Check out some of the big upgrades downtown Atlanta will see before the World Cup in 2026

ATLANTA — Major changes are already taking shape in downtown Atlanta in preparation for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

When world soccer arrives, some 1,300 people will be living in new apartments, and soccer fans will be able to enjoy food and drinks in new hotels and bars currently under construction outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

In four years, half of what is currently known as The Gulch will be developed into restaurants, bars and apartments.

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Brian McGowan, president and CEO of Centennial Yards, said in 2026, thousands of people will be living downtown, and World Cup fans will have plenty to do when the project transforms into a tourist destination.

“We’ll have a world-class entertainment district in the heart-and-soul core of the property,” McGowan said. “This is bigger than a Super Bowl. Thirty days of events, and there will be people from all over the world.”

Hotels, apartments and an entertainment district are expected to be finished next decade — some in time for when the World Cup comes to Atlanta.

“By the end of the year, we’ll break ground on three new buildings,” McGowan said.


McGowan told Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston that the project will make downtown a destination for tourists and locals.

“The Gulch, we all know, is ... in the heart of the city, of downtown,” McGowan said. “This is going to be a place you’re going to want to take your family and friends when you want to show them Atlanta.”

A new brewery opens soon, a new coffee shop opens this fall, and some new apartments are already being rented. With a 2026 deadline, McGowan said the World Cup coming to Atlanta kicks everything up a notch.

“It provides a deadline, not only for us, but the Georgia World Congress Center, MARTA and everybody else,” McGowan said, adding that he wants to “make sure we’re ready to show ourselves to the world.”

More than 48 soccer teams will play in Mexico, the United States and Canada.

Atlanta will be part of the World Cup central region along with other major cities, but we may be the only ones with a new downtown to show off.