Increasing revenue never strays far from Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury’s thoughts.
The athletic department that he has supervised since late 2016 often struggles to break even in its annual budget, and early in his tenure he further diagnosed that that budget needed to increase by about $10 million for Yellow Jackets teams to be more competitive in the ACC.
So he was intrigued when his staff came to him last fall with the possibility that playing the 2020 football game against Notre Dame at Mercedes-Benz Stadium could be a big difference maker. The end product of that idea was presented Tuesday at the stadium – a five-game series at MBS starting in 2020 with the aforementioned game against the aforementioned Fighting Irish leading off Nov. 14.
Tech also will play Notre Dame in the $1.6 billion sports palace in 2024 to conclude the series. Another one of the five will be a Chick-fil-A Kickoff game against Clemson on Labor Day night in 2022. The two Notre Dame games are part of the school’s agreement with the ACC to play an average of five games against ACC teams.
Stansbury didn’t have a dollar figure to reveal Tuesday of the financial benefit that the athletic department will capture, but said that, “We anticipate that over a five-game series, it’s going to be a pretty strong number for us.”
There are non-financial advantages to moving home games out of Bobby Dodd Stadium that Stansbury enumerated. Coach Geoff Collins has a bauble that he can dangle in front of prospects – a home game every year in the stadium that has hosted the Super Bowl and the College Football Playoff Championship game.
“We see our location as being an asset that cannot be duplicated by our competitors,” Stansbury said.
Tech fans can watch their team in the opulence of MBS. And Tech can further connect itself to the city of Atlanta, which has been an objective of Stansbury’s since his hire and has likewise been a priority for Collins.
“I think Georgia Tech’s done a great job since Todd has come here, and coach Collins, of really breaking through the clutter, and this is another example of that,” Peach Bowl CEO and president Gary Stokan said. “Out-of-the-box thinking in a marketplace that’s tough.”
On social media, there was pushback from Tech fans about home games being taken away from Bobby Dodd, and the potential for Clemson or Notre Dame (or other) fans to take over the stadium, or at least be a noticeable presence in the 71,000-seat stadium. Stansbury said that the athletic department will work to secure seven home games in all five seasons – with one being at the Benz.
As for opening up the possibility of having a home game in name only, Collins offered his confidence in Tech fans.
“I think that I have full faith in the Yellow Jacket nation that they’re going to buy season tickets, they’re going to be excited about this decision, about the news and they’re going to show up and be loud,” Collins said.
The opponents for the 2021 and 2023 games will be against ACC teams, although Georgia is available in both years. Stansbury said that he believed that the Tech-Georgia series should be played in each team’s home stadium. The 2021 ACC home opponents are Boston College, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. In 2023, it’s the same three Coastal Division schools and Louisville.
Tech will determine the game in conjunction with Mercedes-Benz Stadium officials.
“We look at this stadium as a factory, and we want to run this factory all the time, so we want 365 days of operation,” said Steve Cannon, CEO of the AMB Group, the parent company for the Falcons and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
For the four games besides the Clemson game, Tech will rent MBS and collect gate receipts. Stansbury was particularly excited about the large volume of private suites that can be sold for those games. At Bobby Dodd Stadium, there is a waiting list for premium seating.
At Mercedes-Benz Stadium, over five days between 2020 and 2024, that’s revenue that’s waiting to be collected.
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