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SEC extends agreement to keep football championship in Atlanta at least through 2031

Last Updated Nov 30, 2023 at 1:43 pm MST

FILE - Mercedes-Benz stadium is seen, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Atlanta. Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta will host the opening game and South Florida's Hard Rock Stadium gets the final when Copa América returns to the United States in 2024. A joint announcement was made Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, by CONMEBOL and CONCACAF, the governing bodies of South American and North American soccer, respectively. Other sites and scheduling for the 16-team tournament will be revealed later.(AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — The Southeastern Conference championship game will remain at Mercedes-Benz Stadium through at least 2031 under a contract extension announced Thursday.

The SEC joined stadium operator AMB Sports and Entertainment and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority in announcing the agreement ahead of the 32nd annual title game Saturday, matching No. 1 Georgia — the two-time defending national champion — against No. 8 Alabama.

The previous deal was set to expire after the 2026 game. Under the new agreement, the SEC also can exercise a five-year option that would keep the game at the 71,000-seat retractable roof stadium near downtown Atlanta through 2036.

Atlanta began hosting the SEC championship in 1994 after the first two games were held at Birmingham’s Legion Field. The Georgia Dome was the site through 2016, when that stadium was replaced by the current facility built next door.

“The SEC football championship game is one of the premier events in college sports and Mercedes-Benz Stadium is one of the finest sports facilities on the globe, making Atlanta the perfect venue for our annual title game,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement.

Best known as home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United, Mercedes-Benz Stadium hosts several college football games each year, including the Peach Bowl that is part of the College Football Playoff and Celebration Bowl for historically Black colleges.

In addition, the stadium is set to stage the national championship game for the second time in 2025 as well as games at soccer’s World Cup in 2026.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football

The Associated Press