The Super Bowl in Indianapolis: Revenge of the Agri-Nerds.
Into the grills of everyone who ever mocked Naptown, its hosting of America’s most corporate extravaganza is the ultimate tomahawk dunk. Wish I were there to see the party features: Tractor ice sculpture, Rules Violations Exhibit at NCAA headquarters and A.J. Foyt’s Salute to the Left Turn Booth at the NFL Experience.
So, if America’s premier cultural blank spot can host a Super Bowl; if New York, where the February weather is at least as wretched as Seattle’s, can host the 2014 Super Bowl outdoors, then as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll might be apt to ask Seattle:
“What’s your deal?”
By putting Naptown and Gotham on the honor roll of host cities, the NFL no longer is the deal. We’re the deal. Our civic inertia is the impediment to hosting America’s annual salute to coma-inducing excess.
Sloth. Fear. Too tragically hip to know we are sillies. Crippled by the paper/plastic debate. Whatever Seattle’s excuses are for not pursuing a Super Bowl, none are good enough.
As long as cold weather is no longer an impediment, hosting the game itself is easy. Add a few thousand temporary seats in the lower-bowl voids, and the Clink is fine.
It’s the week-long run-up to the game that presents the heavy lifting. In order to please the wealthies, some of whom live elsewhere besides Hunt’s Point, the host city must comply with a book of requirements bigger than Red Bryant’s erroneously reported baby. Hotel rooms, exhibition space, catering, security, ground transportation, all the way down to a staging space next to the stadium to hold the enormous halftime show until its thousands of minions burst forth onto the field during a single, two-minute national potty break.
But with enough advance time, the requirements are manageable. Seattle has grown sufficiently that it now can meet the biggest requirement it didn’t have when the pursuit of the 1988 Super Bowl failed: A minimum of 10,000 hotel rooms downtown, and 30,000 in the region.
The largest variable is one man — Seahawks owner Paul Allen, said by Forbes to be the NFL’s richest owner. Does he want to do it?
Hard to know. He has plenty of things to occupy him, including his health, and the earliest that the NFL would entertain a bid from a northern city likely would be for the 2018 game, or as we like to say in the the sport’s circle of pretension, SB LII.
Above all, the awarding of a Super Bowl is a matter of clubhouse politics. The owners of the 32 franchise allow themselves to be as arbitrary and capricious as they want. They tend to reward their best long-term friends.
The team’s original owners, the Nordstroms, were, from Paul Tagliabue to Al Davis to the Mara family, trusted and respected. The Nordstrom ownership began a pursuit a game for the Kingdome in 1992, but in 1988 sold the team to Ken Behring, a California real estate mogul of low order who impressed no one in Seattle or the league meetings.
The franchise became a political non-factor until it was purchased in 1997 by Allen, already an NBA owner and one of the world’s richest men. Early on, Allen kept a low NFL profile, even after he helped steward the franchise to its first and only Super Bowl appeareance in 2006.
But he took a more active role in the labor lockout, resolved in August and now considered more of a win for the owners the players. Whether that has whetted his appetite for more NFL engagement isn’t known.
But if he said yes, Seattle’s application would quickly rise to the top.
After that, the second question is: What would it cost the city to stage it? Not much.
According to one source who has had experience with Super Bowl awards, the run-up costs can range from $10 million for a city that has done previous games to $50 million for a newbie such as Indianapolis. But much of expense is borne by the city’s host committee, which typically gets money from private sources that stand to benefit from the event (hotels, restaurants, etc.) and chambers of commerce and visitors’ agencies.
Since public cash is unavailable these days for anything but cops and firefighters, Allen would have round up through his Vulcan Sports and Entertainment outfit some from his former Microsoft cohort to populate and help fund the committee. The committee would have to agree to limit the city’s participation to police security, perhaps some temporary street vacations and general cheerleading — the kind of thing any city must do for a large convention that brings in far more dollars than the costs of staging.
A bid project begun now and aimed at 2018 — New Orleans gets next year’s game, followed by New York and then Phoenix/Glendale; beyond that is up for bid — would give time to for politics and business to coalesce into a strong host committee for a presentation in 2014 that would overwhelm Seattle’s shortcomings with the benefits. You know, like a first date with a genuine hottie.
Imagine Seattle by 2018: Light rail will be finished, a tunnel will have replaced the viaduct, the Mercer Mess will be half-unmessed and the Mariners will be just a season away from contention in the AL West after they acquire one more bat.
What a time to celebrate a civic renaissance. In the run-up, the power brokers behind a new arena will have all of their kids finished with college and desperate for jobs. So dads could hand kids shovels and say, “Here, dig a hole big enough for an arena.” What an immensely satisfying bonding experience, and Seattle gets a building big enough to host all the related events, just as Naptown is doing.
Bringing a Super Bowl to Seattle is splendid, low-public-cost pollution-light idea whose time is upon us. The chance to be Naptown Northwest is here. We can even promise Uncle Paul it’s the last time we’ll bug him for a civic handout.
Either that, or make them the Seattle Trail Blazers.
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