Bowling for the Bowl
Cities must meet requirements to be worthy of hosting
NEW YORK (AP) - Houston didn't just get an NFL expansion team and a new stadium, it got a Super Bowl to go with them.
Jacksonville already had a team and a stadium. To get the big game, it needed a way to house all the visitors. So it looked to the water.
Detroit wanted another Super Bowl, but it had no shot if the Lions remained in the Pontiac Silverdome. When plans to build Ford Field downtown came together, so did the city's bid for America's premier one-day sporting event.
Just like that, the Super Bowls for 2004-06 were locked up - and not by mainstream hosts such as New Orleans and Miami.
"The days of the so-called rotation are over," says Jim Steeg, the NFL's vice president of special events. "The owners are looking at it more and more as not going back to the same place."
That only works, however, if the bids are impressive. The offers from Houston, Jacksonville and Detroit generally knocked over the owners with their completeness or originality.
The Texans begin play in Reliant Stadium in September 2002. While Houston nearly didn't get the expansion franchise -- Los Angeles couldn't come up with an acceptable stadium proposal and lost the team -- things weren't so tight concerning the Super Bowl. No other city bid for the 2004 game.
"We were bidding against all of the most recent Super Bowl bids, which we used as a benchmark," says Jamie Rootes, senior vice president of the Texans. "They always had a choice and could have said we were not ready yet and the bid was not good enough."
It was good enough to bring the game to Houston for the first time since 1974 because the city easily met the league's criteria for staging a Super Bowl:
The NFL liked what it saw in Reliant Park, which will house the retractable dome stadium, the Astrodome and a huge exposition facility, plus parking for 20,000 cars.
"Everything the NFL ever wanted to have to host a game can be done in that complex," Rootes says.
Is it all worth it?
"In terms of image building, you can't put a dollar figure on that," says Texans owner Bob McNair, who had the support of city and state officials for the bid. "The international exposure will really extend our reach and the vision of people will be indelibly impacted. We're going to create an impression worldwide. There are a lot of smiles around here."
As there are in Jacksonville, which came up with a unique way of solving its housing problems: cruise ships.
Other than available hotels, the north Florida area had all the necessary criteria. But even with support from nearby southeastern Georgia and other Florida communities, the AFC's smallest city needed more to secure a Super Bowl.
It also was bidding against Miami, which has been the host of Super Bowls in every decade the game has existed.
Still, Jacksonville found a way -- by sea.
Jacksonville will bring in as many as 10 cruise ships to add to the full-service hotel rooms the NFL required. As many as 8,000 rooms on ships will be made available. The ships will dock within two miles of ALLTEL Stadium.
"They also sold it as unique, because there would be a central congregating area around the ships, which would drop all of these people in downtown Jacksonville," Steeg explains.
And the NFL dropped the 2005 game into northern Florida.
Then it moved to the far north and Detroit. The 1982 game was held in the Silverdome, but horrid weather leading to severe traffic problems eliminated a return there.
Yet Detroit wanted another Super Bowl, and commissioner Paul Tagliabue favored it -- provided the team was playing downtown. With the redevelopment of the downtown area, Detroit will stage the entire week exclusively in an urban setting. Only New Orleans attempts that, and Detroit is a far bigger city.
"It will be a much different experience for Super Bowl regulars," says Susan Sherer, director of special projects for the Metro Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau. "This is an urban stadium. They will have to use indoor facilities because of the weather, and there is not a lot of parking, so everything we are doing is designed to get people to walk through the theater district and restaurants and hotel area and the refurbished downtown."
She said Ford Field will have a glass front, so that fans sitting in the stadium can see the city's skyline.
The success of the three cities in landing the Super Bowl should encourage others to bid for the game. If San Francisco ever gets a new stadium, it will get a Super Bowl. So will New York should the Jets wind up in a dome.
Considering the projected economic impact on a community that stages the NFL championship game -- close to $400 million -- it's no wonder cities are eager to repeat what Houston, Jacksonville and Detroit have done.