Fans attending and tuning into Monday night’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game between No. 4 Clemson and Georgia Tech will notice a new seating set-up at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Specifically, an empty upper deck.
While No. 3 Georgia and No. 11 Oregon will play in front of a capacity crowd of 72,000 on Saturday in the first Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, attendance for Clemson-Georgia Tech two days later will be limited to about 45,000 seats across the stadium’s lower two levels.
Georgia Tech officials proposed the attendance cap after having a “great experience” hosting UNC in the same set-up last season in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Peach Bowl CEO and president Gary Stokan told The State.
“When we talked to them, they talked about that,” Stokan said. “We suggested going the same direction as that. We both agreed to it, so we’ll implement that same manifest as they had for the North Carolina game.”
While Georgia-Oregon is a neutral-site game for both teams, Clemson-Georgia Tech counts as a home game for the Yellow Jackets, who’ve partnered with Mercedes Benz Stadium to host one home game per season there through 2026 in a “Mayhem at MBS” series.
Stokan said both 2022 games, held in the home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and MLS team Atlanta United, sold out in “record time” in July.
As the home institution, Georgia Tech is afforded greater influence on ticketing procedures than a team would in a neutral-site game. Playing under the same 45,000-seat configuration, the Yellow Jackets upset then-No. 21 UNC, 45-22, last September.
Per ACC guidelines, Georgia Tech supplied Clemson with 4,300 tickets for Monday’s game, the conference opener for both teams. Those were distributed primarily to members of IPTAY, Clemson’s athletics fundraising arm, as well as player/coach guests, band members and staff.
“And I’m sure there’s probably tickets on the secondary market that Clemson can access as well,” Stokan said.
Middle-bowl seats for the Clemson-Georgia Tech game start around $50 with fees, while lower-bowl seats start around $75, according to SeatGeek.
Though GT and Peach Bowl officials agreed on the smaller set-up, “it could be considered a reflection of fan interest in the Yellow Jackets,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote.
Georgia Tech was planning to use Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s full 72,000-seat configuration for the Clemson game as late as last year, the AJC reported. But the Yellow Jackets’ 2021 season produced their lowest average home attendance (37,333 per game) since 1989.
That coincided with a third consecutive three-win season under coach Geoff Collins, who enters the 2022 season decidedly on the hot seat. He is 9-25 since starting at Georgia Tech in 2019, the worst record among ACC teams in that time frame.
GT was picked to finished second-to-last in the ACC’s Coastal Division this season, only ahead of Duke, and is a consensus three-touchdown underdog to Clemson on major betting sites.
Clemson, meanwhile, was picked as the preseason ACC champion and No. 4 team in the first AP Top 25. The Tigers have won seven straight games and eight of their last 10 against the Yellow Jackets (one of their three permanent opponents under the ACC’s new 3-5-5 scheduling model that starts next season).
Even under a smaller configuration, recent history indicates that Clemson will have a strong fan showing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium given the Tigers’ large contingent of Atlanta alumni and the campus’ proximity to the city. (It’s a little over two hours away.)
According to AJC research, Clemson’s last two visits to Georgia Tech, excluding the 2020 COVID-19-affected season, also marked the program’s biggest home crowds of the season. Clemson-GT drew 53,923 fans to Bobby Dodd Stadium in 2016 and 50,595 fans in 2018. The stadium seats 55,000.
All of that made Clemson a “tremendous” option for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, Stokan said. The Tigers have previously appeared twice in the series, losing to Alabama in 2008 and beating Auburn in front of a then-record 75,211 fans in 2012.
“It makes all the sense in the world,” Stokan said. “Adding to that, they’re a top five team in the country and a favorite to win the ACC. It can’t get any better than that.”
Clemson vs. Georgia Tech game, TV info
Who: Clemson (0-0, 0-0 ACC) vs. Georgia Tech (0-0, 0-0 ACC)
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Line: Clemson by 21.5
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