The College Football Playoff decided to bring its national championship game back to Atlanta in January 2025 because “the city has every ingredient necessary,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

“Every event I’ve done in Atlanta has been a home run,” Hancock, a veteran of staging major sporting events, said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We are delighted to be coming back to Atlanta.”

The CFP announced Tuesday afternoon that its championship game will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Jan. 6, 2025, confirming an earlier report by the AJC.

Hancock said his organization began seriously considering sites for the game after deciding in February to table consideration of expanding the playoff from its current four-team format. He said talks about hosting the 2025 title game were held with “several cities” across the country but quickly wound up “focusing on Atlanta directly.” One candidate city, Las Vegas, was scratched early in the process because of a scheduling conflict with a major convention.

ExploreA look into how Atlanta was chosen to host the 2018 CFP title game

Atlanta impressed playoff officials with its hosting of the championship game in January 2018, said Hancock, who also is familiar with the city as a big-event host from a previous position as director of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.

“Starting with beautiful venues, hotels and air service, Atlanta has everything an event planner needs,” Hancock said. He said the “walkable” downtown area is conducive to staging events. But the biggest factor in returning the title game here, he suggested, was Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“I would be remiss by not thanking (Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay) for their part in all of this,” Hancock said. “But for the stadium, and but for their desire to bring an event like this to the city, this would not be happening.”

Having the game here in 2018 required an Atlanta host-committee budget of about $12.5 million, funded mostly by a portion of the city’s hotel-motel tax that is designated for attracting major events. Atlanta Sports Council President Dan Corso said in an interview with the AJC that the local cost will be higher for 2025: “in the $14 million to $15 million range.”

Those costs again will be funded by the hotel-motel tax and corporate partnerships, he said. Also, the CFP again will receive an exemption from sales tax on tickets sold for the game.

The College Football Playoff began in the 2014 season, and Atlanta will become the first city to host the championship game twice, doing so one year before Miami hosts for the second time. Mercedes-Benz Stadium had been open for less than five months when it hosted the 2018 title game, in which Alabama defeated Georgia 26-23 in overtime.

“It’s difficult to recruit and host large-scale sporting events one time, let alone multiple times,” Corso said. “I think it’s a great reflection of our community to be named the first repeat city.”

ExploreThe scene from the 2018 CFP championship game

As Corso sees it, Atlanta’s pursuit of a second CFP championship game began Jan. 9, 2018, the day after the event was played here the first time.

“We said to Bill and everybody else on their staff, ‘We want it back,’” Corso said.

A decision on championship game sites for January 2025 and January 2026 was put on hold, Hancock said, while officials considered expanding the playoff field from four teams to perhaps 12 as soon as the 2024 season. Once the playoff management committee decided in February not to expand the field before the 2026 season, serious talks with the Atlanta bid group began.

The group was led by the Sports Council and also included representatives of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Georgia World Congress Center and state and city governments. Documents were exchanged back and forth over the course of several months, and a deal was done.

As it turned out, the playoff’s decision not to expand before 2026 worked in Atlanta’s favor in terms of availability of hotel rooms and convention facilities, Corso said.

“The fact that the playoff did not expand, which would have pushed the season longer and the championship game later into January, played as an advantage for us because we have a bunch of city-wide conventions from mid-January through the end of January,” Corso said. “The first Monday of January lined up perfectly for us. Non-expansion played to our advantage in ultimately being able to bring it back a second time.”

This is the second major sports event to commit to Atlanta this summer. In June, FIFA – soccer’s global governing body – named Atlanta among 16 North American cities that will host matches in the 2026 World Cup. Atlanta also is seeking to host college basketball’s men’s Final Four in 2029 or 2031 and possibly the 2028 Super Bowl.

ExploreAtlanta will host part of 2026 World Cup

“It is going to be a heck of a run, beginning with this event and then the World Cup in 2026 and the others (possibly) to close out the decade,” Corso said.

Before coming here, the CFP’s next two championship games will be played in Los Angeles and Houston on Jan. 9, 2023, and Jan. 8, 2024, respectively. Those site selections were made in 2017. After those two games are played, the event’s first 10 title games will have been held in 10 different cities.

“We knew we couldn’t go on (much longer) without returning somewhere, and Atlanta was an obvious choice of somewhere to return,” Hancock said. “They did a good job last time, and they’ve only gotten better.”

Credit: Contributed by Atlanta Sports Council

Credit: Contributed by Atlanta Sports Council