For the 11th time in 52 seasons, it looked like the NFL's biggest prize was going to New Orleans. Where the mighty Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico, the king of American sports loves to meet its biggest corporate sponsors.
Super Bowl LII would have been a perfect fit with The Big Easy, the melting pot in which America's spiciest cultural gumbo is cooked. Fast times, wild parties and flowing money made New Orleans the favorite to host the Super Bowl in 2018.
NFL.com's Adam Rank even Tweeted New Orleans should host the Super Bowl whenever the city wants:
New Orleans is the favorite to host the 2018 Super Bowl. I'm sorry, why is this even a discussion? New Orleans should host anytime it wants.— Adam Rank (@adamrank) May 19, 2014
Instead, the NFL awarded Minneapolis its second-ever Super Bowl.
In a city much colder (and much less sexy) than New Orleans, a brand-new NFL stadium is under construction. When it's finished, it'll host the biggest event on the NFL calendar; fans, sponsors and media alike will have to pack a parka for the week-long party.
During the high-stakes game of legislative poker that got the new Vikings stadium approved, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell flew out from New York to sell it to the Minnesota state legislature, per ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert.
After anteing up for a brilliant new stadium, the NFL is rewarding Minnesotans with Super Bowl LII—and the Twin Cities will rake in all the airline bookings, hotel rooms and tax revenue.
No wonder they're so excited:
Tipping the Scales
Why did the NFL select yet another cold-weather site, on the heels of Super Bowl XLVIII—and why did it pass over a more travel-friendly place like Indianapolis? NFL owners and executives have to balance several (sometimes conflicting) interests.
First, there's the suitability for competition. Can the Super Bow be fairly played at the site? Is the field well-maintained? Is stadium indoor or outdoor—and if outdoor, what's the weather usually like in early February?
It's these considerations that worried everyone before Super Bowl XLVIII, in New York/New Jersey.
Second, there's the readiness of the host city. When Jacksonville hosted Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005, it was a logistical disaster. Far too few hotel rooms were spread out across one of the United States' least dense metropolitan areas; far too few taxis were available to get fans, media and tourists from place to place.
"In the build-up to the NFL title game," Reuters wrote at the time, per ABC's Austrailan site, "it is the host city that is taking the most vicious hits. The smallest city to ever host the Super Bowl, Jacksonville, Florida, is in danger of being overwhelmed by thousands of visitors searching for hotel rooms, cabs, tickets and parties."
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the NFL uses Super Bowl bids as an incentive to get cities like Minneapolis to build new stadia. In a way, it's paying the city back for the massive public handouts and tax breaks required to build modern NFL facilities.
Goodell even want as far to acknowledge this notion saying, per ESPN.com's Mike Wells, "All three bids were outstanding. They each did a terrific job presenting. I think the distinguishing factor was the stadium."
The NFL can also use Super Bowl site awards, or the revocation thereof, to put political pressure on would-be hosts. This happened to Arizona in 1993, when the NFL re-awarded Super Bowl XXVII to Los Angeles. Per Cindy Boren of The Washington Post, then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue made the change "because of Arizona’s refusal to make Martin Luther King Day an official state holiday."
More recently, there was talk the NFL might pull Super Bowl XLIX out of Arizona because of a state bill allowing businesses the right to discriminate against people because of their sexuality.
All of these factors are carefully weighed when the NFL picks a host site. Then, of course, there's the real straw that stirs the Super Bowl drink: expense accounts.
All Expenses Paid
Let's take a look at which cities have hosted Super Bowls most frequently:
New Orleans has already hosted 10 Super Bowls, and so has Miami. Los Angeles, while it was still an NFL city, hosted seven in just 26 years. Those three sites will have hosted over half of the first 52 Super Bowls—and why not? They're fantastic party towns.
When you get down to it, that's what the Super Bowl really is: a party. For the NFL, its corporate sponsors and even the media covering the event, it's an excuse to go someplace warm in the dead of winter, hang out for a week and charge it all to the room.
When the Super Bowl is awarded to a city that has cold winters, a tourist-unfriendly downtown or insufficient nightlife, there's always plenty of grousing from the folks who'll be losing out on a paid vacation—and don't think that doesn't include NFL executives.
Only 15 metropolitan areas have ever hosted a Super Bowl. It's a huge deal for everyone in the host city: It can spur public works projects, kickstart the local economy and be a point of civic pride for years. The hope that this day would come must have played at least a small part in convincing the people of Minnesota to back the Vikings' stadium efforts—and when the Vikings' new digs bring in lots of new gameday revenue, all 31 other franchises get a piece of that action.
Minnesota's successful Super Bowl LII bid proves NFL executives love publicly-financed billion-dollar stadiums even more than they love Bourbon Street.