SportsPowerWeekends.com founder/editor Jared Cooper takes a closer look at Atlanta, Georgia, home of the 2010 SEC Championship Game. SEC East Division champion South Carolina will take on SEC West Division champion Auburn on Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia at 4:00 PM ET.
While Atlanta isn’t home to an SEC school, it is the host of the most important game on the SEC calendar. Each year all 12 SEC teams aspire to take part in the game that will determine the SEC champion and the conference’s automatic qualifier for a BCS bowl game. By winning the SEC East and West respectively, South Carolina and top-ranked Auburn have the pleasure of meeting at the Georgia Dome on Saturday.
While the SEC Championship Game is no doubt the headliner of the weekend’s activities, it is by no means the only thing going on in Georgia’s capital. Ranked as the eighth-best sports city in the country in 2010 by The Sporting News, Atlanta is also a city full of culture, great food and a thriving nightlife.
- Fat Matt’s
- Philips Arena
Photo Courtesy of PhilipsArena.com
Atlanta is a pretty spread out city and is best navigated with a car, though by using the MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority), you can get by without one. Take whichever mode of transportation you find easiest to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack, up north in Atlanta near Emory University, for some of their top-of-the-line ribs, chicken and sides.
With some of Atlanta’s best in your stomach, you can head to Philips Arena to cheer on the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks as they take on the visiting Philadelphia 76ers. The Hawks are led by two former SEC stars, Florida’s two-time champion Al Horford and Arkansas’s Joe Johnson, and bring a ton of excitement (and a lot of wins) to this 18,729 seat arena that opened in 1999.
After the game you can head to Buckhead, an upscale uptown district in Atlanta that has some very worthwhile restaurants, shopping and bars. The bar East Andrews is broadcasting sports radio shows live on Friday night in preparation for tomorrow’s SEC Championship Game. The whole town has SEC fever!
- Flying Biscuit
- Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site
- Centennial Olympic Park
- Georgia World Congress Center
- Georgia Dome
- Virginia Highland
The game to crown the SEC champion will kick off at 4 PM local time, giving you plenty of time to explore the city a bit before filing in to the Georgia Dome to see the much-anticipated matchup between the Gamecocks and the Tigers.
Start your day at the Flying Biscuit, a homey spot known for their grits and of course, their biscuits. They come with a homemade cranberry apple butter that makes any wait to be seated well worth it. After breakfast make your way to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, which operates a number of facilities that contain Martin Luther King, Jr. exhibits and artifacts, such as the King Center and the Visitor’s Center. Tours of Dr. King’s birth home start at 10 AM and last 30 minutes from start to finish.
Photo courtesy of SECSports.com
After checking out the birthplace of Dr. King, make your way to the park that honors the 100-year anniversary of the Olympics from their birthplace in Athens, Greece, Centennial Olympic Park. The 21-acre park was refurbished for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games and features the Fountain of Rings, and during the winter, a skating rink for public use. Centennial Olympic Park is operated by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which also oversees the Georgia World Congress Center and the Georgia Dome. Those three properties, as well as Philips Arena, the CNN Center, the World of Coca-Cola, and the Children’s Museum of Atlanta are all adjacent to one another in downtown Atlanta.
Make the quick walk from the park to the Georgia World Congress Center for the 2010 Dr. Pepper SEC Football FanFare, featuring games, autograph stages, food vendors and official SEC apparel stands. Spend some time mingling with fans and former SEC players, kick field goals or test your throwing accuracy, or watch action from around the country on any of the TV monitors in the building. It is a great way to get in the mindset for the game that follows. The FanFare runs until 4 PM, but by that time you should already be in your seat eagerly anticipating kickoff.
The Georgia Dome has been the host of the SEC Championship Game since 1994; in the first two years of SEC play – 1992 and 1993 – the game was played at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. The Georgia Dome opened in 1992 and is the largest cable-supported domed stadium in the world. The 71,250 capacity stadium plays host to the Atlanta Falcons, and has hosted Super Bowls XXVIII and XXXIV, the gymnastics and basketball events for the 1996 Olympic Games and both a Men’s and Women’s NCAA Final Four. In addition, the Dome hosts the Bank of America Atlanta Football classic and the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game and Bowl game as well as the SEC title tilt.
The Auburn Tigers are looking to become the fifth consecutive SEC team to win the SEC Championship Game and go on to win the BCS National Championship Game. In the previous four years, the Florida Gators – who have won an SEC-record seven title games – have done this twice, and the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide have each won one. South Carolina hopes to add to the East Division’s 11-7 lead in title games over the West Division. Something has got to give, and seeing it live will sure be fun.
A good area to check out after the game is the Virginia Highland, a neighborhood popular for its shopping, dining and nightlife. Choosing from places like Atkins Park – the oldest restaurant/bar in Atlanta, Highland Tap and Figo will give you some options. You’ll be having a burger tomorrow for lunch, so unless you want to double up you may have to save George’s for your next visit. There are also a number of bars in the area. Check out Dark Horse for some live music.
- Ria’s Bluebird
- Grant Park
- Little Five Points
- Vortex Bar and Grill
- Philips Arena
Start the final day of your Sports Power Weekend at Ria’s Bluebird, a hip breakfast spot in Atlanta serving some of the best pancakes and eggs in the Peach State. The restaurant is located across the street from the famous Oakland Cemetery, where golf legend Bobby Jones and Pulitzer Prize winning Gone With The Wind author Margaret Mitchell are buried.
Nearby is Grant Park, Atlanta’s oldest park established in 1882. The park houses Zoo Atlanta and the Atlanta Cyclorama, a museum housing a cylindrical panoramic painting of the American Civil War Battle of Atlanta. Grant Park is just a few blocks east of Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves, which opened in 1997 and has become a landmark of sorts in the city. Stop by and take a peek if you would like.
Next, you can make your way to the Little Five Points area to check out some of their eccentric novelty shops. Also in the area is Vortex Bar & Grill, home of one of the best burgers in town. They do require that all patrons be over the age of 18, so keep that in mind depending on your company.
As your Sports Power Weekend winds down, you can look back and be satisfied with all of the can’t miss spots you saw, great food you ate, and exciting times you had. Assuming you don’t push back your flight so you can see the Usher concert at Philips Arena tonight, you have now experienced everything SEC football has to offer. Don’t fret, however. Basketball season is now upon us.
Jared Cooper worked for the National Football League’s PR department for four years before creating SportsPowerWeekends.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@SportsPowerWknd) or contact him at Jared.Cooper@SPWtravel.com.