In hindsight, we shouldn’t be too surprised that Minneapolis won the bid for Super Bowl LII at Tuesday’s NFL spring meeting. It was the only one among the three candidates to pay the entrance fee.
The “fee,” if it wasn’t already clear, is a new stadium — preferably funded at least in half by the taxpayers, of course. Minneapolis has a sparkling $1 billion domed stadium set to open in 2016, being built with about $500 million in public money.
New Orleans, which was supposedly the favorite to get the game in February 2018 because it will be the city’s tricentennial, has the same crummy old Superdome that had an electrical blackout the last time it hosted the game in 2013. And Indianapolis, which finished third in the voting, already got its reward for opening Lucas Oil Field, hosting the Super Bowl in 2012.
So, Minnesota wins. It’s really that simple.
Build a stadium and the Super Bowl will come. That’s the reality of today’s NFL, where one of the top priorities is getting a publicly funded, luxury-box-filled football palace in each city.
And that was the only significant story line to emerge from Tuesday’s meeting in Atlanta. The idea of expanding the playoffs from 12 to 14 was tabled until next year. The future of the NFL Draft wasn’t determined, but a committee will be convened this fall to figure it out. Colts owner Jim Irsay might be punished if and when he is formally charged with driving while intoxicated and drug possession, but commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t want to act until then.
The Super Bowl, though, is truly becoming America’s Game, coming to a cold-weather city near you.
Up until about a decade ago, the Super Bowl generally was played in only the warmest cities. From 2007-10, the game was played in Miami, Arizona, Tampa, and Miami again. New Orleans and San Diego also were always great hosts for the game, and only occasionally would the NFL stray from the Sun Belt to hold the game in the domes of Detroit or Minneapolis.
But you have to pay to play now to get a Super Bowl. The owners are all about rewarding each other for getting stadiums built.
The back-slapping began in 2011 when the NFL gave Jerry Jones the Super Bowl as a gift for his mega-stadium in Dallas. Indy got its Super Bowl in 2012, four seasons after opening Lucas Oil. The New York owners got the 2014 game as a thank you for building their stadium without any public funds. San Francisco (Santa Clara) is getting the 2016 game just two seasons after opening Levi’s Stadium, and now Minneapolis gets its second Super Bowl, to be held two seasons after opening its dome.
The NFL did go back to an old staple with New Orleans in 2013, and Houston got the 2017 game as part of a leverage play to get public funds to renovate the Miami stadium (which failed). But now Indianapolis and New Orleans are probably going to have to wait a long time to get their next turn at a Super Bowl, even assuming they had great bid presentations this time.
Atlanta, which is set to open a new retractable-roof stadium in 2017, is a good bet to get the game in 2019 or 2020. So is Miami, with owner Stephen Ross now willing to renovate his stadium with private funds and without tax breaks.
Then the cold-weather cities will jump in — Chicago and Philadelphia and Denver and, yes, New England, are probably at the top of the list. Those teams have built or renovated stadiums in the last decade, too, and their powerful, respected owners want in on the action.
If New York and Minneapolis can host a Super Bowl — despite the game being played indoors, the Minneapolis Super Bowl will still have logistical issues with travel and bad weather — Robert Kraft and Jeffrey Lurie will want theirs.
The NFL will still return to the Sun Belt every few years, so Miami, Arizona, Tampa, and New Orleans will still get their share of games.
But now we’re probably talking about those cities getting the game once per decade, instead of two or three times. And a city like Indianapolis, which did a fantastic job in 2012, will have to wait a while to get another crack at it. There’s too much competition to go around.
If the Oakland Raiders get a new stadium or move to new digs in Los Angeles, you can bet they’ll get a game.
If Washington or San Diego gets a stadium, they will surely be included in the rotation. The NFL will probably talk about a London Super Bowl soon.
Heck, with Goodell and several owners pushing for Buffalo to build a stadium for its next owner, maybe even Western New York would be considered for a Super Bowl. I’m only half-kidding.
Money talks more than ever in the NFL, and the rules for hosting the Super Bowl have been rewritten. All a city has to do is pay the entrance fee.Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin.