Handicapping the Sunshine State’s Odds of Hosting the Big Game
Recently, we looked at how the NFL’s return to Los Angeles might hurt the chances of the Super Bowl – one of sports’ biggest economic development prizes – returning to Florida in the near future. At the same time, we noted that the NFL loves it some Florida-hosted Super Bowl; the state has has been the league’s number-one destination for the “Big Game.”
So, the Super Bowl WILL come back to its rightful home, possibly as soon as 2019, or possibly sometime after 2021 (the absolute latest date at which the game will return to L.A.). It’s also important to remember the question is where as much as when. Let’s look at which of Florida’s three NFL cities has the best chance to host next. (As a reminder, Tampa and Miami are official finalists to host the 2019 or 2020 game.)
One note: this is educated guesswork based on FORWARD Florida’s observations of the politics behind Super Bowl site selection. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has not called to provide any inside information.
Tampa. If the NFL had to pick a Super Bowl based on stadiums as they exist at this moment, Raymond James has to be considered the frontrunner. It’s the newest of the three NFL stadiums in Florida, and it has successfully hosted two games already (in 2001 and 2009). The weather is almost always cooperative, and the city’s infrastructure is well prepared to handle the game. Plus, the most recent Super Bowl in Tampa, between the Steelers and Cardinals, was one for the ages. Tampa’s a proven host and remains ready to go right now.
Miami. The Dolphins and the city got the message when the NFL passed on giving Miami this year’s or next year’s Super Bowl, and construction is underway to refurbish Sun Life Stadium. Once completed, Miami becomes an immediate favorite because the NFL absolutely loves playing Super Bowls in South Florida. Miami hosted three of the first five games, including two in a row (1968 and 1969), and is tied with New Orleans for the most Super Bowls (10 each). The upstart Jets’ victory over the Colts in Super Bowl III remains one of the biggest upsets in sports history and enshrined the game as an American event.
But, will the site of construction cranes next to Sun Life be enough to win the 2019 or 2020 game? The NFL got burned once by scheduling the game in a new stadium too quickly. It awarded Super Bowl IX to New Orleans based on guarantees the Louisiana Superdome would be completed in time for the January 1975 contest. It wasn’t, and the game was played in old Tulane Stadium. The result was the coldest Super Bowl on record (yes, colder than the one two years ago in the Meadowlands). Freezing temperatures aren’t a big fear in Miami, but rain is. The NFL might wait until the futuristic roof actually is in place at Sun Life before agreeing to return to its favorite Super Bowl home.
Jacksonville. Florida’s largest city is a beautiful place, and it successfully hosted Super Bowl XXXIX, a very good game between the Patriots and Eagles. But, there didn’t seem to be a lot of “can’t-wait-to-get-back-here” buzz around the NFL after the game. Temperatures in North Florida can get a little unpredictable (see New Orleans circa 1975). The odds aren’t insurmountable, but the league likely would jump more quickly if the Jaguars built a domed stadium in London. No one in Florida wants that.
So, enjoy today’s Panthers-Broncos match-up, and remember California, once Florida’s equal as a Super Bowl destination, went 14 years between big games.
The Super Bowl is coming back to the Sunshine State. It’s only a matter of time.