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

ATLANTA (AP) — The Southeastern Conference championship game will remain at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta 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.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said there hasn't been any consideration of moving the game to a more centralized location, even as the league grows to 16 schools and expands further westward with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma next season.

“The great thing about both Oklahoma and Texas and their leadership is they very much want to be a part of the Southeastern Conference, the history now,” Sankey said. “I think if they both or each or individually had an opportunity to participate in our championship game, there will be great excitement here from our new westward members and from any of our western members that might have access. We’re looking forward to the future here in Atlanta.”

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

Sankey called Mercedes-Benz Stadium “one of the finest sports facilities on the globe, making Atlanta the perfect venue for our annual title game.”

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 multiple 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

Paul Newberry, The Associated Press