ATLANTA – Super Bowl LIII is still four days away and throngs of fans and celebrities have yet to arrive, but Falcons owner Arthur Blank is confident that Atlanta is already positioning itself to have the NFL’s biggest game return in the not-to-distant future.
It has been 19 years since the Super Bowl was played in Atlanta, a city with nearly a half-million population. Blank was the driving force behind replacing the aging Georgia Dome with the $2 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where fans will consume $2 hot dogs and $3 nachos en mass come Sunday.
The fan experience has been at the forefront since Day 1 for Blank.
“Everything we’ve done has been focused on the fans,” he said Wednesday. “It’s a showcase for Atlanta, I think, and Atlanta is going to do a great job in putting its best foot forward.”
“Responsive Pricing” a big hit
The stadium’s “responsive pricing” has been a buzz term leading up to the Super Bowl. Blank’s plan to slash the cost of food and beverage has been much debated, but the 76-year-old founder of Home Depot said the financial model has been proven successful.
Blank has welcomed other stadium operators to review the books and understand the economic model behind responsive pricing. He said more than 50 institutions now follow the model, and that the NFL and Major League Soccer ranked Mercedes-Benz Stadium as the No. 1 fan experience when it opened in 2017.
“Food and beverage is a big component of that,” said Blank. “Our hope is that (responsive pricing) becomes more of a sea change across America. I think all entertainment areas around the country need to acknowledge that if they can.
“Our hope that when we did that was to not only do that right thing for Atlanta, but to plant a seed for other operators to be able to do the same thing. It’s working in terms of the economics, but we didn’t do it for the economics. We did it because it was the right thing to do for the people who are supporting us.”
In the Super Bowl rotation?
But Super Bowl LII is about far more than cheap concession prices for Blank. A 41-year resident of Atlanta, his pride in the growth of the downtown area since the last time the big game was held here is abundantly clear.
And he doesn’t want to wait another two decades to see it return.
“It’s a very exciting week, a very rewarding week,” said Blank. “And to see the efforts that all of the citizens, local agencies and the communities that have gathered up and done a great job in welcoming everybody.
“I’d like to earn the right to host another Super Bowl. We’re crossing every ‘T,’ dotting every ‘I,’ and we’ll see how the week plays out.
“But I’m very confident that we’ll see another Super Bowl.”
And if President Trump decides to drop in on Sunday as he did when Atlanta hosted the College Football Playoff title game in 2018?
“We’d love to have him,” Blank said with a smile.
–Derek Harper (@DerekAHarper), Field Level Media