Eight things to know about the big story in Atlanta sports business this week:
1. The Super Bowl is headed back to Atlanta after a vote Tuesday by NFL owners to play the nation’s biggest sporting event in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in February 2019. “I’m thrilled for Atlanta, thrilled for our bid team, thrilled for all the political leaders who have supported us along the way with a difficult (stadium) project in downtown Atlanta,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. Full story here.
2. The owners awarded the game to Atlanta over New Orleans on the fourth ballot. Miami and Tampa were eliminated on the second ballot, leaving Atlanta vs. New Orleans. After neither got the required 75 percent on the third ballot, Atlanta prevailed with a simple majority on the fourth. “Yeah, I was nervous. And going to the fourth ballot, I was even more nervous,” Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay said.
3. The Atlanta bid estimated the local cost of hosting Super Bowl LIII at $46 million, including $26 million in public funds and tax breaks. According to bid committee members, $20 million will come from donations that have been pledged by two dozen Atlanta businesses; $16 million from a portion of the Atlanta hotel-motel tax that is designated for major events; and $10 million from a sales-tax exemption on Super Bowl tickets passed by the Georgia Legislature this year.
4. The NFL’s decision marked a reversal of owners’ votes a decade ago that rejected Atlanta bids for the 2009 and 2010 Super Bowls. “I think the difference this time is that we have a new stadium with a significant public-private partnership,” Blank said. That was enough to overcome the ice storm that marred the 2000 Super Bowl here and may have cost Atlanta the 2009 or 2010 game. Weather worries hardly came up this time.
5. The trend continued of awarding Super Bowls to cities that build new stadiums. All five NFL stadiums that have opened since 2006 have already hosted Super Bowls. And the next two stadiums to open – Minnesota’s this year and Atlanta’s next year — will host back-to-back Super Bowls in 2018 and 2019.
6. Atlanta’s bid was presented to the NFL owners by the CEOs of two Atlanta-based companies, Rick Smith of Equifax and Doug Hertz of United Distributors. “It was nerve-wracking,” Hertz said of the four-ballot vote. “You hope you win on the first vote and think you deserve to, but there are three other cities that thought they should win, too, I’m sure.” Smith described his reaction to the victory as “utter joy.”
7. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in a letter to New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, said New Orleans lost out to “unusually strong and unique competition” for the 2019 game. Atlanta’s pitch, titled “Atlanta Transformed,” emphasized the new stadium and the substantial taxpayer investment in it. The pitch also stressed the other downtown attractions that have opened since the Super Bowl was last played here in 2000. Full story here.
8. Blank’s message to Falcons coach Dan Quinn within minutes of winning the vote: “I’ve already texted our coach and said I want to play in our Super Bowl in ’19 — and sooner. And that’s how he feels as well.” Full story here.
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