I figured the biggest sports business story in Atlanta since the Olympics should be enough reason to whip up my first post in over a year. Here are my random thoughts on the topic, in no relevant order:
- I truly believe having a plan for public RAIL transportation – not bus – will be important to the stadium’s reception. Whether for out-of-town visitors who’ll be staying in Midtown or Buckhead or residents both within and south of the city, a non-automotive option will provide a viable alternative for driving into the game. This suggestion isn’t without merit, as studies have already been conducted.
- I’m shocked – shocked! – that news of this didn’t leak until the day the announcement was made. In a marketplace that’s obsessed with breaking stories first, combined a slew of stakeholders with much to gain (or lose) by being in front of the story, this was kept under wraps.
- This heat map of Braves ticket holders has been getting lots of play for it’s influence in shaping this decision. Makes sense – fish where the fish are. That said, I’d love to see projections of where the team’s fan base will be 10, 20 years down the road. As the city of Atlanta continues to push in-town growth (with the Beltline leading the charge), a population shift back into the city seems feasible.
- Since moving to the city in 2007, I’ve always said that the immediate areas surrounding Turner Field were the biggest waste of real estate in Atlanta. Now it looks like we won’t have the chance to realize the potential that many in the area thought was on the horizon.
- Finally, somewhat missed in all of this was the source that (at least that I saw) broke the news first: @mdjonline. Chalk this up as a victory to local news.
Just over three years ago, CBS Sports Radio changed the sports radio landscape in Boston forever with the introduction of 98.5 The Sports Hub. In a market long-dominated by the powerful and sparingly-challenged WEEI 850 AM, 98.5 climbed up the ratings and caused subsequent major moves in the marketplace; most noteworthy, WEEI moving to an FM dial and opening up their AM slot at 850 to 100% ESPN radio programming. So where once there was one, now there are three…
Down in Atlanta, CBS Sports Radio is at it again. In a market long anchored by two sports radio stations – 680 The Fan and 790 The Zone – Wednesday’s launch of the new 92.9 The Game will look to deliver similar shockwaves to the sports radio marketplace.
A quick look at what 92.9 has working in their favor to make a noticeable impact in Atlanta sports radio, as well as what’s working against them.
- Fresh and new: Even though there are already two options, infusing new talent both from Atlanta and out-of-market will give listeners a new take over many of Atlanta’s long-running hosts on the two incumbents.
- 24 hours live-and-local: This will definitely help fill the void of syndicated radio programming – whether ESPN (on 680) or Yahoo! Sports (on 790) – to discuss relevant sports to Atlantans at key times. Two specific time windows they’ll benefit from immediately are Saturdays (preview and wrap-up college football) and Sundays (preview and wrap Falcons/NFL). Both 680 and 790 have local shows on Saturday and Sunday, but usually starting at 10am after syndicated programming and reverting to PBP of out-of-market games in the evening,
- Strong signal: Crystal clear sound through the FM dial is a clear advantage over 790. While 680 simulcasts on FM at 93.7, their lead brand remains 680. Will they go the way of WEEI up in Boston?
- No rights: All the major local teams and schools – Falcons, Braves, Hawks, UGA and Tech – have their radio rights locked up, so the access and programming that comes attached to those rights leaves some holes for The Game to fill.
- Crowded marketplace: A two-player market already presents options and differing perspectives. Adding a third player to the mix has the potential to get lose in the shuffle.
All in all, I’m hoping The Game can establish itself as a nice alternative to our two existing stations. If successful, what I do think this does is help disprove the long-running theory that Atlanta is a bad sports town – any city that can support three sports radio outlets is a strong market in my opinion.
The college football capitol of the world needs to become the college hockey capitol of the world…for a weekend. After an unsuccessful bid in 2000, it’s time for Atlanta and the Atlanta Sports Council to assemble a bid to host an NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship later this decade.
- Attendance: With the exception of this year (since they’re playing in a 60,000+ seat venue), the Frozen Four has sold out every year since 2001. Therefore, Philips Arena, with its hockey capacity of 18,545, is guaranteed to be packed to the rafters.
- Tourism impact: The Frozen Four attracts college hockey fans across a multitude of schools, regardless of whether or not their team is playing. Anecdotal evidence I gathered at the 1998 and 2004 Frozen Fours suggests this – fans wearing jerseys of non-participating teams is the rule, not the exception. This, combined with strong advanced ticket sales, suggests that the Frozen Four has become a destination event. And destination events translate to full hotel rooms and crowded restaurants. Throw in the puck-crazy fans of each of the four participating schools, and you’ve got a recipe for success.
- Been there, done that: When it comes to hosting major collegiate sporting events, Atlanta has mounds of experience. Events such as the Final Four, the ACC basketball tournament, Chick-fil-A Bowl and Chick-fil-A College Kickoff have experienced great success in Atlanta.
- Let the sun shine: Those who are familiar with the southeast in the month of April know what the days can bring. Warm, sunny skies and refreshing breezes set the stage for outdoor activities to complement the indoor experience of the games.
- Plenty to do: Weather isn’t the only attraction to Atlanta in April. The sports calendar in the city is hopping as well, with the start of baseball season for the Braves and the Masters taking place east on I-20 in Augusta. And if you need a break from sporting events, attractions such as the World of Coke, Georgia Aquarium, Centennial Olympic Park, CNN Center, the King Center, and the upcoming Civil Rights Museum and College Football Hall of Fame provide plenty of activities within the area.
All the ingredients are there. For a sneak peak at the passion and intensity of the NCAA Frozen Four, tune in Saturday night for Boston College and Wisconsin for the national championship.
The SEC announced a five-year extension to keep the SEC championship game at the Georgia Dome.
In all seriousness, having the SEC Championship at the Dome makes perfect sense for the schools, conference, the city, and most of all, the fans.
The proximity to Atlanta from each of the schools is a huge factor in making the game a recent success. By my math, the farthest school from Atlanta is Arkansas, just under 9 hours away. For those who don’t feel like making the road trip, Atlanta’s airport – the busiest in the world – makes a flight from any of the 12 schools a logical substitute.
The facility itself, which recently underwent a $30 million renovation project, is in better shape than ever to host the nation’s most prestigious football conference.
And as I referenced in an earlier post, Atlanta is a melting-pot for SEC grads. Having the game in the city with thousands of alum just a traffic jam or MARTA ride away is perfect.
With the SEC Championship, the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and now the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff, the Dome has positioned itself as the premiere venue for big-time college football.