Super sites: superbly competitive
Monday marked the 40th anniversary of Super Bowl XII, the first Super Bowl to be played indoors. The Cowboys defeated the Broncos 27-10 in the Louisiana Superdome (now Mercedes-Benz Superdome). I don’t remember watching simply because I was only 15 months old, while my mother was almost eight months pregnant with my brother, who arrived February 24.
Super Bowl IX, the previous Super Bowl held in New Orleans, was supposed to be played in the Superdome. The NFL awarded New Orleans Super Bowl IX in early 1973 with the intention of playing the game indoors. However, when it became obvious in the middle of 1974 the Superdome would not be completed in time for the game (January 12, 1975), the NFL allowed New Orleans and the Saints to move the game to Tulane Stadium.
The Superdome did not open until August 3, 1975, and the first regular season game there was September 28, a 21-0 Bengals victory over the Saints. It was scheduled to be open in 1972 when the voters of Louisiana approved the bonds to build the stadium in November 1966, but construction did not begin until August 1971. Typical Louisiana.
The above narrative shows just how different selecting Super Bowl sites is today than it was in the 1970s.
The first six Super Bowls were awarded with less than one year of lead time. In fact, the site for Super Bowl I, the Los Angeles Coliseum, was not selected until the last week of November 1966, a mere seven weeks before the game was played. To be fair, the NFL and AFL did not finalize plans for the World Championship Game, as it was called then, until early November.
The next five Super Bowls saw the sites awarded at the league meetings of March. Miami won Super Bowls II, III and V, while New Orleans got IV and VI at Tulane Stadium. New Orleans bid on the first three Super Bowls, and was seriously considered as the site for the first, even though the Saints did not begin play until 1967, the season of Super Bowl II.
Joe Robbie, who bought the Dolphins from Danny Kaye in 1969, lobbied Pete Rozelle hard to permanently place the Super Bowl in Miami. John Mecom, the original owner of the Saints, lobbied very hard against it, as did Dave Dixon, who was the driving force behind the NFL coming to New Orleans, then-Louisiana Governor John McKeithen, then-New Orleans mayor Victor Schiro, and many NFL owners, especially Clint Murchison in Dallas and George Halas in Chicago.
New Orleans’ pleas carried the day in March 1969 and again in March 1971. The first Super Bowl site to be awarded more than a year in advance was Super Bowl VII, which was awarded to Los Angeles at the same time as Super Bowl VI.
Many wanted Super Bowl IX to be yanked out of New Orleans. They believed New Orleans mayor Moon Landrieu lied when he said the Superdome would be open in time for the game, and that New Orleans should be punished.
In today’s NFL, that would have happened for sure. The game probably would have gone to Miami, which was already scheduled to host Super Bowl X, or possibly to the Los Angeles area, either at the Coliseum, or the Rose Bowl, which would host Super Bowl XI and four more after that.
However, Rozelle allowed the game to remain in the Big Easy. Even in the mid-1970s, it would have been a logistical nightmare to move the game on such short notice.
Today, cities have at least three years of lead time, often more, to get ready for the game.
For instance, Minneapolis, which is hosting Super Bowl LII February 4, has known about it for almost four years. Knowing the game would be yanked if U.S. Bank Stadium was not open in 2016, the construction crews in the Twin Cities worked double time to make sure it was on schedule.
Under NFL rules currently in place, a stadium cannot host the Super Bowl in its first season of operation. This is why Minnesota had to wait until this year, and Atlanta has to wait until next year, although Mercedes-Benz Stadium hosted the College Football Playoff championship game less than six months after opening.
In May 2016, the NFL awarded the sites for Super Bowls LIII, LIV and LV. Super Bowl LV was originally scheduled for the new stadium in Los Angeles (Ingelwood) in February 2021, but an exceptionally rainy winter in early 2017 pushed back the timetable for construction of the stadium. Therefore, Tampa will host LV and Los Angeles will host LVI.
Sadly, New Orleans cannot host another Super Bowl until LVII in February 2023. And even that one is a very long shot, as Las Vegas’ Stadium will be open by then, and it will be the first opportunity to hold it there.
From 1969, the season of Super Bowl IV, through 1989, the season of Super Bowl XXIV, New Orleans never went more than five seasons without hosting. The drought will be nine seasons through 2021, and likely grow to ten.
There are some who want a four-year rotation for the Super Bowl between Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles and a wild card. That will never happen. The owners in Dallas, Houston and Arizona would certainly raise holy hell, as would those in Tampa, Atlanta, Minnesota, Detroit and Indianapolis.
The owners in Tennessee and Carolina probably feel the worst. They believe their climates are far enough south to provide good weather in early February, but there is just too much risk. Look how badly Atlanta was paralyzed during an ice storm the week before Super Bowl XXXIV in January 2000. It could very well happen again next year. The NFL is really rolling the dice.
One city which won’t host again is Jacksonville. There simply were not enough hotels in 2005, and many guests either had to stay in far-away locales (Daytona Beach, Gainesville, Ocala) or on cruise ships. The Jaguars have not bid since and probably won’t, unless Shahid Kahn changes his mind.
London? There would have to be another extra week between the conference championships and Super Bowl. And how would fans in the United States get to London? I can’t see that.
I”m of the mind the Super Bowl should be offered to all NFL cities, even those in colder climates with outdoor stadiums. Why not Chicago? New England, though, would never be on my list, because Foxborough is in the middle of nowhere and the traffic getting there from Boston and Providence would be so bad I can’t imagine it. Green Bay? Not enough hotels.
Kansas City? Stadium is kind of outdoor. Great for tailgating, not for events in the days prior to the game. And there isn’t a second facility comparable to what the Chiefs have. The only options I could see is letting one team use Kauffman Stadium and the Royals’ facilities or Sporting Kansas City’s stadium in Kansas. At least New Orleans has Tulane. Baton Rouge wouldn’t be bad, since it would be away from the temptations of the French Quarter, and LSU’s facilities are far superior to Tulane’s.
I’m resigned to the fact I won’t see a Super Bowl in Kansas City, Chicago, Green Bay or many other places in my lifetime, unless something changes drastically. It’s only sports.