When the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots arrive in Atlanta next week, the first major item on their itinerary will be “Super Bowl Opening Night,” a combination of press conference, media circus and fan experience.
This is the fourth consecutive year that the NFL will transform the Super Bowl event formerly known as Media Day into a prime-time show.
Billed as the teams’ public premiere in Atlanta, the event is scheduled for State Farm Arena beginning at 7 p.m. on Jan. 28, the Monday before the big game.
“It’s a press conference with a little bit of humor and entertainment on top of it,” said Jon Barker, NFL vice president of event operations and production.
He said a crowd of “probably about 8,000” is expected for the event. Tickets are $29 and available at Ticketmaster.com. The spectacle will be televised on NFL Network and CBS Sports Network.
The format, Barker said, will go like this: First, the NFC champion Rams will be introduced and take questions from thousands of media members on the arena floor for an hour. Then, coaches and captains from both teams will appear together on stage. And finally, the AFC champion Patriots will take their turn answering questions from the media for an hour.
The overlap in the middle of the event “will be the only time prior to the game these two teams will be in the same building at the same time,” Barker said.
Fans in attendance will be given radios on which they can listen to player interviews taking place at individual podiums. Former NFL players will be available for autographs in the concourses. Falcons cheerleaders and mascots will be there. And one fan will win two tickets to Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Feb. 3.
“We are taking steps to make this a fan experience rather than just a press conference,” Barker said. “Don’t get me wrong -- this is a press conference, and that’s what it should be. But what we have done is take steps to make sure fans are engaged and having a positive experience.
“It’s more than just coming and sitting in seats. There’s going to be a lot going on in that building.”
Super Bowl Media Day, long known for the offbeat questions and answers it generated, used to be held on the Tuesday morning or afternoon before the game. But it was renamed and rebranded as a prime-time Monday night event starting with Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif., in 2016.
Some modifications will be made in the newly renovated State Farm Arena to accommodate the event.
“We’ll build a temporary raised floor in the arena and will build ramps and what we’re calling viewing platforms out into that floor to get fans closer to what’s happening,” Barker said.
Because most out-of-town fans who attend the Super Bowl will arrive later next week, the “Opening Night” crowd is expected to consist largely of Atlanta area residents, Barker said. The arena doors will open at 5:30 p.m.
Barker, who was in Atlanta all of last week, also addressed the NFL’s preparations for Super Bowl events in general, including the game itself: “We’re in really good shape,” he said. “We’re pleased with where we are. We’re on track in (Mercedes-Benz Stadium). We’re on track externally. We’re really comfortable – as long as the weather holds out, I can’t foresee anything that is going to get in our way.”
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