ATLANTA - After being canceled because of the pandemic last Labor Day weekend, the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games will return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium this weekend.
Alabama will play Miami Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and Louisville will face Ole Miss Monday at 8 p.m.
The events will have COVID-19 precautions in place to help keep fans safe.
"Our protocols are similar to the Falcons and similar to what the schools are doing on their campuses," explained Gary Stokan, president, and CEO of Peach Bowl, Inc, the organization behind the games.
Just like Atlanta Falcons games, masks will be highly encouraged throughout the stadium. Face coverings will be required in enclosed spaces like the press box and retail store. Masks will not be mandatory in open-air parts of the stadium like the seating bowl and the concourses, because the roof will be open for both games.
"This will be the first game in college football that will have the roof open in Mercedes-Benz stadium," Stokan said.
In late May, organizers announced they had decided to expand the games to full capacity citing the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and "rigorous health and safety protocols" at Mercedes-Benz.
While case rates have increased significantly since then, Stokan said they do not have concerns about that decision.
"Obviously, we've listened to the four schools. We've talked to the medical people. We've talked to Mercedes-Benz stadium," said Stokan. "So, everybody's comfortable with the protocols and we're looking forward to college football getting back to whatever the new normal is."
Peach Bowl, Inc. projects between the two games they will have about 100,000 fans in attendance.
"It's just great to have people come back, because you know, we lost the opportunity for the City of Atlanta for the hospitality industry to put on three games last year in a week, which would have been college football history. But it would've meant so much to our hospitality industry as well. But keeping things in perspective, we lost that, but people lost lives and lost loved ones, so you keep things in perspective," Stoken said.
Fans who do not have tickets for the games can still take part. There will be free games and activities in International Plaza from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday. There will also be a free concert by Old Dominion Saturday at 12 p.m.
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