Monday, May 19, 2014
Host with the most: NOLA's Super Bowl bid
By Mike Triplett
The Super Bowl has never had a permanent home. But New Orleans has always been its favorite vacation spot.
Throughout the nearly 50-year history of sports’ greatest showcase, no city has matched New Orleans when it comes to atmosphere, history, hotel space, ease of getting around downtown, relatively-low expense, and weather. Did we mention atmosphere?
On a scale of one to 10, New Orleans has been an 11.
Now city and New Orleans Saints officials are hoping the NFL owners will agree on Tuesday, when New Orleans bids to host the Super Bowl for a record 11th time in February 2018.
New Orleans’ goal is to kick off the city’s year-long 300th birthday celebration with Super Bowl LII. To achieve that goal, NOLA will have to beat out fellow competitors Indianapolis and Minneapolis.
“I feel good about it. You never know, but I feel real good about it,” Saints owner Tom Benson said earlier this offseason.
Although Benson had a minor knee surgery earlier this month, he’ll still be in attendance at the league meetings in Atlanta this week to help make the final sales push.
“I think that everybody likes New Orleans,” Benson said. “New Orleans is known as a party town, but hey, we put on a good show for everybody.”
So far, New Orleans is a perfect 10-for-10 when bidding for Super Bowls, dating back to Super Bowl IV in 1970.
But organizers insist they’re not relying on past success -- as they hope their aggressive and entertaining pitches to the owners have shown. Two weeks ago, New Orleans’ executive summaries to owners were delivered in hand-crafted cypress boxes. And inside were computer tablets that included a video presentation led by Harry Connick Jr. and Archie Manning.
“We’re basically sending a message to the owners that we’re not taking anything for granted,” said Jay Cicero, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation. “We’re hungry, and we’re gonna be as creative and fun as we can possibly be.”
Cicero said he doesn’t expect the infamous power outage from the last Super Bowl held in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 2013 to be a big concern among owners or league executives.
The problem was identified and resolved. And since then, the Dome has held several big events without incident, including the spectacle of WWE's Wrestlemania earlier this year.
Not that the NFL owners needed to watch Wrestlemania to be convinced of New Orleans’ prowess when it comes to hosting big events. The NCAA men’s and women’s Final Four and the BCS national championship game have all taken place in New Orleans since 2012, as well.
And everything else about that 2013 Super Bowl -- the first held in New Orleans since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 --counted as a huge plus in NOLA’s favor.
Everyone from fans to NFL officials to city officials agreed the event was a huge success all week long, and the countdown quickly started to bring the game back again.
“I don’t know of any other city that’s had the amount of major events strung together like that,” Cicero said. “That says a lot about the hospitality in the city of New Orleans and everyone that comes together to produce all these mega events.”
Cicero said the biggest concern about Tuesday’s voting is the “fierce competition.” Minneapolis is opening a new stadium in 2016, which often greases the wheels for a Super Bowl. And Indianapolis is coming off a very successful Super Bowl-hosting debut in 2012.
But those cities have to be considered the underdogs.
When it comes to the Super Bowl, New Orleans has a home-field advantage.