California Poses Challenge to Florida’s Super Bowl Supremacy
The Rams are going home, to the place where they played for almost five decades and, after an absence of more than 20 years, the National Football League is back in Los Angeles.
Plans have not been finalized yet, but it appears the Rams will play their first three seasons at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The team previously played in that stadium from 1946 through 1979 (they played from 1980-94 at Anaheim Stadium).
But, in 2019, the team will move into a $2 billion-plus (some media have put the price at close to $3 billion) privately financed palace (pictured above) in Inglewood, Calif., that will be at the heart of an entertainment-retail-business complex envisioned by Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke. The Chargers may join the Raiders in L.A. this season or next and if they don’t the Raiders almost certainly will.
That’s nice for the Rams and L.A., but what does that have to do with Florida? Well, a lot more than might be apparent at first glance.
The Super Bowl by far is the biggest American sporting event, and Florida is by far its favorite home. The Sunshine State has hosted 15 of the 49 Super Bowls played to date, almost one in every three. Miami has hosted 10 (tied with New Orleans for the most), Tampa four and Jacksonville one.
Super Bowls matter economically. The host committee for the most recent Super Bowl, played in Glendale, Ariz., estimates the game generated a $500 million economic impact. That figure is in line with estimates for the last several Super Bowls. There are academic studies challenging that figure but sports economist Patrick Rishe in a 2012 article in Forbes challenged both the official estimates and the academic naysayers.
“As someone that has conducted numerous economic impact studies over the last two decades – including 2 (sic) Super Bowls – I’ve come to the conclusion that the truth lies most likely somewhere in between those two extremes,” wrote Rishe, who holds a doctorate in economics and is director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis.
Rishe said the big game confers enormous local visibility that generates future tourism and also attracts significant spending from visiting fans, media and the team itself. However, he said the exact levels of spending is likely overestimated by the game’s most zealous boosters.
Are there bigger sporting events than the Super Bowl? Absolutely; the Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show currently underway is a prime example. But Super Bowls are like political nominating conventions – they convey a prestige on the host city like few other events. That’s why Florida’s three NFL cities have fought to host the game and why, until a decade ago, California was our fiercest competitor for the big game.
After San Diego hosted Super Bowl 42 in February 2003, the two states stood tied with 11 games each. Since then, Florida has hosted four big games to California’s zero.
That’s because California’s NFL stadiums were considered either too old (San Diego) or not Super Bowl-worthy (San Francisco and Oakland). The league no longer accepts bids from college stadiums, so the Rose Bowl and Stanford Stadium (both former hosts) are off the table.
Now, suddenly, the tables are turning. Florida has not hosted a game since the Saints upset the Colts in Super Bowl 44 in February 2010. In three weeks, the big game returns to California, at the 49ers’ Levi’s® Stadium in Santa Clara. Miami lost a bid to host that game and then lost to host next year’s (to Houston). Minneapolis is hosting the game after the 2017 season, so February 2019 is the earliest the game could return to Florida.
As it happens, both Miami and Tampa are among four stated finalists for the 2019 and 2020 Super Bowls – New Orleans and Atlanta are the others – so the state’s odds of bringing the game back would appear to be improving. However, the NFL loves to play Super Bowls in new stadiums, and Atlanta has a sparkling new facility set to open in 2017. That gives Georgia a strong shot at one of the games. Also, the NFL’s bidding rules would permit Los Angeles to join the bidding for the 2020 game, and it is a given the NFL is itching to bring the game to L.A.
A best-case scenario for Florida would be for Los Angeles to decide its new football palace needs some time to work out the kinks and bid instead for the 2021 game and for Miami’s Sun Life Stadium to move ahead with promised renovations in the meantime that would put it back on par with Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, which is newer.
By 2019, the game already will have been away from Florida longer than at any point in its history. If it doesn’t win in 2019 or 2020, who knows how long the wait could be.
Mixed Bowl Data
While the NFL looks ahead to the Super Bowl, the college football season closed with some mixed news for that sports’ postseason bowl games.
CBS Sports reports that overall bowl attendance, at an average of 43,817 per game, is down for the sixth straight year. Part of the decline was blamed on the glut of bowl games (there are now 40 bowl games plus the national championship game). Average attendance topped 52,000 in 2009-10, when there were only 33 games.
The Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami bucked the trend, in part because it hosted one of the national semifinals, saw attendance increase 16 percent, to 67,615. However, as CBS noted, the game averaged more than 75,000 from 2001-09.
Other Florida Bowls generally did well. The Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl was a star performer, selling out almost immediately after the Michigan-Florida match-up was announced and enjoying a 40 percent jump in attendance, to 63,113.
The first-ever Auto Nation Cure Bowl, also in Orlando, drew 18,536 fans, a figure neither surprising nor particularly disappointing for an inaugural game. In terms of total attendance and percentage of capacity, the Cure Bowl outperformed some established bowls.