SEC Championship game to remain in Atlanta through at least 2031

Fans are seen tailgating prior to the Chick-fil-A Kick-Off Game between Oregon and Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 3, 2022, in Atlanta. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Fans are seen tailgating prior to the Chick-fil-A Kick-Off Game between Oregon and Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 3, 2022, in Atlanta. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/TNS)

The SEC Championship game isn’t going anywhere.

The game will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium at least through 2031, it was announced Thursday. The agreement is an extension of the current contract that was set to expire in 2026. It also allows the SEC the option of exercising an additional five-year extension that could keep the game in Atlanta through 2036.

Atlanta has hosted the SEC Championship game every year since 1994. The Georgia Dome was home to the game through 2016, and Mercedes-Benz Stadium has hosted the event since 2017. Saturday’s title game between Alabama and Georgia will mark the 30th time Atlanta has hosted the SEC championship.

The agreement on extending Atlanta as host was between the SEC, AMB Sports and Entertainment (AMBSE) and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA).

“The SEC Football Championship game is one of the premier events in college sports, and Mercedes-Benz Stadium is one of the finest sports facilities on the globe, making Atlanta the perfect venue for our annual title game,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in the statement on the announcement. “We look forward to continuing a very positive relationship with Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Georgia World Congress Center as the home of our football championship.”

Georgia and Alabama will play for the SEC Championship on Saturday. A berth in the College Football Playoff is also at stake in the game between fierce rivals.

While Atlanta has hosted the game every year since 1994, several other cites have recently been considered challengers for the championship game. Nashville, which is opening a new stadium for the Tennessee Titans in 2026, reached out to the league about possibly hosting the game. The conference is expanding to 16 teams next year to include former Big 12 members Oklahoma and Texas. Dallas, a big-market city, also expressed interest in hosting the SEC’s marquee game in the future.

Sankey was asked Thursday in a press conference ahead of the SEC Championship game about the possibility of Texas or Oklahoma hosting the game. He said while the schools may eventually compete in the championship game, Atlanta is where it will be played.

“The great thing about both Oklahoma and Texas and their leadership is they very much want to be a part of the Southeastern Conference, the history now to be the 30th year of our championship game, 28 of them here in Atlanta, as one of which they’re fully aware,” Sankey said. “I think if they both, or each, or individually have the opportunity to participate in our championship game there’ll be great excitement here from our new westward members and for many of our western members that might have access, so we’re looking forward to the future here in Atlanta.”

The SEC has recently started to rotate its annual media days, the event to kick off the college football season. Nashville hosted this year. After Birmingham hosted every year from 1985-2017, Atlanta held it at the College Football Hall of Fame last year and in 2018. Dallas also has its hand raised to host, while Birmingham, where SEC headquarters reside, will remain a semi-permanent site. While the SEC Media Days will rotate cities, the championship game will stay put.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium will also host the 2025 College Football Playoff Championship game, the first year of the expanded playoff 12-team format. The stadium has also hosted the 2018 College Football Playoff Championship game, 2018 MLS Cup and All-Star game and Super Bowl LIII in 2019. It was scheduled to host the 2020 NCAA Men’s Final Four that was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also scheduled to host 2026 FIFA World Cup games.

“We are excited that Mercedes-Benz Stadium will continue to be the home of the SEC Football Championship,” Tim Zulawski, president AMB Sports and Entertainment, said in a statement. “The SEC Championship is one of the marquee events on the college football calendar each season and we are proud to work with our partners at the SEC to ensure the title game remains a staple in Atlanta for many years to come.”

In September 2015, the SEC signed a 10-year contract extension to keep the game in Atlanta though 2026.

“For three decades, Atlanta has been the home of the SEC Championship. Now, we have the honor of hosting this prestigious championship game through at least 2031,” Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said in a statement. “This is a testament to our ability to host large scale events—and all the small businesses, restaurants, service industry and hospitality workers who ensure that visiting Atlanta is a world-class experience. Thank you to everyone in the Atlanta community responsible for another big win for the new sports capital of the nation. "