LEADOFF: College Football Playoff puts ‘game plan in place’ for Atlanta

Good morning. This is LEADOFF, the early buzz in Atlanta sports.

College Football Playoff staffers made another of their regular visits to Atlanta on Tuesday, continuing preparations to hold 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 briefly at an informal get-together Tuesday night that drew playoff 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.

Kelly said the game plan for the event will include a series of ancillary 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 planned: An open-to-the-public media day, where about 1,000 journalists will interview the players and coaches, will be held in Philips Arena on Jan. 6. A 5K road race will be held Jan. 7. And Atlanta restaurants will be featured at a Taste of the Championship food event at the Georgia Aquarium on Jan. 7.

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The Braves lost 3-1 to Philadelphia on Tuesday night despite another strong outing by Jaime Garcia. The Braves are 0-5 this season against the Phillies, who have MLB's worst record and are 16-35 against all teams other than Atlanta. See David O'Brien's game report here.

The Hawks' Dwight Howard says he's working on his 3-point shot. See Chris Vivlamore's report here.

The Falcons' Julio Jones is on schedule with his recovery from foot surgery. See D. Orlando Ledbetter's report here.