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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Celebration Bowl

Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43

Mercedes-Benz Stadium 1 AMB Dr Atlanta, GA 30313

Year Opened: 2017

Capacity: 71,000


A Celebration of HCBU Football

The Celebration Bowl features a contest pitting the conference champion from the MEAC against the conference champion from the SWAC. It is known informally as the Black Colleges National Championship Game, as it pits the two champions from the HBCU school conferences against each other. The Bowl started in 2015 and is held in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. The mission of the game is to provide each of the participating school’s alumni, fans, and students with a first-class bowl experience while continuing to celebrate the heritage, legacy, pageantry, and traditions of the HBCUs.

The 2022 game featured the SWAC Champion Jackson State University Tigers vs the MEAC Champion North Carolina Central Eagles. The contest served as the finale for Jackson State Coach Deion Sanders, as he takes over the reins for the University of Colorado Buffaloes in 2023. The game was a thriller, as it went into overtime, and the NC Central Eagles won in an upset. This ended Jackson State’s quest for an undefeated season.

Food & Beverage 4

Fans attending the Celebration Bowl were thrilled with the variety of foods to choose from, and the low prices for these items This is due to Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s Fan First Food Experience. The principles of this experience are 1) to provide food at prices a family can afford 2) to provide the best selection of foods Atlanta has to offer, and 3) to experience it as hassle-free as possible.

Atlanta pioneered the cashless purchases policy to speed up the order process. In addition, there is no limit on free refills for soft drinks. A sampling of prices includes Coca-Cola beverages ($2), water, hot dogs, pretzels, and popcorn are also $2, pizza, nachos, and waffle fries are priced at $3, The most expensive item on the Fan Friendly menu is $5 for a 12-ounce domestic beer.

In addition to the Fan Friendly menu, more than 60 concession stands were serving a wide variety of foods that Atlanta the South is known for.

BTW, Mercedes-Benz Stadium has more than 673 concession points located throughout the stadium. This kept the concession lines moving quickly!

Atmosphere 4

The Celebration Bowl offered one of the most festive bowl week celebrations in the country. It was a class reunion/family reunion and holiday party all rolled into one. For many alumni, the game offered an opportunity to get together at a site that is convenient for everyone location-wise.

It also offered families from the two participating schools a chance to meet in a good-natured rivalry that may never occur in the regular season. Celebration Week offered numerous opportunities to attend the social events attached to the bowl game. ESPN’s sponsorship and telecast of the game offered both the participating schools a priceless opportunity for exposure that money simply can’t buy. Finally, everyone who watched the Battle of the Bands at halftime was thoroughly entertained.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium added to the atmosphere through its one-of-a-kind technology, an NFL best concessions program, and a temperature-controlled environment that is hard to beat in late December.

Neighborhood 5

Mercedes-Benz Stadium has located just two blocks from Atlanta’s most popular tourist destinations. In Centennial Olympic Park alone, visitors could choose from the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, and the Center for Civil and Human Rights. Celebration Bowl fans also visited many of the sites associated with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr in his hometown. Finally, the College Football Hall of Fame offered a terrific exhibit on the HBCU’s involvement in college football.

Fans could also visit and eat at the historic Paschal’s Restaurant, which is within walking distance of the Stadium. In addition to serving great food for more than 70 years, Paschal played a key role in the Civil Rights movement, as it regularly hosted planning sessions for Dr. King and the members of the SCLC staff.

Fans 4

Fans from both schools made the trek to Atlanta for the Celebration Bowl. The metro area also has a large alumni base from HCBU schools which also attend the game. The Celebration Bowl and Coca-Cola provided an opportunity for fans from both schools to meet in a social setting the morning of the game.

NC Central Sound, Photo by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

The Coca-Cola Fan Experience got underway at 8:30 am on the day of the game and did not close until 30 minutes before the kickoff. Activities took place on the Georgia World Congress Center International Plaza, which is adjacent to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Fan Experience included food and musical entertainment from both the concert stage and through music provided by the marching bands from each of the schools participating in the game. There were also appearances by elite HBCU players of the past at autograph booths. Fans also had the opportunity to stock up on game-related merchandise at the Celebration Bowl team store.

Once inside the fans were protected from the cold weather, while enjoying a great football game. They could also see the key plays on Mercedes Benz’s unique halo video board which provides a 360-degree view of the action.

Unlike most football games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, nobody left their seats at halftime. This is because nobody wanted to miss the halftime performances by Jackson State’s Sonic Boom of the South Marching Band and North Carolina Central’s Sound Machine Marching Band.

Access 5

Mercedes-Benz Stadium offered many cost and time-efficient ways to get to the game. Attendees didn’t need to rent a car for the week or find an inexpensive parking space!

Fans traveling from Jackson or Durham could fly to the game via either Delta or Southwest into Atlanta Hartfield-Jackson International Airport, the world’s busiest airport. Downtown is less than a ten-minute ride via taxi or rideshare, and MARTA operated frequent rapid rail service between the airport and downtown.

The doors to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened 90 minutes before kickoff, providing plenty of time for fans to find their seats and get a bite to eat.

MARTA provided rapid rail service to both the Ashby Street Station and the CNN Center/State Farm Arena/Mercedes-Benz Stadium Stations, which are adjacent to the bowl site.

Return on Investment 4

The Celebration Bowl offered tickets at a wide variety of price points. Tickets ranged from $100- $210 for a stadium club-level seat, which comes with a variety of food and beverage options. These are all located in the 100 level of the stadium. For $40 you can choose seats anywhere in the 200 level of the stadium, or at the lower level behind the bands (huh, what did you say?) or behind the end zones (with the students!) The Celebration Bowl used only two levels of Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s seating bowl.

Parking rates on gamedays near the stadium ran around $70 (the stadium does not run these lots) MARTA offered rapid rail service for $9 unlimited rides in a day, and they have two stations adjacent to the stadium.

Fans with game tickets could attend the Coca-Cola Fan Experience on the Stadium Plaza for free.


Extras 5

Atlanta was chosen to host the Celebration Bowl due to its location between the two participating conferences, its excellent athletic facilities, and its large presence as the home of several HBCU institutions through the Atlanta University Center.

Twenty-seven players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame played their college careers at either a MEAC or SWAC member school.

The Celebration Bowl is the only bowl to feature two teams from the FCS level of NCAA competition.

The Battle of the Bands at halftime of the game is often as competitive as the game itself.

The winner of the Celebration Bowl is usually seen as the winner of the Black Colleges National Football Championship. This is because the MEAC and the SWAC are the two largest HCBU football conferences in the country.

Final Thoughts

The tradition of the HBCU teams and the wonderful venue make for a great fan experience.

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