By Maria Saporta and Amy Wenk
CHARLOTTE – Atlanta has won the Super Bowl for 2019.
A relieved contingent of Atlanta leaders celebrated after the 32 owners of the National Football League awarded the city the Super Bowl – Atlanta’s third ever.
Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons, at a press conference after the four-ballot vote, said he felt as though he was at the Academy Awards – needing to thank everyone who had played a part in getting Atlanta to this moment.
“We were competing against four great cities,” said Blank, adding that he felt like “screaming for joy for Atlanta and our fans.”
Miami, which has hosted 10 previous Super Bowls, won the 2020 bid; and Los Angeles was awarded the 2021 Super Bowl. Los Angeles also is building a new stadium.
Atlanta leaders made a 15-minute pitch early Tuesday afternoon – speaking before the 32 NFL owners – to host the Super Bowl in either 2019, 2020 or 2021.
Atlanta leaders were second in line to make a presentation – following Tampa and going before New Orleans, Los Angeles and South Florida.
“The work was all done beforehand,” said Rick Smith, CEO of Equifax who was one of two Atlanta business leaders to speak to the owners. “It’s a great stadium, great venues and a great city And it’s fully-funded.”
Smith said the city’s bid totaled $46 million. It tapped into the “big event fund” for between $15 and $16 million. The sales tax exemption passed by the city and the state legislature is worth about $10 million – leaving a gap of about $20 million – which is being raised by the business community.
“We talked a lot about the ability for the business community and local and state governments to tackle big problems,” Smith said.
Doug Hertz, CEO of United Distributing, also spoke to owners – following the airing of Atlanta’s five-minute video.
“The video was powerful,” Smith said. “Doug was powerful in his close.”
Neither Hertz nor Smith would predict Atlanta’s chances – maybe fearing it would jinx the bid.
“We were as well prepared as we could be,” Hertz said. “But there are four other cities that feel the exact same way.”
Before going into the afternoon session, Arthur Blank was asked if he had a lucky charm.
“Atlanta is my lucky charm,” Blank said.
Atlanta will find out later this afternoont whether its investment in the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium will pay off as the city bids to host an upcoming Super Bowl.
The 32 National Football League owners gatheredTuesday afternoon in Charlotte, N.C. to vote on the next three available Super Bowls: 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Atlanta is in the running for all three, along with New Orleans, Miami and Tampa for 2019. Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami and Tampa are bidding for 2020 and 2021.
Atlanta’s preference is to score the 2019 Super Bowl, according to sources.
That’s because in 2020, the city is already hosting the Final Four. Two major sporting events held back-to-back could put pressure on the city.
And in 2021, Los Angeles is thought to have an inside track to win the high-profile event because of its new stadium under construction.
But, Atlanta would ultimately be happy to win any of the three years.
“I think it would be terrific to get the Super Bowl,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said on Monday.
“We have done our part,” Reed said, mentioning legislation Gov. Nathan Deal signed in April offering a tax exemption on ticket sales an incentive for the NFL to bring the Super Bowl to Atlanta. “I feel real good about our prospects.”
Rick Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of Equifax Inc., and Doug Hertz, president and CEO of United Distributors, will make a 15-minute presentation to the NFL owners on Tuesday. They plan to highlight the convenience of Atlanta will its thousands of hotel rooms and many attractions downtown, and of course tout the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
A five-minute video will also be presented that shows how Atlanta has evolved since it last hosted the Super Bowl in 2000, especially how many attractions have opened downtown such as the Georgia Aquarium.
David Lewis Productions created the video, and Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young is the narrator.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank will have five minutes to try to convince his fellow NFL owners to bring the game to Atlanta.
Other Atlanta leaders who will participate in the presentation today include: Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO William Pate, Atlanta Sports Council Executive Director Dan Corso, and Georgia Dome Chief Commercial Officer Carl Adkins.
If Atlanta wins a bid, it would be the third time the city has hosted a Super Bowl. The last time was in 2000, when the St. Louis Rams edged out the Tennessee Titans in the Georgia Dome. That year, the city was riddled with a freak ice storm that complicated the event.
Prior to that, Atlanta hosted the 1994 Super Bowl when the Dallas Cowboys beat out the Buffalo Bills two years after the Dome opened.
Amy Wenk is a writer with the Atlanta Business Chronicle.