Hours after the conclusion of what will go down in history as one of the most memorable Super Bowls ever — Trick plays! A backup QB’s triumph! The potential demise of a dynasty! — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed off a ceremonial football to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at the Mall of America.
Super Bowl LIII is now officially in Atlanta’s hands.
“We’ve known it’s coming and we’ve been planning and preparing, but it really hit home today when you are standing up there with Commissioner Goodell and they hand that ball off,” Brett Daniels, chief operating officer of the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We had the luxury in the past to say that we’re after Houston or after Minnesota, but there is nobody we’re after, it’s us. All the focus is on us moving forward.”
Super Bowl LIII marks the third Super Bowl hosted by Atlanta and the first since 2000. Both previous games were held at the Georgia Dome, while next year’s big game will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Feb. 3, 2019.
Despite the feel-good buzz of the ceremony — and a corresponding video featuring rapper and Atlanta native Ludacris hyping the big game with the theme of “WeAreATL” — the $1.6 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium still is not fully functional. The retractable roof not only leaks but also doesn’t open and close, but Falcons owner Arthur Blank assured the media those problems will be resolved by “late spring/early summer.”
As the Journal-Constitution reports, members of the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee know the city must match or surpass the number of volunteers in Minnesota (an estimated 10,000) and the Midwestern hospitality they displayed.
“We are definitely preparing for that,” said Daniels, a former Dallas Cowboys executive. “All of our thoughts have gone into how do we manage that, how do we recruit it and train them so that we show them that Southern hospitality and charm that we have in Atlanta.”
Atlanta was awarded Super Bowl LIII in May 2016, and former Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration was responsible for securing that event, as well as the 2020 Final Four. Reed also was in charge of the Atlanta Sports Council’s bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2026; Atlanta still hopes to be one of the host cities for the North American joint bidwith other destinations in the United States, Mexico and Canada.
"I think we have to keep the momentum going,” Lance Bottoms, who was elected in December 2017 — told 11Alive.com, the website for the city’s NBC-TV affiliate. “I think that’s what we saw at the opening of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It really has given us an opportunity to be on the world stage, especially when it comes to sports."