Sports bid bill gets approval from Louisiana legislature _lowres

Mercedes-Benz Superdome (Associated Press)

First the Super Bowl, now the College Football Playoff championship game.

No, New Orleans didn’t land them both this week. But at least now the city will have some financial help in bidding for the next available ones in the coming months.

The State House of Representatives on Thursday gave its approval to a bill which will provide up to 30 percent of the cost of bidding for major sports events in the state from anticipated extra sales tax revenue.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, had passed the Senate last week. Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he will sign the legislation without hesitation.

Thursday’s House passage by an 85-7 margin on an unamended Senate version was needed for the local bid for the 2019 or 2020 CFP title games to be made by Tuesday’s submission deadline.

Eight other cities are in the running for the games. The winners will be announced this fall.

On Tuesday, the NFL made New Orleans one of four cities invited to bid for the 2019 and 2020 Super Bowls. Those games will be awarded in May 2016.

NFL and CFP rules preclude cities from hosting both events in the same year. The legislation also will aid in the next Final Four bid, but the next opportunity to do that is not until 2019.

“It’s a good day for sports in Louisiana,” said Jay Cicero, President of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation which will be organizing the local bids. “We now have a funding mechanism to help us going forward in attracting these events.

“Our legislators did a remarkable job in fast-tracking the vote.”

The bulk of the CFP bid, estimated to total $18 million, will come from the Sugar Bowl, whose executive committee gave its approval do so shortly after Thursday’s vote in the legislature.

Sugar Bowl Chief Executive Officer Paul Hoolahan had said that his organization could not afford to underwrite the entire bid, because the amount is three times the cost for the title games under the old BCS system, four of which were played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and that there was no opportunity to recuperate the money under the new setup.

“It’s always important to be involved in the major events and to keep your status as a premier city to host these types of events,” Hoolahan said. “We needed to make sure that everybody understood that the price to play now has gotten quite expensive, and that’s why they’re now going to entire communities to see what kind of resources they can muster.

“The competition our there is formidable. But this legislation gives us a fighting chance.”

Atlanta and Miami, which along with Tampa Bay are the Super Bowl finalists, were will be bidding on the CFP future games along with Charlotte, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, San Antonio and Santa Clara, Calif.

Tampa is the site of the 2017 CFP game while Phoenix is this season’s host.

CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock could not be reached for comment on Thursday’s decision by New Orleans to go forward, but last week said, “We need New Orleans to be part of this.”

While the Super Bowl and CFP bids be the immediate beneficiaries of the legislation, its supporters pointed out that it does not apply only to events in the New Orleans area.

The Bassmasters Classic, which has twice been held in the Shreveport area, qualifies as do several United States Bowling Congress national events, which have been held in Baton Rouge in previous years.

“The benefits for having these marquee events in our state are well proven, said Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, whose office oversees the state’s tourism efforts. “And this legislation gives us the potential to go after even more of them.”

The legislation is similar to a law which has benefitted Texas cities in pursuing major events for several years. It sets up a “Louisiana Mega-Project Developmental Fund” to assist in bidding for “qualified events,” such as the Super Bowl by allotting the anticipated increased sales tax revenue from the events towards the bid.

The Department of Economic Development will administer the funds.

A unfunded version of the bill has been on the books for the past few years, but New Orleans failing to secure the 2016 CFP game, 2017 Final Four and 2018 Super Bowl last year, reenergized local organizations in their efforts.

“The overwhelming bipartisan passage of this bill will go a long ways in bridging the funding gap we have experienced in bidding on national college and professional sporting championships,” said Steve Perry, president of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This is a great and exciting day for the future of special events in New Orleans.”