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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jets Owner Key in Bringing Super Bowl to NYC

NY Times

The idea for the New York area hosting an outdoor Super Bowl was hatched nearly four years ago, when the Giants and the Jets agreed to build a new stadium together in the Meadowlands. The Jets’ hopes for an enclosed stadium on the Far West Side of Manhattan had fallen through, even though N.F.L. owners had awarded them a Super Bowl that was conditional on getting the stadium built. So when the teams joined forces, the Jets’ owner, Woody Johnson, brought with him the pie-in-the-sky notion that the game should come to New York, anyway.

John Mara, a Giants co-owner, was not so sure. There had been sentiment for New York hosting a Super Bowl at Giants Stadium shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but that support had withered away. Johnson, though, was relentless, Mara said. Johnson is a relative newcomer to ownership, having owned the Jets for only 10 years, and he is viewed as the less influential owner in the forced marriage between the Giants, one of the N.F.L.’s flagship franchises, and the Jets.

But as he began to ask around the league about the idea, Mara was surprised to find enthusiasm for a game in the New York-New Jersey region. And so on Tuesday, with Mara wearing his father’s 1956 championship game ring for good luck, and with his fellow owners lured by the idea of playing the sport’s biggest game on the nation’s largest stage, the N.F.L. awarded the 2014 Super Bowl to New York-New Jersey, making the New Meadowlands Stadium the host of the first outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl in history.

“Why not,” Johnson said after the vote. “We play every other game in cold weather, rain and snow. Would I want to do it every year? Probably not. But 2014 sounds good.”

Even with a new $1.6 billion stadium, the New York area’s bid needed four ballots to gain the required simple majority of 32 votes in the secret vote. It beat out a proposal from Tampa, Fla., which pointedly emphasized warm weather in its bid.

The vote also represented an embrace of the New York region’s unique entertainment, promotional and financial opportunities. The proposal called for everything from a Super Bowl float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade to a party at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. But of more interest to a league bent on building revenue and an international audience is that the weeklong extravaganza would play out in the global news media and business capital, and in an area where 36 percent of the 20 million residents were born outside the United States.

“I do believe New York is a unique market,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “It’s the No. 1 market in our country and in many cases around the world. It will be a great experience for our fans and a great experience for the N.F.L.”

Those considerations clearly outweighed concerns by some owners opposed to a cold-weather game where snow could wreak havoc on a week’s worth of parties and planning, as well as on the outcome of the championship game. The New York-New Jersey bid included details about how many people with shovels could be deployed to dig the stadium out of snow and about plans to hand out seat and hand warmers to fans and have fire pits in parking lots.

During the presentation, the bid committee ran clips of cold-weather games and noted that weather did not deter millions of people from visiting New York to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center or to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

But the owners who worried that a vote for New York-New Jersey would create a precedent for other cold-weather cities were probably correct about the door having been opened. Minutes after the vote was concluded, the Redskins’ owner, Daniel Snyder, who has long wanted to host a Super Bowl, said he wanted to bring the game to the Washington area.

Washington, much like New York, would seem to be among the strongest candidates to get a cold-weather game because of its nonfootball attractions.

“I think New York will do a great job hosting it,” Snyder said. “We’re looking forward to hosting one in D.C., the nation’s capital. I think they’ll show what a big-time city like New York can do and we’ll show what a big-time city like Washington can do.”

Cold-weather Super Bowls are unlikely to become the norm, but the N.F.L. has made no promise that the New York-New Jersey game would be a one-time cold-weather event. According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Web site, the coldest outdoor game in Super Bowl history was Super Bowl VI at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans in 1972, with a game-time temperature of 39 degrees. Super Bowl IX in 1975, also at Tulane Stadium, was 46 degrees.

And five other outdoor games had game-time temperatures in the 50s. According to the New York-New Jersey bid, the average high temperature in February is 40 degrees, with an average low of 24.1 degrees, and an average monthly precipitation of 2.7 inches.

The host committee must raise $40 million for the event. But estimates for the economic impact on the area range from $55 million to $550 million, the optimistic number proffered by the bid organizers.

The Giants and the Jets will not make any money directly off the Super Bowl, but the promise of hosting the game is likely to ratchet up interest among corporations for the multimillion-dollar naming rights for the new stadium. Interest slowed during the recession. And with four years of buildup, the floodgates for sponsorships and suite sales — which allow holders access to Super Bowl tickets — will probably increase.

But that was not on owners’ minds Tuesday. They are caretakers of the most aggressively hyped event in American sports and the bid promised more of that — a “season of events” to promote the game for a full year — than any other city could offer. The buildup to the vote alone generated more buzz than any other Super Bowl vote in history.

The Giants co-chairman Steve Tisch recalled how his father, Robert Tisch, who was a co-owner, loved attending Super Bowls and how he happy he was at his last one in Jacksonville, Fla., as his health was failing. Some of the support the bid enjoyed was a kind of homage to the Mara family, which enjoys deep respect from fellow owners for the contributions Wellington Mara, John’s father, made to the N.F.L. With a nudge from one of the newest owners, the old guard and the new have delivered a game that, in spectacle and perhaps in snow, could top anything the N.F.L. has seen before.

“We’ve come a long way since the Polo Grounds in 1925 when we used to hand out tickets,” John Mara said. “The league has come a long way and the sport has come a long way. It would have been a very proud moment for my father.”