The last and only time a local (host) team won a Super Bowl was XIX (1985), when the 49ers beat the Miami Dolphins at Stanford Stadium. Although not technically a home game at Stanford Stadium, the game’s location within the heart of the Niner fanbase made it a de facto home game. As soon as 2017 (maybe 2015 but unlikely), we may once again have a Super Bowl held locally. As the popularity and TV ratings of the big game have only grown since its inception, so have the stakes and requirements to host the game. The 49ers and the City of Santa Clara have frequently touted the Super Bowl as a major reason to build the stadium near Great America, and from all appearances the Bay Area will have all of the infrastructural pieces in places to host the Super Bowl when the time comes.
But what are those infrastructure requirements? According to numerous sources, the requirements are these:
- 70,000+ seat stadium
- A dome or outdoor stadium if average January temperature is 50 degrees or higher
- 24,500+ hotel rooms within an hour of the stadium
- Up to 2 million square feet for the NFL Experience and related ancillary activities
- Additional space for the new “Super Bowl Village” (multiple blocks if possible)
- Host city or region must also have an NFL team
The 49ers stadium is designed to hold 68,500 and appears to have the available space to easily expand up to and past 70,000. The upper deck and corners on the suite/press box side of the stadium are empty, making 1,500 temporary seats no problem. They might even be able to squeeze in double that number, which considering the likely face value of those tickets (>$1,000 per) is nothing to sneeze at. There isn’t quite the room for the 49ers to get greedy the way Jerry Jones did with Cowboys Stadium, when he tried in vain to eclipse the attendance record by stuffing in 30,000 extra seats. Eager to avoid another ticket scandal, the NFL let up slightly on 63,000-seat Lucas Oil Stadium, which added only 5,000 seats for the game.
Over the nearly 50 years of Super Bowl, the game’s locale has shifted from very large college football stadia (Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl) in warm climates (Southern California, South Florida) to domes (Superdome) and now, highly flexible retractable-roof stadia (Cowboys Stadium, University of Phoenix Stadium, Lucas Oil Stadium). 2014’s game is defying all previous conventions by being held in North Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, which lacks any kind of roof and whose average January temperature is barely above freezing. Whether the typical fan thinks the weather requirement is appropriate given the normal playing conditions throughout the regular season and playoffs is beside the point. Most attendees are high rollers and corporate bigwigs, and given the amounts they are paying to either sponsor the game or pay for the tickets (straight up or through a secondary seller) they should be getting a little comfort. In Santa Clara, the average temperature is around 50 degrees, with an average daily high of 60. If the weather is anything like what we’ve experienced this week in the Bay Area, game day should be a highly pleasant experience. If it’s rain, then break out the ponchos. One advantage the West Coast has over other potential sites is that here the game starts at 3:18 p.m., while it’s still light out and a little warmer to boot.
Three major hotels that provide a combined 1,540 rooms are within walking distance of the stadium: Hyatt Regency, Hilton, Marriott. The Marriott is the largest and oldest of the three, whereas the Hyatt Regency is the swankiest and is connected to the convention center. The Hilton is the smallest but also the closest to the stadium. Another 500-1,000 rooms are within five minutes. Clearly that’s not close to the NFL’s requirements. Not to worry, San Francisco and San Jose will be glad to pick up the rest of the demand. Downtown San Jose has over 2,000 rooms. Hotels near the airport have another 1,000. San Francisco has more than 33,000. Still more hotels are scattered throughout the rest of the Valley and up the Peninsula. Capacity is clearly not a problem. Logistics might be, though visitors will have a number of choices. Some may choose to stay as close to the game site as possible. Others may want to do the touristy thing in San Francisco and come down to Santa Clara only on certain days. The main issue is more the way the NFL demands blocks of hotel rooms. The league has been known to demand 95-97% of area hotels’ capacity for the event several years in advance, with the actual rooms booked a year in advance. For a city with a solid year-round tourist trade like SF, a Super Bowl can create chaos and even lost revenue if the Super Bowl doesn’t materialize. Regardless, if the 49ers get their new stadium are built, it’s practically guaranteed that they will get a Super Bowl, allowing all Bay Area hotels to either work with the NFL or compete for attendees on price.
Now in its 20th year, the NFL Experience is considered a temporary football theme park adjacent to the Super Bowl. That makes it a bit ironic that there’s an actual theme park across the parking lot in Santa Clara, right? Usually, a convention center or arena is not available adjacent to the stadium. In Santa Clara, there will at least be 300,000 square feet of convention space (Indy has 400,000), plus plenty of parking lots for the tented structures used for the rest of the Experience. At currently $28 per person plus whatever money the NFL gets from merchandise and concessions, it’s a huge moneymaker for the league. Recently added to the attraction was a nighttime adult version with a clubby atmosphere and separate admission. In Santa Clara that’s probably a good idea, but it’s a poor substitute for the real nightlife happening 40 miles north. The attraction is seeing hockey-stick growth in popularity: attendance may top 750,000 according to some estimates.
What about Great America? Could Great America’s attractions be used? Sure, though negotiating a deal may be difficult. Great America’s season doesn’t open until late March, and its hiring practice doesn’t actually hire its mostly seasonal workforce until February, even for employees who have been working there for years. There’s also the issue of money. In the Super Bowl host bidding process, the NFL demands 100% of revenue from everything associated with the game. For 2012, a single adult ticket at Great America costs $56. How much more would the tickets be for Super Bowl week in order to satisfy both parties? And what kind of value proposition would it be for Cedar Fair to have its workers come in two months early, work only for a week, idle them, then work again when the season starts? It might be worth it, it might not.
Super Bowl Village
Unlike the NFL Experience, the Super Bowl Village is a free attraction. In Indy, it takes up three blocks of Georgia Street between the convention center and Bankers Life Fieldhouse (formerly Conseco). Like most street fairs it has its own vendors, concert stages, and an anchor in the form of ESPN’s massive broadcast facility. Again, there’s space for this to make this work in the parking lot.
Cities promoting themselves to host the Super Bowl often point out that the economic impact of the event is up to $400 million (Indy’s projecting a more conservative $155 million in direct spending). Actual ticket and concession revenue for last year’s game was $109 million, this year it’s projected to be $72 million largely due to the smaller stadium. And of that ticket and concession revenue, virtually all of it goes straight to the NFL. Their terms are so demanding that there is no room for any municipality to squeeze out any direct revenue from Super Bowl week. I took a look at an old RFP the City of San Diego filled out in 2000 for a future Super Bowl. Here are a few choice terms that the NFL dictates:
- The NFL requires at least: (1) 100,000 square feet for team city television satellite uplink truck units, newspaper darkrooms, cable TV remote studios, etc.; (2) an additional 100,000 square feet of space for an international television compound; and (3) an additional 200,000 square feet of space for the broadcast network compound. [ed. – All told that’s 9 acres.]
- Is there space in immediate proximity to the stadium available at no cost for: (1) hospitality tents, and (2) the NFLP Tailgate party (a minimum of 1,250,000 square feet is required for the event)?
- The NFL should be able to retain 100% of all revenues derived from the hospitality area and Tailgate party, including food and beverage and novelties sales revenues. Will the NFL be able to do so?
- Is there a site at or adjacent to the Stadium which is authorized for use as a helipad to accommodate up to 400 landings and take-offs on game day and a lesser number on each of the 12 days before game day? [ed. – Note that the Santa Clara stadium is directly underneath the takeoff path for flights coming out of SJC, not sure how relevant this is to helipad placement.]
- Will the NFL be able to cater a meal for the event without having to pay any fees to the lessor or any other concessionaire?
- Is there an arena adjacent to the Stadium? If yes has it been secured in writing for the NFL’s use on game day and for 10 days before game day?
- The NFL should have the right to determine and approve everything relating to Stadium operations on Super Bowl Game day, including the assignment of meeting rooms, tent space, parking lots, adjacent buildings, etc. Will this requirement be met?
- The Stadium and all of the surrounding parking and other areas owned or controlled by the Stadium owner must be provided rent free for the entire period of occupancy by the NFL.
- The NFL recommend staffing levels of at least 300% above normal sellout events. If the NFL is required to pay a portion of the Stadium staffing or operational costs, include a breakdown of the total cost of the NFL’s use of the Stadium and all of the surrounding parking and other areas owned or controlled by the Stadium owner. Will the NFL be required to pay any costs?
- The NFL must have the unlimited right to use the existing scoreboards and video boards at no cost. Will this requirement be met?
- The NFL requires that the Stadium provide a certificate of insurance evidencing comprehensive general liability coverage with a limit of liability of no less than $100,000,000, indemnifying and naming the National Football League and National Football League Properties, Inc., as additional insureds.
- The NFL must have the right to control all ticket sales and to retain 100% of the revenues from ticket sales, and to control all other access to the Stadium (i.e., credentials).
- A minimum of 50% of all suites (or no less than 45 total) should be allotted to the NFL.
- At least 75% of the suites allotted to the NFL must be between the end-lines, and the allotted suites must include 50 yard line locations for the televising network, each of the competing teams ,the NFL Commissioner and the NFL President.
- Is there any contractual obligation to existing suite holders for tickets to the Super Bowl Game?
- The NFL should have exclusive, cost-free, use of at least 350 bus parking spaces in close proximity to the stadium, including 35 spaces for the media, 25 spaces for each team, up to 50 spaces for half-time personnel, 100+ spaces for NFL Properties, potential member club buses, etc. These spaces should be in a well-lighted area for post-game departures up to 5 hours after the Super Bowl Game.
After looking at the NFL’s demands, it’s not hard to see why, despite raising $25 million to support Indy’s bid for Super Bowl XLVI, the city agency that owns and operates Lucas Oil Stadium is expected to lose $800,000 during the week. Let’s say that of the $300 million in overall spending, 10% of that is tax. That’s $30 million in taxes spread out over several counties and cities. That’s not a bad haul if the cost to bring the game in isn’t too high. Therefore it’s incumbent upon the 49ers and the City of Santa Clara (and Santa Clara County) to make the stadium and its surroundings as ready to host the Super Bowl as possible from the get-go. If they can pull that off, it’ll make them more likely to be considered for rotation into future Super Bowls. The whole thing sounds like a mini Olympic games. Speaking of Olympics… that’s for next week.