A look inside Atlanta’s bid for college football title game

College football’s national title game in January 2018 will be played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, currently under construction in downtown Atlanta. (Artist’s rendering/Mercedes-Benz)

Combined ShapeCaption
College football’s national title game in January 2018 will be played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, currently under construction in downtown Atlanta. (Artist’s rendering/Mercedes-Benz)

Reimburse the College Football Playoff organization for sales taxes on tickets. Provide hotel rooms and “mementos” for the participating teams. Decorate the city with at least 750 street banners.

Those are a few of the promises in Atlanta’s recent winning bid to host college football’s national championship game in January 2018.

The bid, a copy of which was obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, provides a window into the costly and competitive world of securing marquee sporting events.

The bid confirms the Atlanta host committee’s budget for the game will be $12.5 million, as previously reported by the AJC. The money will come from a portion of Atlanta’s hotel-motel tax designated for bringing major conventions and sporting events to the city.

The bid details 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.

One of the larger costs is a commitment of up to $3 million to reimburse the playoff organization for sales taxes on tickets. Playoff officials sought an exemption from state and local taxes, specifically citing the ticket sales tax, from all cities bidding to host the game. This is similar to what the NFL typically seeks from cities hosting the Super Bowl.

Atlanta’s bid responded: “Due to existing laws, the Host Committee is not able to provide … tax exemptions of any type. The Host Committee is in discussion with local government leadership to create a special exception to these laws that could be applied to the (game). If an exemption is not able to be secured, the Host Committee will provide the (College Football Playoff) Group a budgeted donation of up to $3 million.”

Playoff officials earlier this month chose Atlanta over Houston, Miami and Santa Clara, Calif., to host the 2018 national-title game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Santa Clara was awarded the 2019 game and New Orleans the 2020 game.

Aside from finances, Atlanta’s bid stressed features of the new stadium (slated to open in 2017), the hotels and attractions near the stadium and air travel to the city.

The Atlanta bid book — titled “We Play At The Next Level” — also emphasized the city’s ties to college football, declaring “no city is more committed, driven or passionate about the game.”

The bid offered to promote the national-title game at many Atlanta sports events, including the home openers of the city’s pro teams, throughout 2017.

For the most part, the bid acknowledged local organizers’ agreement to comply with myriad requirements to host the game, on issues ranging from ambush marketing to security to transportation. The bid promised the playoff group use of 50 percent of the stadium’s suites for the game.

Among a long list of expenses, the bid budgeted $215,760 for “rooms and services” at team hotels, $50,000 for mementos for participating players and school representatives and $285,000 for welcome signage, citywide decorations and street banners. Also, $479,850 was budgeted for local transportation, $700,000 for staffing and $1 million for a “philanthropy initiative.”

Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said the bids from all cities were “roughly equivalent” financially.

“Budgets, as it turned out at the end of this, were not a significant factor,” he said.

The driving factors in Atlanta’s winning bid, Hancock said, were “the opportunity to play in that brand new state-of-the-art stadium, the concise footprint of hotels and spaces for ancillary events (near) the stadium, and of course the excellent air service, which will be particularly important for 2018 because there’s only a week between the semifinal games and the championship game.”

Atlanta’s bid group consisted of representatives of the Atlanta Sports Council, the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, the Falcons, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and Georgia Tech.

The local funding to host the game stems from 2011 actions by the Georgia Legislature and Atlanta City Council that raised the city’s hotel-motel tax from 7 percent to 8 percent, with the additional 1 percent to be used to boost convention and special-event business.

Atlanta now is in the process of bidding to host the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl. Preliminary bids were due to the NFL this month, to be followed by final bids in April 2016 and a vote by NFL owners in May 2016.

Other bidders for those Super Bowls are Miami, New Orleans and Tampa.