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Tuesday, May 19, 2009
New Orleans to host '13 Super Bowl

Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- New Orleans is a Super Bowl city again.

NFL owners voted Tuesday to play the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans, the first time the championship will be played there since Hurricane Katrina shredded parts of the Louisiana Superdome. The hurricane caused 1,600 deaths and devastated the Gulf Coast four years ago.

New Orleans beat out Miami, which sought a record 11th Super Bowl, and 2008 host Glendale, Ariz. This is the 10th time New Orleans will be the Super Bowl site.

"We're just thrilled about what's going on," Saints owner Tom Benson said. "We're getting a new Superdome. Now we're going to get a Super Bowl on top of that. It couldn't be any more exciting than that."

New Orleans last hosted in 2002, when Adam Viniateri's 48-yard field goal as time expired lifted the New England Patriots over the St. Louis Rams.

Benson said he was congratulated by the owners, even those who saw Super Bowl bids for their city get voted down.

"All are great Super Bowl cities," said Rita Benson LeBlanc, a part-owner of the Saints and Tom Benson's granddaughter. "But no city has been through more than New Orleans. ... This is just a true testament to what an entire community can do."

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Still unclear: Where will the 2013 Pro Bowl be played? It's coming to Miami a week before this coming season's Super Bowl and then going back to Hawaii in 2011 and 2012. It was not part of the bidding process for the 2013 Super Bowl.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross congratulated New Orleans, yet also said he was "disappointed" that the 2013 game won't be coming to South Florida. Shortly after the vote was announced, local organizers said South Florida was hopeful of bidding in 2014 as well.

"I think South Florida is the best place for the Super Bowl," Ross said. "In my opinion, it should be here permanently."

Louisiana lawmakers are debating plans to spend $85 million in Superdome upgrades, which would be completed in time for the 2013 NFL title game. The upgrades would include additional seating, new suites, wider concourses and other measures for the Saints to generate new revenue streams.

"The membership heard from three great cities today and had some terrific alternatives," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. "But I think this is a great statement about the spirit and people of New Orleans and the great relationship the Saints and the NFL have in that community."

The Superdome played an iconic role during Katrina, which struck the city in August 2005. It was an evacuation center during the storm, housing thousands of people who had nowhere else to go. Within days, the building was tattered, filthy inside from mold, debris and raw sewage.

The Saints needed to leave their home city and then returned to great fanfare in September 2006 -- a night many in New Orleans point to as perhaps the most poignant sign that normalcy was returning.

"[That] had an emotional impact on this city that carried the hearts of New Orleanians for the next two years," said J. Stephen Perry, the president of the New Orleans metropolitan convention and visitors bureau. "And this announcement today, I will tell you, will have jubilation in the streets."

The stories of suffering are still everywhere. Even now, some who lost nearly everything in 2005 are fighting to keep their federally provided trailers a bit longer.

Still, New Orleans clearly didn't forget how to host an event. College football's national championship game was played there in 2008, followed about six weeks later by the NBA All-Star Game -- and now football's biggest spectacle.

"This is a huge win for New Orleans but also the entire state of Louisiana," Gov. Bobby Jindal said.

Arizona also failed in bids for the 2011 and 2012 Super Bowls, which were awarded to new stadiums in North Texas and Indianapolis.

Cities mentioned as hopefuls for the 2014 Super Bowl include Tampa, Fla., and London, which will host a regular-season game for the third straight season when New England plays the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 25. London officials have been briefed on the Super Bowl bidding process, but the NFL has repeatedly said no serious talks about an international Super Bowl have taken place.