A packed Georgia Dome for the 2011 SEC Championship Game
The SEC Championship Game may be getting a new home, and this one may be a convertible.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) Authority—which operates the Georgia Dome—is in discussion with the Atlanta Falcons to tear down the facility and build a new stadium with a retractable roof in downtown Atlanta. The news signifies a big shift from the Falcons' initial desire, which was to build an open-air stadium about a one-half mile north of the Dome.
Where should the SEC Championship Game be?
So what does this mean for the SEC Championship Game, Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Games and other college football-related events?
If it goes moves forward, it would mean that they will have a nice shiny new venue to use in place of the 20-year old Georgia Dome.
The Chick-Fil-A events are staples, and the presence of an open-air stadium wouldn't have an impact on them.
The SEC Championship Game, however, is not necessarily an Atlanta staple. In 1992 and 1993, the game was played in Birmingham, Ala. If the city doesn't provide a home that makes sense for the SEC—specifically one that protects the game from the elements—it might look elsewhere for a home.
An open-air stadium would almost certainly have the SEC looking at holding its premier event in places like New Orleans, Nashville or Arlington, Texas. Moving it out of Atlanta would kill the tradition of one of the few neutral-site events that college football gets right every year. Since moving to the Georgia Dome in 1994, the game has sold out every year except 1995, and has generated more than $700 million for the city of Atlanta, according to ESPN.com.
The event has established itself as a college football tradition, and its location in the largest city within the SEC footprint is a big reason why.
That success could be repeated in another city, but it's far from a guarantee.
The big question for the city of Atlanta is: Why bother with either scenario?
There's a vacant General Motors plant at the corner of I-285 and I-85 in the city of Doraville, about 10 miles northeast of the city. The site is easily accessible for fans coming from all directions, and already has a stop on MARTA—Atlanta's rapid transit system.
The initial proposal to build an open-air stadium is silly. The Falcons may be driving this bus, but college football is the biggest part of the Atlanta sports scene. Even if it's in addition to the Georgia Dome, a new open-air stadium would be the top priority for the GWCC.