The NFL sent a clear message about stadium politics Tuesday, awarding the 50th Super Bowl in 2016 to the San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium over the Miami Dolphins’ facility.
NFL owners reiterated the message by also rejecting Miami for the 51st Super Bowl, awarding the 2017 game to Houston instead.
The votes, held at the owners’ spring meeting, came several weeks after a proposed taxpayer-supported renovation of the Dolphins’ 26-year-old Sun Life Stadium was blocked by the Florida Legislature.
“I think (the stadium situation) is the major reason we didn’t win,” Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said after the owners’ votes. “I think everybody in that room would rather be in Miami the second week of February than anywhere else in the country.”
Instead, the Super Bowl in February 2016 will be played in Levi’s Stadium, the new 49ers home that is being built partly with taxpayer money in Santa Clara, Calif. The stadium, billed as the most technologically advanced anywhere, is slated to open in 2014.
Miami has hosted 10 Super Bowls, tied with New Orleans for the most, and had hoped that history would mean something in the vote for milestone Super Bowl L. But the recent legislative rejection proved insurmountable with the owners, who often argue that public funding of stadiums improves a city’s chances of hosting a Super Bowl.
“(Miami’s) proposal was really quite exciting; they talked an awful lot about the great history and tradition we have of Super Bowls in Miami,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “And I think owners would like to be in Miami.
“But it’s competitive right now. We have great stadiums coming on board that we haven’t played an NFL game in that are going to be hosting a Super Bowl and others that are investing significantly to make sure their stadium is state-of-the-art and a great platform to stage a Super Bowl. That’s what we want.”
Both the 2016 and 2017 games were awarded on the first ballot, meaning at least 24 of the 32 owners’ votes were required.
“I think there are a couple of state reps down in Miami that are going to look in the mirror tonight and regret what they’ve done to Miami,” said Rodney Barreto, chairman of South Florida’s bid committee. “We had the better bid, there’s no doubt.”
49ers owner John York said Tuesday’s votes might spur other stadium projects.
“If this Super Bowl can show the state of California and other communities the opportunity (for) a new stadium to bring in fresh business, it could be a catalyst that stadiums can be built for Oakland and San Diego, which are in need of new ones,” York said. “This may be the impetus to get one of those done.”
The San Francisco Bay Area has hosted only one previous Super Bowl, that in 1985 at Stanford Stadium.
“After losing a Super Bowl (to Baltimore this year), it feels really good to win a Super Bowl,” 49ers CEO Jed York said.
Houston has hosted the mega-event twice previously, most recently in 2004. Houston’s Reliant Stadium opened in 2002 and is adding a scoreboard/video board that owner Robert McNair said will be the NFL’s largest.
The 2014 and 2015 Super Bowls will be played at the Giants/Jets’ stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and the Cardinals’ stadium in Glendale, Ariz., respectively. Those stadiums opened in 2010 and 2006.