The Rams and Patriots aren’t in town yet, and kickoff is still more than a week away. But Super Bowl action begins Saturday in downtown Atlanta.
The eight-day buildup to the big game officially gets underway when Super Bowl Experience -- a football theme park spread across 800,000 square feet of space inside the Georgia World Congress Center – opens at 10 a.m.
Also opening Saturday, at 11 a.m., will be Super Bowl Live, a fan village featuring concerts and other attractions in Centennial Olympic Park.
“I’m just excited about starting, about getting people down here to experience it all,” Brett Daniels, chief operating officer of the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee, said in the park Friday. “We have been talking about it, planning it, for so long.”
Hundreds of workers rushed Friday to finish preparing the park and the Congress Center for the opening of Super Bowl festivities as media members got a preview of the attractions. Officials promised everything will be ready by Saturday morning.
In the Congress Center, Super Bowl Experience will feature interactive games, football skills tests, youth football clinics, autograph sessions, memorabilia displays, a simulation of an NFL locker room and more. The Vince Lombardi Trophy – the same one that will be presented to the winning team Feb. 3 -- will be on display there through Feb. 2.
Meanwhile, a short walk away in the park, the NFL has installed a super-sized version of the Lombardi Trophy as a centerpiece of Super Bowl Live. The 25-foot-tall sculpture, which stands atop a 10-foot platform, is expected to be a popular spot for taking photos and sharing on social media. Periodically, confetti will fall on fans gathered around the illuminated sculpture, simulating the scene on the field at the end of the Super Bowl.
“We always try to do a big wow factor (as part of Super Bowl Live),” said Daphne Wood, NFL events director, “so this is it.”
The sculpture, debuting here, will be reused in future Super Bowl cities, she said.
Admission is free to Super Bowl Live, which will be open daily through Feb. 2, except for Tuesday and Wednesday. Musical acts, curated by Grammy Award-winning producer Jermaine Dupri, are scheduled each day the attraction is open.
Tickets are required for Super Bowl Experience, which will be open to the public every day through Feb. 2 and to those with game tickets Feb. 3. Tickets for Super Bowl Experience are available at Ticketmaster.com, with prices varying depending on the day -- $20 or $40 for adults and $5, $10 or $25 for children under age 12. For three days, Monday through Wednesday, each purchaser of a $20 adult ticket at the box office can receive up to three free tickets for kids age 12 and under.
The two events offer different ways of participating in the Super Bowl spectacle.
“You can go to Super Bowl Live for a concert,” said Mary Pat Augenthaler, NFL vice president of events. “You can come (to Super Bowl Experience) and kick a field goal.”
Also opening downtown Saturday: two locations of NFL Shop, which will sell all sorts of Super Bowl LIII apparel and merchandise. Both are in the Congress Center: a 25,000-square-foot shop in Experience’s ticketed area and a 19,000-square-foot shop in the non-ticketed area.
The downtown crowds are expected to grow as the game draws nearer and out-of-town fans arrive. NFL officials suggested this weekend and early next week as opportunities for Atlantans and Georgians to partake in the festivities before the crowds swell.
“We know what the town is going to be like come Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (of next week),” said Jon Barker, NFL vice president of event operations and production. “Opening up the weekend before allows the local community to go in there when it’s not going to be as crazy and as busy.”
Hours of operation for Super Bowl Experience in the Georgia World Congress Center (tickets available at Ticketmaster.com):
> Saturday: 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
> Sunday: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
> Monday: 3-8 p.m.
> Tuesday: 3-8 p.m.
> Wednesday: 3-10 p.m.
> Thursday: 3-10 p.m.
> Feb. 1: 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
> Feb. 2: 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
> Feb. 3: 2-5 p.m.*
* - open Feb. 3 only to those with Super Bowl game tickets.
Hours of operation for Super Bowl Live in Centennial Olympic Park (admission is free):
> Saturday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
> Sunday: Noon-7 p.m.
> Monday: 4-9 p.m.
> Tuesday and Wednesday: Closed
> Thursday: 4-10 p.m.
> Feb. 1: 2-10 p.m.
> Feb. 2: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
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