Hosting a future Super Bowl

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.

Hotel capacity

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.

NFL Experience

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.

Onerous terms

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.

30 thoughts on “Hosting a future Super Bowl

  1. If Santa Clara gets the Super Bowl, out-of-towners will fill Frisco hotels and then on the 40-mile drive to Santa Clara, keep asking “Are we almost there?”

  2. Fascinating and exceptionally detailed analysis, ML. Thank you for the time and effort that must have gone into that. I had no idea the NFL put such heavy financial demands on the host city and stadium owner. It must be nice to be in position to dictate such favorable terms.
    I think the NFL and Forty Niners (to the extent they can) will ensure this is a “San Francisco” Super Bowl in every way possible. A lot of ancillary events (various parties, perhaps certain press events, photo ops, etc) will take place in the city, many if not most attendees will stay there, etc. I imagine the city of San Francisco will be heavily involved in the planning and execution, almost as much as the city of Santa Clara. And like last time, the picture on the tickets will be the Golden Gate Bridge or some other SF landmark. Watch how the New Jersey Super Bowl is managed and presented in relation to New York City. It should be a good model for how the event will be handled here.

  3. @dude,
    When the time comes, Santa Clara, San Jose, and the Silicon Valley business community should do everything in their power to make sure it’s a SILICON VALLEY SUPERBOWL, not Frisco’s! SF is no longer the economic and population focal point of the region, so those in the valley should fight hard at any attempt to make our event(s) “theirs.”

  4. Also, you can’t compare NJ across the Hudson to San Jose and Silicon Valley. Of course a Super Bowl at the Meadowlands will be NYC’s. A Super Bowl in Santa Clara will be rightly Silicon Valley’s (my apologies to that smaller burgh 45 miles to the north).

  5. It WILL be Frisco’s Super Bowl because Frisco has the name recognition. In 1997, the Sharks hosted the NHL All Sar Game. Where did MTV host its NHL All Star Game Party? In downtown Frisco, of course, even though the still-open San Jose Live would have been a perfect spot. None of the MTV crew wanted to visit San Jose…

  6. Remember: We’re right now in a situation where San Jose, despite being a bigger city with all the corporations, families and $$, is still consigned to Frisco colony status by MLB. No way does a Santa Clara Super Bowl give top billing to San Jose over Frisco.

  7. This question is to everyone on the board,

    I think what may happen is that IF Coliseum City can become a reality with both the Raiders and Warriors staying, then Raiders will play two seasons in SC and be co tenants with the Niners in SC until the new Coliseum City is built…or Raiders go to SC longer than that until they get a new stadium in Oakland OR LA!

    I’m actually amazed that the NFL gave the SC Niner stadium a $200 million loan for a 1.2 billion stadium (if not more when it is all said and done) with NO provisions that the Raiders need to be con tenants to receive that $200 million?? Weird…..

    Wow…I guess Coliseum City will not receive a $200 million loan even though that idea and concept is better than the Niners SC stadium site, because of better and more convenient public transportation facilities more than anything?

  8. Tony D. says:
    February 4, 2012 at 12:02 PM Tony D.(Quote)
    When the time comes, Santa Clara, San Jose, and the Silicon Valley business community should do everything in their power to make sure it’s a SILICON VALLEY SUPERBOWL, not Frisco’s! SF is no longer the economic and population focal point of the region, so those in the valley should fight hard at any attempt to make our event(s) “theirs.”

    I would go a step further and just make sure it is The BAY AREAS Super Bowl… about that?

  9. Good take.

    However, my rebuttal to them being #31 in value and revenue out of 32 teams, would be that it would seem be an ideal time for a developer/investor to work with the Raiders franchise and help build them a stadium.

    The way I look at it, is that the only way to go from that #31 ranking is UP and not down….at least when it comes to an INVESTMENT opportunity to turn things around with the Raiders when it comes to value and making money and revenue.

    Why the heck do you and others in here think I was screaming for Davis, McK and Trask to do whatever they can to bring back JON GRUDEN as head coach?

    It wouldn’t be just about football with Gruden, it would be the promotion and marketability of the team shooting through the rood and they team would see a HUGE increase in Season Ticket Sales and more money would be made, just as long as they remain competitive, which they would under Gruden.

    Then the team would look even more attractive to stadium developers or investors.


    Especially with stubborn old man Al not around anymore

  10. Didn’t we just have a “North Texas” Super Bowl with ESPN setting up in downtown Forth Worth even though the Dallas Cowboys were hosts?

  11. I’m with DK007 and NT on this one: a BAY AREA SUPERBOWL! let Frisco have all the MTV parties they want; I’ll take a Super Bowl Village and packed downtown hotels and restaurants any day. By the way pjk, 1997 was 15 years ago and the NHL All Star Game was STILL San Jose, not SF. Who cares where MTV was!

  12. @NT,
    If we could the Diridon ballpark district up and running, complete with an ESPN ZONE, before said Super Bowl, maybe Montgomery Street becomes ESPN central for the game 😉

  13. @ TonyD – the prospect of something like that sends chills down my spine…:)

  14. Don’t get too excited about it. The North Texas bid was done specifically to appease the numerous cities in the Metroplex. Arlington also lacked hotels and convention space to properly house Super Bowl week activities. That won’t be much of a problem in Santa Clara. If other cities are to get something going, it’ll have to be via major sponsors dominating venues. The Dan Patrick Show was staged all week at Victory Park, the AAA ballpark in downtown Indy thanks to DirecTV. That worked because it was only a few blocks away from everything else. Can’t make the same case for San Jose.

    One other thing to consider – much of the media activity will be based around the practice facilities. It can be assumed that the 49ers HQ will be used for the NFC whether the representative is the 49ers or someone else. Outside of that there’s also the Raiders complex and three FBS/D-I facilities (Stanford, Cal, SJSU) that could be used. That’s probably the greatest number of potential Super Bowl practice sites of any market in the country.

  15. the nba all star game in 2000 was held at oracle, anybody remember how that game/weekend was packaged overall.

  16. well i guess santa clara cant host a super bowl after all since its average january temp will never be 50 degrees

  17. @letsgoas-I think the NBA league office headquarters for the 2000 game was at the Pan Pacific Hotel in SF.

  18. The NBA All Star Game rose in scope and scale when they hit Vegas in 2007. The 2000 game probably isn’t relevant in terms of experience.

    Another new requirement for this year: A theater to hold the NFL Awards Show. I’m guessing that would be in SF.

  19. RM,
    they could have the NFL Awards Show at the Cow Palace! (Lol) enjoy the game all and GO MLB DECISION ON SJ! (Any day now…)

  20. Locally, I have no doubt it will be considered (rightfully) the Bay Area’s Super Bowl. Economically and logistically, that’s exactly what it will be. I think the South Bay will do very well economically with it, which is great. But the way it will be presented nationally (by both the national media and the NFL in marketing it) will be San Francisco. I wouldn’t take offense to that. SF is a great draw. Positioning the event globally that way will only make it more appealing and successful. And at the end of the day, the cities of the South Bay will be cashing plenty of checks. Just don’t expect silicon wafers (or whatever) as the main element in the logo or other materials.
    TonyD – that’s a really great point about Diridon. The Super Bowl would be a perfect opportunity to showcase that area if it’s in place by then (with or without ESPN). There will be plenty of need for party and event space for all the various sponsors and whatnot, and I would love to see some of them placed there.

  21. ML. oakland has the best theatres in the bay area that is known so other than hype and SF bias and media bs there is no reason for the awards thing to be in SF.

    • @Groshawn – As long as it’s the 49ers’ Super Bowl, the team and the NFL gets to choose where the events go. Oakland will be rewarded if they get their own stadium deal done.

  22. But if the raiders and 49ers are sharing its not fair to call it SF’s super bowl. even if its only the niners it should still be called the bay area’s super bowl. ML I have a question. I’ve heard reports of both that the 49ers would have to change their name to santa clara and reports that they would keep the SF name. what will the name be? I’ve heard that I think it is was Barbara Boxer or Dianne Feinstein that says the name will HAVE to change if they move.

  23. @Groshawn – The 49ers have done all of the legwork to get the Santa Clara stadium built. They deserve the spoils. If the Raiders were anything more than a tenant or had a 50% share in the stadium you’d have a good argument. The Raiders don’t appear to be signing on right now, and if they do it may be at best short-term.

    All of the threats by major politicians only resulted in one bill, SB 49 by Carole Migden (now out of office), which had everything to do with public funding and nothing to do with team names. That bill died and nothing has happened since. Legally, the City of San Francisco has little to stand on.

    The Giants/Jets hosting Super Bowl XLVIII is an interesting corner case in that they share the stadium 50/50. The AFC and NFC alternate years hosting the game, with an AFC city in Indianapolis hosting this year. Next year it’s an NFC city in New Orleans, and in 2014 it’ll be the AFC again.

  24. Funny thing about Colonies. They remain that way till the day comes when they chose not to. SJ has the neccessay economic clout and distance from SF to make the “break” at any time of their chosing. They’re now an “NFL” town, no matter the opinions of the elite up north. They will soon be an “MLB town”. Another thing, despite the views of the locals, SF has an image problem all it’s own outside the Bay area. To be blunt, it’s viewed as 10 miles to the left of what the rest of the nation views as acceptably “left”. All of which will come into play if SJ decides to start on a campaign of marginlizing their former advasaries hegemony of the bay area. . I’m sure SJ will have little trouble marketing their northerly neighbor as “charmingly wierd”, but not to be taken to seriously.

  25. @ML. do you think a football stadium can/will still be built in oakland? i think of all three oakland teams the raiders are not only the most likely to stay but the only one i think actually WILL stay for sure.

    • @Groshawn – Yes, it can be built in Oakland. Will it? The issue with Oakland lately has been a matter of “will”. Unless the team and city/county work together and put together a financing plan, it will not get done. Coliseum City is majorly flawed in that it depends on a funding scheme that died with the recession and received a stake through the heart by the state. They’re gonna have to get really creative.

  26. #$@@%%$ all you sports yahoo’s!!

  27. ML i dont think coli city will be built im 100% positive the A’s will go to SJ but i think there is still a chance the raiders can build at the coliseum site or at least remodel the coliseum a little bit. the coliseum is not as bad as everyone says when it comes to football. all we need is wider concourses and seats closer to the field on the west side of the stadium so i as a fan would be totally okay with just seeing the coliseum slightly remodeled. then the ticket prices wont be as high and you get a whole new fan base of people who cannot afford to go to 49ers games anymore AND people in the north bay who just cant make the trek down there to santa clara like they could to candlestick. i think if the raiders stay in oakland well get a ton of new fans who used to cheer for the niners

  28. I heard the Raiders pay around 5 million a year to rent the O coliseum. I also read an article about how broke Al Davis made the team with big money contracts and could they afford to pay rent at the new Niners stadium while trying to be competitive? The Niners will run that place and the only money the Raiders might get is from merchandising and ticket sales. I read all that on

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