Build it and the Super Bowl will come.
While that’s not exactly how the sites of the NFL’s championship
extravaganza are determined, it sure doesn’t hurt to have a brand
new, billion-dollar facility in your city.
Including the 2004 game in Houston, the league will have staged
nine Super Bowls in metropolitan areas with new stadiums in the
past 15 years: Detroit, Phoenix, Dallas, Indianapolis, New York,
San Francisco, Minneapolis and, now, Atlanta. Arizona and Houston
actually have hosted twice, but obviously neither of those
buildings was new the second time around.
There’s nothing written on a game plan sheet guaranteeing such an
award from the NFL, it’s more a nodding agreement it will happen.
And it will once more in Los Angeles in 2022, and very likely in
Las Vegas before the end of the next decade.
”It really depends, but a world-class stadium is critical, and we
are going through a run with Minnesota and Mercedes-Benz Stadium in
Atlanta and other new buildings,” says Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s
senior vice president of events. ”There are lots of factors that
come into it in determining where and when we go and what is the
right sequence. So that’s not necessarily a truism … though
certainly there is a track record of a number of recent buildings
that have been built that are incredible facilities.”
Atlanta last hosted a Super Bowl in 2000, when it was hit with
severe weather, including ice storms that nearly shut down the
city. The NFL didn’t go back until this year, in part because the
Georgia Dome no longer was a state-of-the-art venue, and in part
because of memories of 2000.
Since Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened in 2017, Atlanta has been the
site of several major sporting events, including the college
football playoff. Atlanta United of MLS has set all sorts of
attendance records in the building.
Those successes matter in the Super Bowl race.
”We do attend and we watch all those events that are coming into a
venue,” says O’Reilly, who also oversees the staging of the draft
that has become a traveling show and heads to Nashville this April
and Las Vegas next year.
”Part of the reason we have a policy in place that we don’t play a
Super Bowl in the first year after a building opens is you
understand and learn from the events and the games in there. One of
the positives is a number of the key vendors who work on the Super
Bowl work on other major events. Clearly, in this community it’s a
really collaborative spirit.”
Of course, hosting a Super Bowl is about a lot more than spirit.
It’s about dollars, millions of dollars.
Economic impact studies tend to show the value of the NFL’s big
show ranges from $200 million to $500 million for a city. Plus,
more than 100 million viewers across the country are seeing that
city being showcased. Minnesota might not have been a winter
vacation destination to many people before it was spotlighted for
last year’s game.
Naturally, Minneapolis wouldn’t have gotten the Super Bowl without
having built an ultramodern indoor stadium. The only outdoor game
in a cold weather city was in 2014 at MetLife Stadium in New
Jersey, and that was a given once the Giants and Jets agreed to
foot most of the bill for the facility.
With a wink and a nod, Detroit was destined for a Super Bowl once
Ford Field was ready and the Lions moved back downtown from the
suburbs. Indianapolis, which put on a sensational Super Bowl week,
never would have been considered without Lucas Oil Stadium being
”There’s nothing formal,” explains Marc Ganis, president of
Sportscorp, a Chicago-based consulting firm, and an adviser to
several team owners. ”It is an understanding that if you build a
new stadium and have the facilities for a Super Bowl and the
community gets behind it, you will get a Super Bowl. Maybe you will
only get one, like Indianapolis – as great a job as Indianapolis
did, it’s really on the edge of a community that can support a
Super Bowl. They made up for it with the great community support.
”It is not an issue of how well a franchise is run, either. It’s
an issue of the market, the hotel rooms and the stadium. So we know
that Miami (2020), Tampa (2021), New Orleans (2024), Texas, Arizona
(2023), LA and Las Vegas will get them.”
The process for securing a Super Bowl has changed. No longer do
cities bid against each other – Ganis notes that a so-called loser
in the bidding could be embarrassed despite putting up a very
strong presentation, and that a lengthy series of ballots doesn’t
look good for anyone.
Now, O’Reilly and the owners’ Super Bowl committee go to each club
seeking an expression of interest in hosting the game. Many cities
know they have no chance, perhaps because of weather concerns at an
outdoor stadium – it’s unlikely any such venue in the Northeast
except MetLife would be considered – or lack of stadium size or
insufficient infrastructure or hotel space.
The committee identifies a city that fits best for a particular
year and asks it for specifics for hosting.
”We end up with optimizing the sequences, avoid a scenario where
multiple cities are spending significant time and resources on a
bid and ultimately they’re not rewarded,” O’Reilly says.
Suggestions that the game could wind up in London seem farfetched,
and the NFL certainly would need a franchise there before it could
happen. Besides, Ganis says there will never be a shortage of U.S.
locales interested in hosting.
”I focus on the tremendous amount of new money coming into the
community, and not just the week of the Super Bowl, but all the
planning and the attention that takes place, and the money spent
from outside (the venue) on that. Those things are almost
impossible to put a price tag on, as is the visibility over a
number of years focused on those two weeks in your city. It is
almost always very positive.”