By Carlo Versano
If there's one person aside from the 800,000 unpaid federal workers who is hoping the government shutdown ends soon, it's Keisha Lance Bottoms.
The mayor of Atlanta is less than two weeks away from hosting Super Bowl LIII, which is a logistical and security nightmare even when the city's airport isn't being slowed down by mass TSA sick-outs.
"I'm extremely concerned," Bottoms said of the possibility that the shutdown may continue through Super Bowl weekend.
Though Atlanta is "no stranger to big events" ー it has hosted Super Bowls, MLS championships, college football championships, and, of course, the 1996 Olympics ー it relies, as every city does, on government workers like air-traffic controllers and TSA agents to move people in and out of its airport, the world's busiest. Bottoms said the prospect of thin airport staffing is "quite frightening" during a week when passenger traffic is expected to increase by a full 33 percent a day, with 750 additional flights landing daily at Hartsfield Airport.
"We are most concerned about security" at the airport, Bottoms said. Stadium and game security will be handled by private contractors and a mix of local and federal law enforcement agencies unaffected by the shutdown.
Super Bowls are typically one-time economic boons for their hosts, and this year, when Atlanta will show off its gleaming, year-old stadium, could generate as much as $400 million in game-related revenues, according to Bottoms.
Dan Corso, president of the Atlanta Sports Council, added that the city has been planning for this year's Super Bowl since 2016, when it was awarded the bid by the NFL, and is particularly thrilled about flaunting its Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The venue has made headlines for its dazzling retractable roof and having the world's largest "halo" scoreboard, but it's also famous (in a good way) for its concession prices.
Fans can get a hot dog and a soda (with refills) at the stadium for $3.
"It's really the finest sports and entertainment venue in the world," Corso said.
Shutdown or not, Bottoms said the city is gearing up to host the Rams and Patriots in what is expected to be an exciting match-up, after both teams scraped by in overtime to reach the big game (and not without controversies.
"It's an opportunity for us to showcase our city in a way that we wouldn't otherwise have on the worldwide stage," Bottoms said.
"You can already feel the energy."
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