ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta has dodged a repeat of the ice storm which marred its previous Super Bowl.
When an ice storm blanketed Atlanta before the Super Bowl in 2000, the fear was the NFL wouldn’t want to bring the game back.
Atlanta’s $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium was a game-changer. The new building, which opened in 2017, is the reason the city is hosting Sunday’s Super Bowl 53.
The weather is on Atlanta’s side for Sunday’s Rams-Patriots game. There was a hard freeze Tuesday night, but no snow and no significant black ice. The forecast calls for a high near 60 on Sunday. The new stadium’s fancy retractable roof may be open for at least a portion of the game.
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Anyone who attended the 2000 game knows how important it was for Atlanta, and for the NFL, to avoid another frozen mess. The ice storm 19 years ago made it difficult for fans to drive into the city or safely walk to events surrounding the stadium.
The ice and cold also affected the players on the teams in 2000. Practice plans were altered, including a walk-through in the team hotel ballroom.
“I recall we’re going to Atlanta for the Super Bowl and then it’s freezing outside and we needed heaters at practice,” said Kurt Warner, who was the quarterback for the then-St. Louis Rams, who beat the Tennessee Titans 23-16.
“The Saturday walkthrough, instead of having it out at the stadium we ended up doing some of that stuff in the ballroom, with the conditions and all. It was not exactly how I thought it would be.”
Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay was one of the Atlanta-based fans affected by the freezing weather in 2000.
Then only 14, McVay was already accustomed to Atlanta’s traffic woes. Thanks to the ice, McVay said his family’s drive to the old Georgia Dome was much worse than normal.
“I know Atlanta traffic is always a nightmare, but it was especially bad that day,” McVay said Wednesday. “It took us forever to get into the Georgia Dome at the time.”
There were serious worries about the weather this week, and for good cause. Ice turned Atlanta interstates into a demolition derby in 2014, leaving motorists stranded overnight on the Interstate 285 which serves as the perimeter around the city.
This week, another daunting winter weather forecast prompted Georgia authorities to close government offices, Atlanta schools and cancel flights on Tuesday.
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald chuckled at all the commotion. He said he had no concerns about a repeat of the 2000 weather mess.
“This weather is not bad at all,” Donald said. “It rains and y’all want to shut stuff down. I’m from Pittsburgh, so this ain’t bad.”
It’s not as if Atlanta has sole claim to winter weather. Other Super Bowl cities, including Dallas, have been burdened with bad weather.
Atlanta is eager to show its sunny side to its Super Bowl crowd and TV audience.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Atlanta is on track for a good show.
“Atlanta has done an incredible job,” Goodell said Wednesday at his state of the league news conference . “… We’re early in the week, but we see no reason why this isn’t going to be a great Super Bowl.”
Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Sunday’s game will be “a great showcase for Atlanta.”
“Atlanta is going to do a wonderful job putting its best foot forward,” Blank said.
The next big question: Will the city face another 19-year wait before the Super Bowl returns?
Goodell bragged on the city — and its new stadium.
“As it relates to when we come back, as you know they get more and more competitive as more and more cities want to host the Super Bowl,” Goodell said. “We think that’s great, but it is a challenge for us to meet all those demands.
“I also believe not only is this city incredibly important to us, I believe the new stadium is one I think everyone will marvel at. I think it is an extraordinary stage for all of us.”
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