This Hawaiian word is used as both a welcome and farewell. Aloha (welcome) was used at the Georgia Dome on September 6, 1992 and over the next 25 years, it hosted a lot of great games and events.
In that first regular-season game in 1992, Atlanta Falcons’ kicker Norm Johnson scored the Dome’s first points with a 25-yard field goal. That helped them open the new stadium on a positive note with a 20-17 win over the New York Jets. The rest of the year was a struggle as the Falcons finished with a 6-10 record.
In 1996, the Summer Olympics were held in Atlanta, Georgia. The Dome was the site of gymnastics and basketball. One of best moments in U.S. Olympic history was the “Magnificent Seven” winning the first gold medal in the women’s team competition. The seven members of the team were Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Dominque Dawes, Kerri Strug, Amy Chow, Amanda Borden, and Jaycie Phelps. Despite an injured ankle, Strug’s stuck her vault landing and helped clinch that gold medal. I can still remember Coach Bela Karolyi carrying Strug to the medal stand. The Dream Team II, which included Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton and David Robinson ran through the international competition. They dominated all eight games in route to their second straight Olympic gold.
It was March 27, 1998. I had driven up to Atlanta from Columbus, Georgia to attend a basketball game. But this wasn’t just any game. It was the Atlanta Hawks vs the Chicago Bulls. Being a huge Bulls and Michael Jordan fan, it was only appropriate to wear the #23 jersey. This game took on a whole new meaning because it was played at the Dome since the Omni was demolished. A record NBA attendance of 62,046 watched Jordan score a game high 34 points in an 89-74 victory. It would be his last game in Atlanta as a Bull. Too bad I couldn’t have put that on Instagram: #winning.
It was a cold and freezing last weekend of January in 2000. There was ice on the streets that threatened the safety of the biggest game of the year, Super Bowl XXXIV. On January 30th, the St. Louis Rams played the Tennessee Titans in a great game. The Rams were led by MVP quarterback Kurt Warner, who passed for 414 yards. The Titans were led by Steve McNair, whose pass to Kevin Dyson was one yard shy of potentially tying the game. The Rams would win 23-16.
The Falcons were riding high during the 2010 season with a 13-3 regular season record. They won their first NFC South title since 2004, a bye in the first round of the playoffs, and held the number one seed in the NFC. It was Super Bowl or bust talk. That proverbial bubble burst on January 15, 2011. I can still remember wearing a white sweater, to be neutral, even though I was pulling for the home team. I have never witnessed a quarterback put on a display like Aaron Rodgers did. He was 31 of 36 passing for 366 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another. The Green Bay Packers won 48-21. They would also go on to win Super Bowl XLV. Maybe this is good sign for the Falcons this 2016 season.
December 1, 2012 the SEC championship game was between number two ranked Alabama and number three ranked Georgia. It came down to a deflected Aaron Murray pass with nine seconds on the clock. The pass was caught by Chris Conley and stopped at the five yard line while the clock ran out. Alabama would win 32-28 behind MVP Eddie Lacy’s 181 yards and two touchdowns. Alabama would then go on to molly whop Norte Dame in the title game.
The Peach Bowl or Chick-Fil-A Bowl, depending on what side of I-285 you live on, showcased some great games. On December 31, 2013, the Duke Blue Devils shell shocked the Texas A&M Aggies with a 38-17 halftime lead. No one expected that from a basketball school. This was the Aggies led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel aka “Johnny Football”. He proved why he won the award in the second half by scoring three touchdowns. He finished with 382 yards passing, 73 rushing yards, and five touchdowns as the Aggies won a shootout 52-48.
The Dome has been privileged to host three men’s basketball Final Four games – 2002, 2007, and 2013. In 2013, the Louisville Cardinals lost their guard Kevin Ware to a gruesome leg injury in their Elite Eight win over Duke. They used that momentum to outlast the ninth-seeded “Cinderella” Wichita State Shockers in the semifinals 72-68. The championship game was verse the Michigan Wolverines. There was controversy in getting Chris Webber to come to the game so that all of the original “Fab-5” would be present. He was there on April 8th and the Wolverines had a 12-point lead in the first half. The Cardinals were strong willed just like their coach, Rick Pitino. They would come back and win 82-76 for their first title since 1986.
The Falcons’ 44-21 beat down of the Packers in Sunday’s NFC championship game was the last game played in the Georgia Dome. Although, there was an attempt to have the Super Bowl broadcast there on February 5th. Dome officials prohibited that by stating, “We share your tremendous excitement that the Atlanta Falcons are headed to the Super Bowl. NFL rules prohibit us from using the Georgia Dome for broadcasting the game. Fans wishing to gather with other fans to watch the game can consider patronizing neighborhood businesses who will be showing the game.” I guess the final “sporting” event will be the AMA Supercross Championship on February 25th. The final event will be the Monster Jam on March 5th. However, Matt Ryan and the Falcons gave their hometown fans a real Aloha (farewell) on January 22, 2017.