By Maria Saporta
HOUSTON – Atlantans are hungry for a Super Bowl win.
That was pretty much the consensus among dozens of folks who made the trip from Atlanta to Houston to be in the city hosting Super Bowl 51.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who arrived Saturday night, went to a party put on by the NFL and Ebony Magazine. He said he was feeling good about Atlanta’s chances.
Among the executives who were in town on Saturday included Georgia Pacific CEO Jim Hannan, Delta executive Cyril Turner, construction executives Michael and Jerome Russell, Morehouse COO William Taggart as well as Georgia Power executive Pedro Cherry.
Minority Falcons owner Doug Hertz arrived on Thursday, and he was hanging with associates of Arthur Blank, majority owner of the team. Blank invited 500 of his associates to come to the Super Bowl, a move that was heralded by many from Atlanta.
Some of Atlanta’s top executives weren’t arriving until Sunday before the game.
They included Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent, Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers and John Williams, co-founder and CEO of Preferred Apartment Communities. Gov. Nathan Deal also was flying in on Sunday before the game.
The streets of Houston led to several chance encounters, including a jubilant Darren Eales, president of the Atlanta United soccer team.
Michael Paris of the Council for Quality Growth was amazed by all the activities in Houston.
“I had no idea how big all this would be,” Paris said. “The number of people is astounding.”
Literally blocks and blocks of streets in downtown Houston had been turned over to Discovery Green – a place where locals and out-of-towners could gather to get into the Super Bowl spirit. Concert venues, sports talk shows and all sorts of rides and games were available for those with a ticket.
At several times, they had to pace the people coming in because of the crowds.
This is all pretty instructional for folks from Atlanta, including Frank Poe of the Georgia World Congress Center; William Pate of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau; Dan Corso of the Atlanta Sports Council and Carl Adkins of the Georgia Dome.
Hala Moddelmog, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, also was planning to come to Houston.
Several others were planning to be present to see the Falcons play on Sunday evening.
They include Erica Qualls-Batey of the Marriott Marquis; Ted Blum of Greenberg Traurig; Wonya Lucas of Public Broadcasting Atlanta; Milford McGuirt of KPMG; and Eugene Duffy, a financial and political consultant.
Atlantan Julius Hollis, who has been organizing the NFL-Ebony party since 1994, when Atlanta was hosting its first Super Bowl, said the chic event will likely raise in the “mid seven figures” for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
He was able to invite a star-studded list of Atlanta leaders, including former Coca-Cola executive Vicki Palmer, Georgia-Pacific’s Curley Dossman, Congressman Sanford Bishop and legislator Calvin Smyre. Two prized guests were Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Atlanta Mayor Reed.
The feeling – pretty universally shared by people from Atlanta – was that the Falcons would be bringing home the city’s first Super Bowl win.