NFL Owners Bring Game – and its Economic Impact – to Miami Area for Record 11th Time
As we predicted in our previous story, the Super Bowl is returning to Florida. And, as we suspected, it will be returning to the Greater Miami area.
The NFL owners this week voted to send the 2020 game to the refurbished Sun Life Stadium in South Florida. The owners also followed expectations in awarding the 2019 game to the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and, in the least surprising development of them all, the NFL celebrated the league’s return to Los Angeles by giving the 2021 game to the Rams’ future stadium.
We’d like to claim prescience at FORWARD Florida, but the politics of Super Bowls has become pretty transparent. As one observer noted at the time of the announcement: Build a new stadium or significantly upgrade an existing one and you become a prime candidate to host the game. The observer should have added that it especially helps to be in a warm-weather climate or have a dome.
The three winners checked all of those boxes. The new Atlanta stadium, set to open next year will be a dome, negating the city’s tendency to be a bit chilly in February, and the new Los Angeles stadium is, well, in L.A. (technically Inglewood). But, the Miami situation is a special case indeed.
NFL owners absolutely love to have Super Bowls in South Florida. The 2020 game will be the 11th there, breaking a tie with New Orleans for most games hosted (this will also break Sun Life Stadium’s tie with the Orange Bowl for most Super Bowls in the Miami area). But, the league had been shying away from the area of late because Sun Life was considered to be aging a little at the edges. In the bidding for the 2016 and 2017 games, owners rejected South Florida in favor of, respectively, the San Francisco Bay area (new stadium) and Houston (stadium 15 years younger than Sun Life).
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross responded by pouring $400 million into a renovation project that will cover the seating areas in the stadium while still leaving the playing field open to the elements. Think of the Cowboys’ old Texas Stadium, except less antiseptic and with grass. The league obviously liked what it saw of Ross’ plans, and the “Big Game” returns to the place where 20 percent of all previous Super Bowls have been played.
Was it all worth it? When the announcement was made, some were touting that it would have a $500 million economic impact on South Florida. If so, then the investment already has locked in a $100 million profit. But, even if the number is overly optimistic, there will be an impact.
We have long thought those who try to overly minimize the impact of sporting venues and sporting events actually undermine their own cause. The real debate should be over location (where a venue can lead to the most economic revitalization), scope of investment (public vs. private and total amount vs. expected return).
The debate will rage on regardless, but in the meantime, here are a few fun facts about the Super Bowl’s return to South Florida:
- The first game played in Miami was Super Bowl II, after the 1967 season. That January 1968 tilt in the Orange Bowl saw Green Bay defeat Oakland in legendary coach Vince Lombardi’s last game at the Packers’ helm.
- Super Bowl III (the only time back-to-back games were played at the same venue) saw the fledgling AFL shock the venerable NFL when Joe Namath’s New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts.
- That game paid an unexpected dividend for South Florida. The upset soured the relationship between Colts Head Coach Don Shula and the team’s owner. After one more season, Shula moved on to the Dolphins, turned the team into a powerhouse and became the winningest coach in NFL history.
- Final Colts note: The team – both in its Baltimore and Indianapolis incarnations – has never played a Super Bowl outside of South Florida, appearing in two each in the Orange Bowl and Sun Life Stadium. They are 2-2 overall, splitting their games at both venues.
- Two other teams have won twice in Miami, the Steelers (Super Bowls X and XIII) and the 49ers (XXIII and XXIX).
- The Cowboys are at the other end of the spectrum, having lost all three times they played in Miami (V, X and XIII). All of those games were at the Orange Bowl.
- Average attendance at the South Florida Super Bowls has been 76,242 (77,962 at the Orange Bowl; 74,522 at Sun Life Stadium). All were sellouts.
On that last point, a significant majority of those attending were from outside South Florida, meaning they rented hotel rooms in the area, dined at restaurants, rented cars, shopped at stores and such.
Any way you slice it, that’s economic impact.