When the Atlanta Falcons soar, so does the football fever in Flowery Branch, where the team is headquartered.
Today’s playoff buzz has town and Hall County officials captivated, with many residents and businesses also eager to see how far the team can go.
“A couple years ago when the Falcons were having their troubles, it was not a popular topic. People just didn’t talk about it,” Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller said. “Now everybody in the community is talking about them.”
Times have changed thanks in large part to the team’s success. The Falcons finished 13-3, top record in the National Football Conference, and play host to their first playoff game at 8 tonight against the Green Bay Packers at the Georgia Dome.
Gridiron gains net positive exposure for the municipality, in particular, Miller said.
Media interest intensifies when the number of teams still playing narrows. That means a win today — which would put the Falcons one more victory away from Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6 in Dallas — is sure to generate intense attention on the team’s headquarters off Falcon Parkway.
With print and broadcast reporters naming their location as they file reports, people learn something about the small town whether they want to or not.
“That tag line on every story doesn’t say ‘Atlanta.’ It says ‘Flowery Branch,’” Miller said. “We are the only city in the country named Flowery Branch, and everybody knows that’s where the Falcons are based.”
Many Hall County residents view the Falcons as their ultimate home team, too.
Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, recalls the courtship 10 years ago that led to the Falcons deciding to relocate their training camp and headquarters to Hall County.
The relationship formed then has strengthened over the decade, she said, with the organization impacting local charities and the economy in myriad ways. Tonight’s game, for instance, will result in a boon to area businesses, with dining deals and specials tailored to the prime-time contest.
“Particularly since college football is over, I’ve heard talk on the radios about restaurants, having special meals and things going on. I think that’s great,” Dunlap said.
“We really are proud of our Falcons. We understand they don’t belong just to us, but we think Hall County benefits every time the Falcons from Flowery Branch are broadcast all over the world.”
The franchise’s offseason support of local organizations is as meaningful, if not more, Dunlap said.
For the past three years, the Falcons have played host to the chamber’s South Hall Business Coalition gathering in the summer or fall. The event, one of the coalition’s more popular stops, often becomes an in-depth team preview thanks to participating coaches and front office staff, said Michelle Wiley, membership coordinator for the chamber.
Additionally, the team donates a gameday package every year, which the chamber uses as incentive during its annual membership drive.
Chris McCall, owner of McCall Properties with Keller Williams Realty, earned the prize this year along with his chamber teammates. They attended a game at the Georgia Dome and enjoyed the privileged atmosphere of the Falcons Owners Club.
“For them to extend that generosity to us, we were impressed,” said McCall, who plans to watch the game at his Clermont home. “We’re glad to have them here in our area.”
One of Flowery Branch’s newest businesses, Toasted and Tapped, is preparing for stronger crowds today as they continue recovering from this week’s snowstorm. Owner and brew master Paul Coggins expects the game will be a key attraction at the brewery restaurant.
“I think people in general are excited about the exceptional team we’ve had this year, and the determination they’ve showed,” Coggins said. “People in Flowery Branch feel an allegiance to the Falcons and feel part of it. I see people at the grocery store, just everywhere supporting them and talking about them. It’s a special (season) regardless of how it turns out.”