ATLANTA -- The College Football Playoff National Championship is just 54 days away from kicking-off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The new $1.6 billion facility may have just opened three months ago, but CFP executive director Bill Hancock feels ready.
"The preparations are right on schedule. We could play today if we had to," Hancock told 11Alive.
UGA fans are glad it's not today.
That's because if the current College Football Playoff rankings determined who played, the 9-1 Bulldogs wouldn't get into the playoff or have a shot at a national title. Luckily for Bulldog nation, there are three weeks before the final rankings come out on Dec. 3. That gives the host committee more time to prepare, as well.
The No. 7 Bulldogs still have a legitimate shot to get into the Playoff if they win out and win the SEC Championship on Dec. 2. Then, if they were to win a playoff game at either the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans or the Rose Bowl in Anaheim, Calif., they would return to their home state to play for their first national title since 1980. They would also be the first team to play for national championship in its home state.
There are plenty of host committee members pulling for the Dawgs.
"The fact that we would be the first city to host this event that might have a regional team in it is really cool from a story perspective," president of the Atlanta Sports Council Dan Corso said. "Certainly this is the epicenter of college football, a lot of UGA fans in the metro area, so if they were to make it to Atlanta and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it would just add to what’s already an exciting event."
There is no doubt the buzz around the city would be at an all-time high. But from a business perspective, the Dawgs competing for a title in Atlanta may not be the best outcome for the city.
"We haven’t ever been somewhere where there’s been a quote-unquote regional team. So we would just have to see how that would go," Hancock said. "A lot of things we can’t control about the playoff, one of which is who the teams are."
Bids for large sporting events such as the national championship and Super Bowl garner large support from the surrounding community because it promises an economic boon. While there will be a surge regardless, hotels may feel the brunt of a regional team playing in the national championship.
While many hotel rooms right around the stadium are already booked for the weekend, hotels hoping to to cash-in on fans traveling from either team's city may get fewer than expected guests since the proximity to Athens is close and many have family in the area. Rates could go down and rooms be surrendered.
A regional team in the national championship is more of an issue than it is for a Super Bowl because 50 percent of the tickets go to the schools participating, whereas the Super Bowl is mostly a corporate event.
On the other hand, a national championship with a majority of a team's fan base roughly 70 miles away could bring larger crowds. That means more people spending at restaurants, merchandise stores and at the FanFest held at the Georgia World Congress Center.
While that would be good for the economy, security could get tricky for FanFest and the AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! at Centennial Olympic park that features performers such as The Chainsmokers and Darius Rucker.
But Corso said he wouldn't expect larger crowds to be an issue.
"You’re working within defined spaces. So the congress center is one of the largest convention centers in the country, so I think we’ll be well ready to go in regards to any impact a local team may have," Corso said.
As for security, the city does not go into detail for safety purposes, but they are working with city, regional and federal law enforcement in preparation for the big weekend.
"Security is job one, and the professionals we’re working with here are some of the best we’ve ever seen," Hancock said. "They have a good plan, they’re ready to go. They’re confident but they’re not complacent."
Georgia fans will be crowding the streets of Atlanta before the SEC Championship hoping they'll return just five weeks later for a chance at a national title.
Business and hotels may be cheering along or rooting against them, depending on how a regional team in the title game could affect their bottom line.