Sports for the Winter Season

From elite professional play to college bowl games, Atlanta has a wealth of wintertime sports.
  • Atlanta Falcons celebrating in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
    Atlanta Falcons celebrating in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
  • The Peach Bowl is coming right up! (© Abell Images)
    The Peach Bowl is coming right up! (© Abell Images)
  • Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a hotbed of huge football events this season. (photo Paul Abell)
    Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a hotbed of huge football events this season. (photo Paul Abell)
  • Taureen Prince (Copyright 2017 NBAE; Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Taureen Prince (Copyright 2017 NBAE; Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Welcome to the Winter 2017 rundown of sports in Atlanta. Here we go.

ATLANTA FALCONS

What's up? The city's professional football team opened its highly anticipated regular season at home in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in September with a 34-23 win over the Green Bay Packers. Proving there's no such thing as a Super Bowl hangover for this crew, the team continues to get bigger, better and faster each week thanks to veteran play by quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Devonta Freeman and wide receiver Julio Jones. 

Where's the fun? The new stadium delivers the ultimate game-day experience, including a fan-first approach to all food and beverage pricing (think $2 hot dogs and popcorn, $3 pizza slices and nachos, and $5 beer). Among the other offerings: a two-story Team Store; AmFam Village, a lively open space for all fans to gather before the game and enjoy food, beverages and entertainment; and The Front Porch, at the stadium's main entrance, with more than 100,000 square feet of gathering space for fans with tickets to the game. 

Did you know? The stadium features a Hollywood-worthy theatrical presentation that includes more than 82,500 square feet of LED video displays and a 360-degree Halo board coming in at five stories tall, 1,100 feet wide and featuring 38 million LED lights. 

ATLANTA HAWKS

What's up? The city's NBA team had another strong season at downtown's Philips Arena last season, reaching the playoffs for the 10th consecutive year – the longest active streak in the Eastern Conference. Fans can expect top-flight play to continue into the 2017-18 season under the fifth-year head coach Mike Budenholzer and a "new-look roster" featuring last year's breakout star Dennis Shcröder, along with other young core players such as Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince and 2017 first-round draft pick John Collins.

Where's the fun? This season, arena goers will find a more fan-focused sports venue reflecting the city of Atlanta. Expect lots of open, connected space with unique experiences on every level, including the new Hawks Bar designed in the shape of the team's Pacman logo just a few feet from the court. The full transition won't be complete until the 2018-19 season, which will see the opening of Zac Brown's Social Club restaurant, Topgolf Swing Suites and one of Killer Mike's signature SWAG Shop barbershops.

Did you know? On Sunday FUNday, fans can receive four tickets and $40 worth of free food and drink for only $10 per ticket. 

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP

What's up? The Southeastern Conference's (SEC) Eastern and Western Division winners meet in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium Dec. 2 at 4 p.m. to battle it out in the 26th annual SEC Football Championship Game for the league championship and the possibility of representing the conference in the College Football Playoff. The participants of the nationally televised game are determined each year during the eight-game, regular-season conference schedule as the teams with the best overall SEC winning percentage in each division.

Where's the fun? Head to the Dr. Pepper SEC FanFare Dec. 1 (2-8 p.m.) and Dec. 2 (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) at the Georgia World Congress Center for interactive activities, attractions, celebrity guests and pep rallies. 

Did you know? The 2016 SEC Championship Game was the highest-rated championship game in the nation and second-highest-rated game of the entire 2016 season. The SEC, along with AMB Sports & Entertainment and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, have an agreement to host the Championship Game through 2026. 

CELEBRATION BOWL

What's up? The 2017 Celebration Bowl once again will be televised live on ABC and will serve as the opener to the college football bowl season. The postseason bowl game kicks off at noon on Dec. 16 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, pitting the champion of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference against the champion of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Where's the fun? Don't miss all of the special activities surrounding the game, including VIP and family events, a fan experience, tailgate festivities and community outreach. 

Did you know?  Presented by ESPN, the bowl game showcases the best of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) tradition and legacy and crowns a HBCU football champion.

CHICK-fIL-A PEACH BOWL

What's up? The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl's 50th anniversary game kicks off at 12:30 p.m. on New Year's Day in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This year's match-up is projected to feature two top-ranked teams from around the country in what will be the first of six New Year's bowl games played on Jan. 1, leading into the College Football Playoff Semifinals. 

Where's the fun? The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Parade presented by Lions Clubs International showcases the pageantry of floats, classic cars, cheerleaders, mascots and award-winning marching bands. It starts several hours before kickoff in downtown Atlanta and concludes at the Georgia World Congress Center. Meanwhile, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl FanFest presented by Tyson features interactive games, entertainment, giveaways, pep rallies and more. 

Did you know? The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl will celebrate its Golden Season throughout the 2017-18 college football year, including its 50-year history, traditions and successes as the nation's ninth-oldest bowl organization. 

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

What's up? The biggest game in college football is headed to Atlanta in 2018. The College Football Playoff National Championship is an upcoming bowl game that will determine the national champion of college football in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision for the 2017 season. It will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Jan. 8 as the culminating game of the 2017-18 football season. 

Where's the fun? Think Playoff Fan Central – a 300,000-square-foot interactive experience featuring games, clinics, pep rallies, band performances, special guest appearances, autograph signings, a free concert series, extreme tailgating and events benefiting the College Football Playoff Foundation's primary initiative, Extra Yard for Teachers.

Did you know? You can be part of the game action by becoming a volunteer. Be sure to visit the website to learn about opportunities.

Wendy Bowman writes for Atlanta Now magazine.

 

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