How are Super Bowl cities selected?

In the Super Bowl, competition does not begin on the field. Cities bow to extravagant NFL demands for the chance to host the historic event.  

Ross D. Franklin/AP
The surrounding area around University of Phoenix Stadium takes shape as the upcoming NFL Super Bowl football game gets closer.

This year the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks will face off at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

How did Phoenix get chosen? 

Warm weather in February used to be the deciding factor, meaning that touristy Southern or West Coast cities like Miami, San Diego, and New Orleans were frequent hosts. But that isn’t the case anymore.

Instead the NFL uses the Super Bowl bid as a reward system for teams who will, as the New York Times put it, “Build or improve your stadium. Run a good franchise. Play well with others. Beg a little.”

Or beg a lot.

Getting chosen requires putting on a show for the NFL owners and in the past cities have gone to pretty extravagant lengths to win the bid.

In 2012, unorthodox Super Bowl city Indianapolis, Ind., had its proposals delivered by middle school children to each of the NFL owners, after simply sending the proposal in the mail the year before had failed.

And to put things in perspective, this was a tame bid. In 2009, Tampa offered all the owners a golf outing, with Arnold Palmer, and in 2007 South Florida promised yachts. North Texas didn’t bother with formalities and just offered $1 million paid directly to the league to cover game day costs in its 2011 bid.

When Phoenix was preparing their bid for the 2015 Super Bowl back in 2011, Mike Kennedy, chair of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, presented his bids on then new iPads customized with each owner’s team logo, on which they played a video describing why Phoenix would be the right choice.

"It's good old-fashioned lobbying," Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell told Arizona Central.  "It's just working on relationships, asking for support and making sure we have a competitive bid. I literally spoke to everyone in the league seeking their support."

The bidding process also kept extremely secretive.

But last year, the Minneapolis Star Tribune got a copy of a 153-page document of NFL host-city requirements . Among the NFL demands: 

Free police escorts for team owners, and 35,000 free parking spaces. Presidential suites at no cost in high-end hotels. Free billboards across the Twin Cities. Guarantees to receive all revenue from the game’s ticket sales — even a requirement for NFL-preferred ATMs at the stadium.

The NFL’s requests covered everything from free access to three “top quality” golf courses during the summer or fall before the Super Bowl, to free curbside parking at a yet-to-be designated NFL House — defined as a “high-end, exclusive drop-in hospitality facility for our most valued and influential guests to meet, unwind, network and conduct business.”

... the hotels where the teams stay should be obligated to televise the NFL Network for a year before the Super Bowl — at no cost to the league.

The NFL asked that if cellphone signal strength at the team hotels is not strong enough, then the host committee — at no cost to the league — “will be responsible [for erecting] a sufficient number of portable cellular towers.”

In another requirement, the NFL requested that as many as two “top quality bowling venues” be reserved at no cost to the league for the Super Bowl Celebrity Bowling Classic.

So why are cities willing to go through this groveling? The economic boost.

Besides the attention and prestige that comes along with hosting the Super Bowl, it also gives the host city an estimated $300 million in sales as thousands of fans, journalists, and NFL employees descend upon the city. The event also creates jobs and gives the city and excuse to improve infrastructure and invest in local businesses.

"The impact is in the multihundred millions of dollars, and that is significant value for any community," Marc Ganis, president of sports business consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd. told ESPN. "The Super Bowl also provides a positive target for a community to rally around. There are all sorts of activities -- business, volunteer, political -- that can be pointed to when they host the Super Bowl."

No team has played a Super Bowl game on their home field, although it is possible, since the location is decided three to five years in advance. However, any city can put forward a bid and the NFL owners make the selection.

[Editor's note: The original story misidentified the stadium where this year's Super Bowl will be played]

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