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David Pendered

Final Four: Expect huge ad wraps on buildings, limits on street life

By David Pendered

The Final Four men’s basketball tournament in April promises to usher in an era of huge advertising wraps on downtown buildings, plus a ban on cruisers and hucksters in a proposed “public entertainment district.”

Final Four logo

Credit: Wikipedia

Measures to enable those outcomes are expected to sail through two Atlanta City Council committees this week and be adopted next week by the council.

The goals are to help landlords turn a profit by selling ad wraps that temporarily cover up to 40,000 square feet of the skin of a single building; to help the NCAA envision Atlanta as a great host city at least once every five years; and to help the expected 80,000 spectators enjoy their visit without feeling hassled by traffic gridlock and street hustlers.

The measures were introduced by at-large Atlanta councilmembers Michael Julian Bond, Aaron Watson, and Lamar Willis.

The most dramatic proposal for the tourney is a complete rewrite of a portion of the city’s vaunted signage code.

This code is the segment of the city law that prevents signs like the Varsity’s from being erected on rooftops all over downtown Atlanta, or the neon sign atop Piedmont Hospital’s new medical office building at Howell Mill Road and I-75 from becoming the accepted norm in the city.

The other provisions would create a “public entertainment district” in downtown Atlanta where the city would forbid the following:

  • Cruising in vehicles on public streets from April 5 through April 9, 2013. The goal is to prevent guests from being harassed by mind-numbing traffic;
  • Distributing commercial products during the same time frame. Commercial products are defined as something “manufactured for the purpose of economic gain.” The goal is to protect guests from vendors who would stick free goodies into the face, or hands, of passersby.

The proposed new sign code would allow buildings in certain downtown areas to be wrapped in advertising signage during specific times.

Wraps could be displayed only during sanctioned events that are projected to occur in a facility that seats at least 15,000, and is to have an economic impact of at least $25 million.

Here are some other details from the legislation:

  • “Only one wrap sign shall be authorized on each building façade. No wrap sign shall exceed 10,000 square feet in sign face area;
  • “No building shall contain more than four wrap signs, nor contain more than 40,000 square feet in total sign face area;
  • “All wrap signs shall be constructed and erected as wall signs on a building or structure, including a pedestrian bridge. Each sign face shall be made of perforated one-way window tint/film that is fastened directly onto the exterior of the building façade through an adhesive and without use of any suspended cables or other fastening equipment. Freestanding wrap signs are specifically prohibited;
  • “No portion of a wrap sign shall extend 200 feet in height above ground level; provided further that no part of a wrap sign shall be placed above, supported on, or extend above the roof of a building;
  • “The display of wrap signs may commence no earlier than 3 days before the beginning of the entertainment event and ending no more than 2 days after the completion of the entertainment event;
  • “Any building to which a wrap sign is affixed shall be on a parcel that has street frontage along either Marietta Street or Peachtree Street. Any pedestrian bridge to which a wrap sign is affixed shall cross over Andrew Young International Boulevard.”

The financial stakes of the tourney are considerable. The event is scheduled in the Georgia Dome April 6 and April 8, 2013.

The tourney is expected to create an estimated economic impact of $61 million. At least, that was the figure provided when Atlanta won the event in 2008.

The 80,000 spectators are expected to come mainly from outside the region. That means a windfall for the region’s hotel/motel and restaurant industry, which has been hard hit by the drop in the region’s convention trade since the outset of the recession in 2007.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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