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Future Cold-Weather, Outdoor Super Bowls Up in the Air

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USA TODAY

The mayor of Denver toured the Super Bowl scene last week with a mission to soak in all the elements -- the cold air, the fanfare, even a television appearance on The Colbert Report.

But Michael Hancock's mission was not just about supporting the Broncos, who played the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday. He also came to gather information about how the big game is staged, including traffic, security and issues related to the weather.

After all, if cold-winter New York and New Jersey can host the game, why not Denver?

"We know we have the capacity to pull it off," Hancock told USA TODAY Sports. "When they (the NFL) opened the door for New York, we thought, 'You know what, why not us? We can do this.'"

It's not just Denver. Seattle is thinking the same thing. Both cities are preparing to make bids to host a Super Bowl in their cities after 2018. Both had representatives in New York last week to scout the scene. And both had the same feeling:

If New York can get one, why can't we?

Seattle Sports Commission executive director Ralph Morton told USA TODAY Sports he planned to come to New York to support the Seahawks but also to "see how New York does this."

Before this year's game was awarded to New York-New Jersey, Super Bowl bids seemed guided by an unofficial rule: Don't bother to apply if your city doesn't reside in a warm-winter state or doesn't have a dome to protect the game from the elements.

Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell noted that former commissioner Pete Rozelle, the father of the Super Bowl, wanted the ultimate game played in ideal conditions. The general thinking was to avoid temperatures below 50 degrees.

Of the 47 Super Bowls before Sunday's in East Rutherford, N.J., 43 were staged in Florida, California, New Orleans, Texas, Arizona or Atlanta. The four in northern stadiums were played in domes: Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Detroit (twice).

Sunday's game at open-air MetLife Stadium might change all that.

The NFL is noncommittal about whether Sunday's Super Bowl would boost the prospects for future Super Bowls in other cold-climate, open-air stadiums. Super Bowl bids are voted on by the league's 32 team owners about four years in advance. In deciding the winning bids, the owners consider stadium size, number of hotel rooms, practice facilities for the teams, media accommodations and fan experience. Super Bowl stadiums need around 70,000 seats with 30,000 hotel rooms in the area, according to the league.

The voting owners also like to award Super Bowls to new stadiums or newly renovated venues that help the league gain more revenue from pricier tickets, luxury suites and sponsorships.

Last year, NFL owners awarded the 2016 Super Bowl to the San Francisco 49ers' new stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. The 2017 Super Bowl was awarded to Houston, and the Texans owner sweetened the pot by telling owners they'd have a dedicated airport runway during Super Bowl week. Next year's game is in Glendale, Ariz.

Meanwhile, Miami's bid was rejected last year after a proposal for a taxpayer-funded stadium renovation failed to win enough support with lawmakers. The Miami area has hosted 10 Super Bowls, tied with New Orleans for the most.

Goodell said Friday the Super Bowl needs to "get to as many communities as possible and give them the opportunity to share not only in the emotional benefits, but the economic benefits."

He noted that the selection process is demanding.

"As far as other communities, we know there's interest in other communities hosting the Super Bowl," Goodell said. "I think the ownership -- we'll all sit back and review that when we're done, but we have a very aggressive process in how to select cities."

The weather didn't seem to restrict the pregame festivities this year. Despite temperatures around 30 degrees Friday night in Manhattan, crowds packed the outdoor "Super Bowl Boulevard" in Times Square. .

It was even colder at night earlier in the week, but the New York weather was clear and free of drama, unlike two-time Super Bowl host Atlanta, which endured severe gridlock after a rare snowfall.

The 2018 game will be awarded in May to New Orleans, Minneapolis (indoor) or Indianapolis (indoor), with New Orleans considered a strong contender because that year also is the 300th anniversary of the city.

After that, Seattle and Denver hope they have the right elements, even if that means Denver snow and Seattle rain.

"We looked at the fact they chose New York as the door opening a little bit to consider cities outside of the winter Sun Belt," Hancock said. "It's a real possibility."

 

February 3, 2014

 

 
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