College Football Playoff preparing for title game in Atlanta

A worker passes by the “window to the city” in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which will host college football’s national championship game Jan. 8. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

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A worker passes by the “window to the city” in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which will host college football’s national championship game Jan. 8. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

College Football Playoff officials, visiting Atlanta this week, said preparations are well underway for the upcoming season’s national championship game here.

“We’ve got a number of staff, different contractors (and) partners from ESPN here, as we do every month, to be able to put a game plan in place,” CFP chief operating officer Michael Kelly said. “It really does take every minute that we have through these next 216 days.”

The championship game will be played Jan. 8, a Monday night, in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“For the first time, the national champion will be crowned here in a city that is synonymous with college football,” Kelly said. “It’s very special in that regard, so we’re excited about that.”

Kelly spoke at an informal get-together Tuesday night that drew CFP staffers and partners and local host committee staff and board members.

Atlanta Sports Council president Dan Corso, who also is president of the host committee’s board of directors, updated the gathering on progress made locally in preparing for the game.

Corso said 32,000 hotel room nights have been contracted with more than 50 properties in the downtown, Midtown, Buckhead and airport areas. He also said 10 venues have been secured to host events surrounding the game.

“We’ve got a long way to go, a lot of work to be done, but great progress (has been made),” Corso said.

Playoff officials’ three-day visit, which runs through Thursday, included tours of the still-under-construction stadium; a tour of Philips Arena, where an open-to-the-public media-day event will be held two days before the game; and a series of meetings about topics including game-day operations, public safety and venues for ancillary events.

Kelly said the game plan includes a series of activities “that will transform all of downtown Atlanta into a college football playoff playground for the entire weekend.”

Activities will be available “for visitors and residents alike,” he said.

The lineup includes several three-day events Jan. 6-8: Playoff Fan Central, a 300,000-square foot interactive attraction inside the Georgia World Congress Center; AT&T Playoff Playlist Live, a free series of concerts and fireworks shows in Centennial Olympic Park; and Championship Tailgate Plaza, a gathering place for outdoor activities on International Plaza near the stadium.

Also in the plans: A 5K road race will be held, and local restaurants will be featured at a Taste of the Championship food event, both on Jan. 7.

While those attending the game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium will see the participating schools' marching bands perform at halftime, those watching on ESPN will see a Super Bowl-style halftime show that will air from Centennial Olympic Park. Fans without tickets to the game will be able to attend the free show in the park. A performer hasn't been announced.

College football’s championship game is the first of three mega-events booked for Mercedes-Benz Stadium in its first three years of operation. The Super Bowl will be played there in February 2019 and the men’s college basketball Final Four in April 2020.