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Plans coming into focus for Atlanta’s Super Bowl

The NFL has about 200 representatives in Atlanta this week, firming their plans for the Super Bowl that will be played here in less than eight months. 

“This is our home away from home as we count down,” Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s senior vice president of events, said Tuesday night. 

“I will say we feel really good about where we are from a planning process perspective.” 

Super Bowl LIII will be played Feb. 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with the game culminating a 10-day celebration that will feature an array of ancillary events.

Among the plans O’Reilly shared Tuesday are that Super Bowl Live (a fan festival with concerts and other activities) will be held at Centennial Olympic Park and Super Bowl Experience (an interactive theme park) at the Georgia World Congress Center. The NFL plans to set up the massive Super Bowl media center in the GWCC, O’Reilly said. 

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He also said the “NFL Honors” show -- the league’s annual awards show that recognizes the season’s best players and performances – will be held at the Fox Theatre on the night before the Super Bowl. He said that venue will “really showcase” the show, which will be nationally televised on CBS. 

O’Reilly, the NFL executive in charge of the Super Bowl and other major events, indicated plans are more advanced than they sometimes are eight months ahead of the mega-game.

“Sometimes things are in the proverbial wet cement (at this point), and we’re not totally sure what the plans are,” he said. But this time “we feel really good about our plans as we sit here in June, and now it’s about innovating and getting smarter and making sure those plans come to life.” 

The NFL staffers and vendors here this week are meeting with the local host committee, city officials and others about a range of topics, including a detailed session about public safety.

In an April interview, O’Reilly said he expected the Atlanta festivities to include “wow factors” such as those found at the past two Super Bowls. Popular attractions surrounding Houston’s Super Bowl in February 2017 included a virtual-reality ride to Mars, and Super Bowl festivities in Minneapolis early this year included zip-line rides across the Mississippi River. 

Atlanta’s answer to such attractions hasn’t been determined yet, O’Reilly said Tuesday. 

“We’ve made some progress – still sorting through that in terms of the detail,” he said. “It’s still a little early on that one.” 

NFL staffers have gotten a look at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the retractable roof open this week as the construction team continues what the Falcons have called the final phase of work on automating the eight-panel roof. O’Reilly reiterated that the NFL would like to play the Super Bowl with the roof open if – big if – Atlanta’s early-February weather is favorable. An ice storm marred the Super Bowl’s last visit to Atlanta in 2000.

“We certainly hope for good weather and the opportunity to have the roof open for the game,” O’Reilly said. 

This round of planning meetings will run through Thursday. 

O’Reilly said the walkable proximity of downtown Atlanta venues -- the stadium, the park, the Congress Center -- is “such a great campus for bringing the Super Bowl to life.”

“Our goal every year (is) how do we build upon this really special event and week and take it to a new level,” he said. “And we think we have the partners and the ability to really do that here in Atlanta.”

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