Tim Tucker and J. Scott Trubey, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Last week’s SEC Championship football game is an annual contest downtown Atlanta’s hotels and restaurants count on each year, and they hope February’s Super Bowl LIII will bring an even bigger boost.
But Saturday’s MLS Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium between Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers is the surprise soccer title match business leaders hope will bring an unexpected financial windfall, with more than 70,000 fans expected downtown.
Mike Jakob foresees a thirsty crowd. Jakob owns Elliott Street Deli & Pub in the shadow of the stadium, and the bar is gearing up for a day-long party with live music and what Jakob described as a “victory” celebration after the match.
The United has drawn an MLS-leading 53,002 per match this season. Nine times the United have drawn 70,000-plus over the past two years.
“It’s an amazing thing for our city,” Jakob said, noting that Saturday will be the 22nd United home match this season.
Saturday’s match won’t draw anywhere near the national TV audience of a Super Bowl or SEC title game, but it will make up for that in local emotional value if the home team wins.
“Even bigger than the monetary impact is the spiritual uplift of the community,” said A.J. Robinson, CEO of downtown business alliance Central Atlanta Progress. “Atlantans are long-suffering fans. The last championship we had was 1995.”
That title, of course, was the World Series won by the Braves. It was followed by a massive victory parade down Peachtree Street that brought hundreds of thousands downtown.
“I’m hopeful we’ll have a parade, but we’ve got to win the game first,” Robinson said.