NEW YORK CITY — As the threat of bad weather abates — the forecast Sunday is for a daytime high of 49 degrees, a low of 29, with little wind, and precip unlikely — the notion of future outdoor Super Bowls in cold climates flared anew Friday.
In his annual state-of-the-empire press conference at a midtown theater, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had himself a little joke: Fake snow floated down on stage for 30 seconds as he went meteorological.
“I told you we were going to embrace the weather,” Goodell said, smiling the smile of a man who got away with one. “It looks like it’s going to be a lot warmer than we anticipated.”
Does that mean the NFL is warming to the notion of more outdoor games in places such as Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, Denver — and Seattle?
“We know there’s interest in other communities hosting the Super Bowl,” Goodell said, “The ownership will sit back and review that when we’re done.
“There’s such a demand for Super Bowls right now. The cities that are going to get multiple Super Bowls is limited.”
He tried to tamp down speculation by saying that the game and week preceding it are a series of large events that require an infrastructure that many smaller cities don’t have.
“We have a very aggressive process in how to select cities,” he said. “The ability to host a Super Bowl is more and more complicated because of the size of the event and the number of events. So, the infrastructure’s incredibly important.
“We’re well over 30,000 hotel rooms needed even to host the Super Bowl. So, there’s some communities that may not even be able to do it from an infrastructure standpoint, but we know the passion’s there.”
Unfortunately for civic boosters in Seattle, as well as the Seahawks, the city is likely on the the NFL list of insufficient cities. Game weather aside, the city’s convention center lacks the indoor space necessary to stage all the events that accompany the Super Bowl.
A Seahawks employee versed in Super Bowl requirements said the team and business leaders have studied the idea for years of putting in a bid for a game, which at the earliest could not be until 2019 (Phoenix hosts in 2015, then San Francisco and Houston, with the 2018 site to be chosen in May from a list of three cities).
“It just doesn’t pencil as of now,” said the source, who declined to be identified at the risk of being a party poop. “The downtown site for the stadium is great, and the seating capacity for the game could be increased. But the events up to the game have grown so much over the years that we don’t have the infrastructure, and don’t have a convention center big enough to pull it off.”
Sun Belt cities can stage numerous events outdoors that wouldn’t work in the cool dampness of Seattle in early February. Seattle is also shy in hotel room numbers within the league’s required 25-mile radius.
Seattle once was in the hunt. The Nordstrom family, the team’s original owners, were considered front runners for a bid when the city still had the Kingdome. They were aiming for the 1992 game, but in 1988 sold the team to Ken Behring and lost local and NFL momentum. The game went to Minneapolis and the Metrodome, the first northern city to host.
Blowing up the Kingdome cost the city any chance it had for a Super Bowl or another Final Four men’s college basketball tournament after hosting in 1984, 1989 and 1995.
There’s also some house politics at play. The NFL sometimes uses the award of Super Bowl bid as leverage to get more public support for new stadiums. That was known to be part of the deal for New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, which was privately funded between the Giants and Jets franchises that share the building. At a cost of $1.6 billion, it was the most expensive and largest (82,500) stadium in NFL history.
The stadium opened in April 2010. The awarding of the 2014 Super Bowl came less than two months later, Goodell waiving the minimum temperature requirement of 50 degrees because, well, he’s the commissioner and this was New York.
But just because it was done once doesn’t mean the NFL will do another cold-city outdoor game again anytime soon. The Super Bowl fit here is awkward, with the game in New Jersey, as are the team hotels, largely for ease of security. The main hotel in midtown Manhattan hosts media and operations offices, but the only other sign of the game in the Big Apple is Super Bowl Boulevard, a 12-block car-scratch of commercialism on Broadway that is a football carnival of interactive games, shops and a little toboggan run.
The contrast is stark compared to last year in Indianapolis where the NFL owned downtown for the game. The City That Never Sleeps is also the City Too Big To Care about the Super Bowl. New Yorker Will Leitch of USA Today’s Sports on Earth wrote that, “Everywhere you look here, a New Yorker is ignoring the Super Bowl.”
Goodell was almost pleading with the media assembled to hear him to appreciate what was before them.
“We have the biggest stage in the world and the biggest game,” he said, “and two teams who earned their way here.”
Well, yes. To which the average Mr. Nooyawk replies, “You talkin’ to me? Get outta here.”
Even the Fox TV honks assigned to promote the game can’t hide a little bewilderment.
“I don’t quite understand why we’re in New York,” Fox studio commentator Terry Bradshaw said earlier in the week. “Was there some deal worked out?”
This is the NFL, a league that generates $10 billion in annual revenues, and has a goal stated by Goodell of reaching $25 billion by 2027.
Yes, Terry. There’s always a deal.