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Last time Falcons made the Super Bowl, Atlanta was vastly different

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Like, 2 million people different

A photo of a sparser Atlanta skyline in the late 1990s.
A sparser Atlanta skyline in the late 1990s.
Kirschi/USA 1999

The Falcons have flown (and more commonly, flopped) in Atlanta for more than 50 years. Following Sunday’s trouncing of the Green Bay Packers, the team has qualified for the Super Bowl exactly twice. So the city’s unbridled enthusiasm is understandable right now.

But before setting sites on Houston and Super Bowl LI, let’s harken back to 1999, to the last time the Falcons made the big game 18 years ago — an eternity in a growing Sun Belt metropolis built on change.

First, the bad news: the Jan. 31, 1999 Super Bowl played in Miami saw the Falcons fall to the Denver Broncos 19 to 34 (blame the Miami, uh, nightlife). And that marred year was perhaps most notable in Atlanta for a massacre at day-trading offices in Buckhead and elsewhere — a killing spree that made the cover of TIME magazine.

Anyhow, the most notable change since 1999 is sheer size.

  • Back when Limp Bizkit, the Backstreet Boys, and Jennifer Lopez ruled the airwaves, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated metro Atlanta’s population to be just 3.8 million. (In the 1990s, Atlanta’s population surpassed that of Miami and Seattle). The most recent Census estimates from early 2016 suggest metro Atlanta’s population is swiftly approaching 6 million now.
  • In 1999, a Georgia Tech grad student named Ryan Austin Gravel was turning in his master’s thesis for some grandiose idea called the Atlanta Belt Line.
  • The Braves’ roster included Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, and Otis Nixon in 1999. The Braves now reside in Cobb County.
  • The core of Midtown, especially, looks drastically different now versus 1999 — and a mind-boggling amount of more development is underway.
A circa-1999 image taken from The Connector, roughly adjacent to where Atlantic Station is now.
Kirschi/USA 1999
  • In 1999, development of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta (which rose from an empty lot) forced Music Midtown to relocate downtown — to an undeveloped site where the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coke now stand. Headliners in 1999 included Hole, Outkast, 98 Degrees, Kid Rock, Willie Nelson, and Iggy Pop.
  • Speaking of music, Atlanta’s own Shawn Mullins recorded one of 1999’s top singles with “Lullaby,” while Outkast charted the classic "SpottieOttieDopaliscious."
  • And in 1999, this dance was en vogue:

What else has changed, Atlantans, since that disappointing night in Miami?