Robert Kraft is used to rooting against John Mara in February, with Mara’s Giants holding two Super Bowl victories over Kraft’s Patriots in the last six years.
But this February, Kraft will be Mara’s biggest fan – assuming the two teams don’t meet in the big game, of course.
Mara’s home region of New York/New Jersey will be the site of a ground-breaking Super Bowl in nine months, as MetLife Stadium, built jointly by the owners of the Giants and Jets, will be the first open-air stadium in a cold-weather city ever to host the event.
The first 47 Super Bowls were played in warm-weather climates or domed stadiums, and on Tuesday the NFL awarded Super Bowls 50 and 51 to a couple of mild-weather cities – San Francisco and Houston.
But Kraft and the other 31 NFL owners will be watching this February’s Super Bowl intently. If all goes well logistically in New York, which has an average low temperatures of 22 degrees in February, why can’t the Boston area one day host the NFL’s signature game?
“We would love one day to hold it here, if it’s a good experience there,” Kraft said at the owners’ spring meetings at the Hyatt Harborside in East Boston. “Let’s see how it goes.”
The NFL, too, is curious to see how this February’s game goes. Only four of the first 47 games were held in cold-weather cities, and all four of those games were played under a domed stadium – two in Detroit, and one each in Indianapolis and Minneapolis. Those cities also have enclosed walkways in their downtown, making life more palatable for fans attending the events in the week leading up to the game.
But “cold weather” definitely will be the theme of this February’s game.
Most of the pregame events will be held outdoors in Manhattan on “Super Bowl Boulevard,” a stretch of Broadway that will be blocked off from 34th to 44th streets. The official Media Day will not be held on the field for the first time, instead taking place at the nearby Prudential Center. The New York/New Jersey Super Bowl Committee’s official logo includes a snowflake. “That’s our official logo but we’re not rooting for that,” Mara said with a laugh. “Maybe some flurries on the day of the game, for TV.”
Frank Supovitz, the NFL’s senior vice president of events, said the league has heard from several cold-weather owners wanting to get in on the Super Bowl process, although the decision of where to hold the games is left completely up to a vote of the 32 owners. The earliest Boston/New England ever could get one would be Super Bowl 52 in 2018, with the NFL sending out applications to host the game this summer.
Mara knows that owners in Boston, Denver, Philadelphia, and elsewhere will be paying close attention to New York’s performance.
“I assume that if we do a good job with ours, that other cities will put bids in,” Mara said. “Why not?”
Snow won’t necessarily doom next year’s game, as long as the Super Bowl committee is prepared for it. Supovitz said the New York/New Jersey committee must have an “enhanced plan” for clearing roadways and the seating bowl and protecting electronic equipment on the field.
“We’ve worked very closely with MetLife Stadium and New Jersey Expo Authority to ensure that their normal snow clearance plan and winter weather plan is enhanced and made more robust – more people and more equipment,” Supovitz said. “This is one where we really are reinventing the wheel, because of all the implications of the weather.”
“We’re gonna be ready for any contingency,” Giants co-owner Steve Tisch said.
But there is one other big logistical hurdle standing in Boston’s way, other than snow and cold weather. Supovitz said the NFL requires approximately 35,000 hotel rooms to hold a Super Bowl – for league employees, media, corporate partners, and fans.
Pat Moscaritolo, CEO of the Greater Boston Convention Bureau, said the Boston area, which extends past I-495, has about 35,000 hotel rooms.
That’s why Kraft mentioned a Boston-Providence partnership Tuesday, much like New York and New Jersey are partnering for February’s game. Martha Sheridan, CEO of the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau, estimated that Providence would add another 6,000 hotel rooms to the equation.
Another hurdle could be that Kraft opted to build Gillette Stadium, which opened in 2002, completely with private money. The NFL gave the Super Bowl to New York as a thank you to the two ownership groups for building MetLife with private money, but most of the recent games have been awarded to cities that have made public investments in stadiums, such as Dallas, Indianapolis, Phoenix, and San Francisco. Likewise, South Florida and San Diego, two warm-weather cities that have refused to use public money on stadiums, essentially have been removed from the Super Bowl rotation, at least for now.
“I really want to see Super Bowls go to communities that support their teams that have contributed public monies and helped get new stadiums built,” Chargers owner Dean Spanos said. “I don’t care if it’s a cold-weather climate or not.”
Still, the idea of a New England Super Bowl isn’t as far-fetched as it used to be.
“We have the necessary rooms to accommodate it, we have a quality stadium, and we have the corporate base to raise the money that the host committee would need to put on a first-class event,” Moscaritolo said. “If you were weighing this on a board, we would get checkmarks all across the board in all the important categories.”
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, formerly the Red Sox COO, said the “natural progression” is for more cold-weather, open-aired stadiums to get into the Super Bowl mix.
“You don’t have to be a tropical community with an average temperature over 50 degrees,” said Dee, whose team lost out on both Super Bowl bids Tuesday. “Boston is one of the greatest cities anywhere. It could host a major event, and I’m sure they could do a great job.”
Still, Kraft admitted that maybe a New England Super Bowl isn’t the best idea.
“I think a lot of our fans like being down in the warm weather, to be honest,” he quipped. “I’d rather be in the game than attract it here.”