GHSA football finals could return to Mercedes-Benz by 2023

The high school football state championship games could return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium as early as next year, GHSA executive director Robin Hines told the association’s executive committee Monday. Hines declined to say more while talks are ongoing with Mercedes-Benz officials.

The championship games have been held at Georgia State’s Center Parc Stadium the past three years. Average combined attendance for the eight finals has been 25,039, well below the standard set by indoor facilities Mercedes-Benz (2017-18) and the Georgia Dome (2008-16).

Weather issues for Georgia State’s open-air stadium and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic have been factors in the attendance downturn.

Mercedes-Benz has been problematic, too. One issue was high rent, reportedly more than $500,000, or as much as four times the cost at Georgia State. Hines would not say if deal points would be different today.

Another road bump was the 2018 postponement of the finals to midweek to accommodate an Atlanta United soccer playoff match. Even playing Tuesday and Wednesday in 2018, attendance was 40,463.

Mercedes-Benz also was the finals venue in 2017, but a snowstorm forced six of the eight games to be played at high school venues instead.

State finals attendance peaked in 2016, the finals’ last year at the Georgia Dome, when it hit 47,922 for eight games.

This year’s football finals, including the flag championships, will be played Dec. 8-10 at Georgia State.