CeeLo Green performs with Goodie Mob at Super Bowl Live in Atlanta. They were part of Monday's music lineup, which paid tribute to the city's hip-hop scene. (Getty Images)
This year’s Super Bowl Live, which begins Saturday in downtown Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, brings fans to the doorstep of the Super Bowl campus.
The event serves as the “first beacon as you approach the stadium,” said Bobby Sloan, event manager for Populous, the firm that organized and designed the event for the NFL. Super Bowl Live is filling roughly 80 percent of the park near the site of the Super Bowl LIII, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with free activities for fans.
The event runs on six days, from Saturday through Feb. 2, taking Tuesday and Wednesday off.
Super Bowl Live faces a different set of logistic challenges each year. Last year, in Minneapolis, the crew not only set up in the tight Nicollet Mall footprint in the heart of the city but also dealt with frigid temps. This year, the park opened up options for the event’s design, but the unpredictable nature of winter in Atlanta played heavily into the design of the space.
Sloan said the team had planned for Super Bowl Live since July, thinking through what it would mean to get a 20-degree day, a 70-degree day or a day full of rain, and how that should determine the organization of the event inside the park. To accommodate, they opted for two 164-foot-wide tents, one to house the main stage, VIP decks and general concert viewing and the other to house the main food hall and NFL team houses.
A variety of programming fills each of the eight days, anchored by the musical acts, each with a theme such as hip-hop, country or electric dance music.
Locating in the park was a natural fit for Super Bowl Live. The space has hosted fan-friendly events for major city sporting events in the past, starting with the 1996 Summer Olympics, for which it was built.
Sloan said it sets up nicely for a concert-led events. The park slopes south to north, creating a natural amphitheater. Recent renovations to the park also create more green space and improve pedestrian flow.
With that in mind, Sloan said locating the Verizon Up Main Stage in the traditional home for stages within the park served as the lynchpin for the rest of the design. “The main stage is the key and the heart of it,” he said. Super Bowl Live includes a second stage themed to look like a large boom box and to pay homage to the Atlanta music scene. An artist cube will feature live art demonstrations, a third key landing point for visitors.
NFL-sponsored areas, sponsor activations and food and beverage options fill out the event. “There are a lot of cool, different experiences as you work your way around the park,” Sloan said. “It should be engaging for a few hours.”
Sloan said once the team identified the stage location, it took the idea of Atlanta’s neighborhoods to heart, using that theory to zone the park. “A lot of thought went into how to experience the flow, but more in a way for it to be a nice organic experience for fans to flow around and stumble upon different things they may not have known were there,” he said.
The tenting situation offers a backup plan in case of bad weather but also creates a more intimate environment around the main stage. “If we have weather, it hubs everyone around there,” Sloan said. “On days it is warm, it still allows for a free flow and openness that you can get and still experience everything in the park.”