Mike Harris figured the National Football League was getting close to a new labor deal, noticing a little activity this week at the Atlanta Falcons headquarters a couple miles away in Flowery Branch.
“I’m extremely happy. I’m glad they got it worked out and (I’m) ready for football,” said Harris, owner of Crossroads Bar & Grille on Spout Springs Road.
News of Monday’s agreement between owners and players, effectively ending a four-month lockout, the longest work stoppage in league history, rippled through the South Hall city like a cool breeze in the stifling summer heat.
“We’ve already got quite a bit of the Falcons stuff on the books, so we’re very happy about this,” said Shelley McMahon, general manager of Flowery Branch’s lone hotel, Hampton Inn & Suites, on Holland Dam Road.
The Falcons’ training camp is slated to begin Thursday, an annual event that draws spectators and national and regional media to the complex on Falcon Parkway, across from South Hall Middle School.
Single-game tickets are set to go on sale this morning, according to the team’s website, which also features video showing the fields readied for practice.
The lockout began March 11 with the expiration of the league’s old labor contract, creating the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987.
Various mini-camps and organized team activities that usually take place in May and June at the Falcons complex didn’t happen.
The major economic framework for the deal was worked out more than a week ago, including how the more than $9 billion in annual league revenues will be divided.
“For people like me, I can’t imagine having a year without it,” said Harris, whose eatery in the Publix-anchored shopping center features a hamburger named after Falcons owner Arthur Blank.
“And as a businessman here in Flowery Branch, we’re thrilled to get the camp going (again).”
McMahon, whose five-story hotel shoots above the tree line on Interstate 985, said, “I don’t think the general public has booked anything yet (for the camp), but we have quite a few of the interns and staff staying with us. That’s very helpful.
“Generally, in the past, we pick up a good 50 percent on the weekends for the training camp.”
The Falcons have been in Flowery Branch for more than a decade. In the past 10 years, the city has grown in population and commercially, with businesses particularly springing up on Spout Springs between Hog Mountain Road and I-985.
Mayor Mike Miller was happy to hear the news.
“Absolutely. That’s advertising you can’t buy right there (for the city),” he said.
Stacey Dickson, Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau president, said the training camp is “always a very fun and family friendly event. The Falcons go out of their way to make this fan experience memorable for everyone.”
Like Harris, she picked up buzz Friday that the lockout might be ending, with “players coming into town.”
Dickson also had heard that the camp might feature some “real marquee players,” such New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, in early to mid-August.
“Training camp is growing every year and we are anxious to see it continue to develop into a major fan event,” she said.
Associated Press contributed to this report.