Who Chooses the Super Bowl Host City?

Illustration for article titled Who Chooses the Super Bowl Host City?

On Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers will duke it out in Super Bowl XLIII. This year, the game will be held in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.—far from the intense wintry weather in the North. The last three Super Bowls were played at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., Dolphin Stadium in Miami, Fla. and Ford Field in Detroit. So how does the Super Bowl stadium get chosen? 

Local governments in interested cities make bids to the NFL, but team owners have the final say. The 32 NFL team owners participate in a secret-ballot vote. It takes a two-thirds majority to win.  If no city reaches that watermark on the first try, the lowest vote getter is dropped from the ballot and a re-vote takes place. This continues until some city gets the requisite two-thirds or until there are only two candidates left, in which case, the majority vote wins. The NFL is generally a few years ahead in its planning; Super Bowls XLIV, XLV, and XLVI will be held in Miami, North Texas and Indianapolis.

In recent years, the trend—set by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue—was to expand to new cities with new stadiums. The NFL made a concerted effort to host the Bowl in cities that are committed to building new stadiums. Prior to his efforts, a few cities dominated the list of Super Bowl hosts with Miami, Tampa and New Orleans, each with nine successful bids.  


In 2002 and 2003, Tagliabue spoke openly about the New York and Washington, D.C. areas as cities high on the list. Neither city has yet won a bid. Giants Stadium, which houses both the New York Giants and the New York Jets, opened in 1976 and can seat about 77,000 people. Now the two teams are working toward the construction of a new stadium set to open in 2010. FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, is over 10 years old, but owner Dan Snyder has spent $100 million for stadium improvements since he bought the team in 1999. Among the improvements, he called for the addition of 3,000 seats, bringing the capacity to 91,000.

This year will be the fourth Super Bowl held in Tampa and the second (the first was in 2001) in Raymond James Stadium, which was completed in 1998. Raymond James Stadium, which is on the site of the old Tampa Stadium, seats 65,857. The stadium plays host not only to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but also to the University of South Florida Bulls. The NCAA Outback Bowl is played there, too.

Super Bowl ticket sales are down this year, another sign of tough economic times. But with most tickets sold at higher than the face value of $800 and $1000 and with millions pouring into Tampa in Super Bowl-related spending, the host city will still make out well. 

Any bets on 2013?

Matthew J. McKnight is a graduate student at Georgetown University and a writer for The Root.

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