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Gainesville's City Park Stadium to host Atlanta Falcons' Friday Night Lights scrimmage

POSTED: June 21, 2013 12:54 a.m.

The Atlanta Falcons won’t leave Hall County for training camp this summer. Not even for the team’s annual Kia Motors Friday Night Lights scrimmage.

City Park Stadium will serve as this year’s host for the Falcons’ sixth annual summer scrimmage at a high school venue. The game takes place at 6:45 p.m. on Aug. 2.

The free event will give Falcons fans a chance to see the team in action just a week before its first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Aug. 8 in the Georgia Dome. It will also be the first session this summer that players will have the freedom of tackling.

“It’s going to be a great night for Hall County, the city of Gainesville and Gainesville City Schools,” said Gainesville High Athletic Director Wayne Vickery, who has been in talks with the Falcons regarding the event since March.

The scrimmage marks the first time Friday Night Lights has been hosted by a school outside of the Gwinnett County. Last year’s event was held at Peachtree Ridge High in Suwanee.

City Park Stadium doesn’t boast the sheer size of many stadiums at Class AAAAAA schools in Gwinnett County, but Vickery doesn’t expect overcrowding to be a problem. He says Gainesville has comfortably accommodated more than 10,000 spectators in larger Red Elephant football games in recent years.

“It’s not our first rodeo,” Vickery said. “I anticipate a Buford crowd, or a North Hall crowd or a Flowery Branch crowd of three years ago when we played them in the (2009 Class AAA) semifinals. There was probably anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 people there that night.”

Talks of a Falcons scrimmage at City Park began earlier this year, sparked by the completion of the P.K. Dixon Field House at the stadium for the 2012 high school football season.

Vickery said the new facilities and close proximity to team headquarters in Flowery Branch made for a easy agreement.

“We had a great field and a great stadium, but very poor dressing room facilities,” Vickery said. “I think when the word got out, the Falcons knew we had built this nice complex and that’s what put the ball in motion.

“This was something that’s close to home, within 30 minutes of the Falcons complex. Now, the P.K. Dixon field house can dress 200 people with ease.”

Atlanta will handle the majority of scrimmage operations, including field paint, yard markers and announcers. They will also handle all marketing and sponsorship duties, as well as event security.

“We basically show up and unlock the fence, and hopefully sell a few Gatorades and bottled waters,” Vickery said. “We’re just supplying them the football field.”

It won’t be the first time the Falcons have paid a visit to City Park, but the first in several decades.

Atlanta made its last appearance in Gainesville while under former head coach Norm Van Brocklin, who was with the team in their early days from 1968-1974. Like this year, the visit included a scrimmage.

“I know it’s going to be more exciting this time,” Vickery said. “They’re going to have fireworks displays. I know they have a lot more marketing and a lot of sponsorship.”

The Falcons begin their training camp schedule with daily practices starting July 25.


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