host college basketball’s Final Four in 2029 or 2031, with a decision expected by mid-November. The city also is pursuing the possibility of hosting the 2028 Super Bowl.

Even before landing the CFP championship game, Atlanta was assured a marquee role in the playoff over the next few seasons. The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl is scheduled to host a semifinal game in both the 2022 and 2025 seasons.

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By returning the championship game to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the CFP will break its pattern of playing its ultimate game in a different city in each of the event’s first 10 years. The title game was played in Arlington, Texas, in January 2015; Glendale, Ariz., in 2016; Tampa, Fla., in 2017; Atlanta in 2018 (when Alabama defeated Georgia 26-23 in overtime); Santa Clara, Calif., in 2019; New Orleans in 2020; Miami in 2021; and Indianapolis in 2022 (when Georgia defeated Alabama 33-18). The next two title games will be played in Los Angeles (SoFi Stadium) in January 2023 and Houston in January 2024.

When Atlanta landed the 2018 game, its bid called for a host-committee budget of $12.5 million, with the money coming mostly from a portion of the city’s hotel-motel tax designated for attracting major conventions and sporting events.

That bid detailed a wide range of costs associated with meeting College Football Playoff specifications to host the game – from big-ticket items, such as $4.5 million to provide venues and facilities for the game and various ancillary events, to comparatively small items, such as $20,000 for fireworks and $35,000 for a brunch/reception for players’ families. Also, the CFP sought and received an exemption from sales tax on tickets sold for the event.

Not all went smoothly with the 2018 game here, most notably delays of up to two hours to get into Mercedes-Benz Stadium – delays that officials attributed to increased security associated with President Donald Trump’s attendance at the game. Rainy weather also didn’t help the situation outside the stadium.

But at a news conference on the day after the game, CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock gave Atlanta high marks overall for its hosting of the event.

“It was awesome. From top to bottom, the people of Atlanta were wonderful hosts,” Hancock said then. “Yes, they had a curveball thrown at them with the visit by the president of the United States.

“We will be back” to Atlanta, Hancock said at the Jan. 9, 2018, news conference. At the time, the CFP already had committed the event to other cities through January 2024, but Hancock said: “I know Atlanta will be in the picture when we begin to talk about future sites (beyond that).”