The charms of the city itself and its long history with college football’s national championship obviously were in its favor.
But it also took the strongest possible financial package for New Orleans to land the 2020 College Football Playoff championship game.
“It was tremendously competitive,” Jeff Hundley, chief operating officer of the Allstate Sugar Bowl and executive director of the local organizing committee that put together the successful bid, said following Wednesday’s announcement. “So a lot of things came into play.
“But we knew that if we could meet the financial hurdles, the virtues of the city and the state would help us carry the day. Ultimately, that was the way it played out.”
CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock, who spoke for the FBS conference commissioners who make up the CFP management council, concurred.
“There was a level of desire to play in New Orleans because of its history,” he said. “You’ve got that big ol’ stadium (the Mercedes-Benz Superdome) and a concise, walkable downtown footprint. But there was also an excellent bid that people worked very hard on. We’re delighted to be returning to New Orleans.”
The Bay Area was a surprise winner for the 2019 game, for which New Orleans also bid (although the preference was for 2020 because of hotel issues). Atlanta, with its soon-to-be-built Mercedes-Benz Stadium, got the 2018 game.
New Orleans beat out Houston; San Antonio; Charlotte, North Carolina; Minneapolis; and the Bay Area for the 2020 game, which will be in the Superdome on Jan. 13 of that year.
It will mark the 24th time the national champion will be involved in a game in New Orleans, although all the previous ones were under the auspices of the Sugar Bowl.
The last of those games was Alabama’s 21-0 victory against LSU for the 2011 BCS championship, the fourth of those games in New Orleans in 12 years.
The successful bid followed a string of disappointments in recent years in attracting major sporting events that have long put the city in the athletic spotlight.
In 2013, bids for the 2016 and 2017 CFP games went instead to Glendale, Arizona, and Tampa, Florida, while last year, Minneapolis beat out New Orleans for the 2018 Super Bowl. Also, bids for Final Fours between 2017-2021 went to five other cities instead.
“This one was a long time coming,” Hundley said. “And in this case, there was considerable consideration about the cost of going forward. But in the end, we believed we did the right thing in keeping New Orleans in the national spotlight while also fulfilling the original mission of the Sugar Bowl.”
Hundley said the Sugar Bowl supplied about three-fourths of the estimated $16-18 million bid for the game. Much of the rest is coming from anticipated revenues from a bill that passed the state legislature earlier this year, which dedicates sales taxes generated from major events toward assisting in bidding on future ones.
The Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and other local hospitality entities also were involved in putting together the bid.
“We’re fortunate that the Sugar Bowl was in position to take the leadership role in providing funding for this event,” Sugar Bowl President Carey Wicker said. “And we’re grateful that several other groups stepped up with financial commitments to make this day possible.
“Ultimately, we appreciate the trust the CFP has shown in us. This was a good day for New Orleans.”
But while there was celebrating acquiring the CFP game Wednesday, it probably does narrow New Orleans’ bid for the Super Bowl to only 2019. The city was eyeing a bid to host the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl.
Sports Foundation President Jay Cicero said Wednesday that NFL policy has been to limit a city to hosting only one of those events in a calendar year, although this is the first time New Orleans has been involved and there has been no contact with the league.
With a new stadium opening in 2017 and both the CFP game from that season and the 2020 Final Four, Atlanta is considered the front-runner for the 2019 Super Bowl, although Miami and Tampa were invited to bid along with New Orleans.
Miami, which is undergoing a substantial stadium renovation, appears to the favorite for 2020, and a new NFL stadium in Los Angles could put that city at the head of the line.
The 2019 and 2020 Super Bowls will be awarded next spring. The 2022 Final Four will be awarded in November 2016.
“We should know something in the next 30 days,” said Cicero, who added that bids for Wrestlemania in 2018 and the 2019 NBA All-Star Game also are upcoming.
Also, the 2020 Women’s Final Four will be in the Smoothie King Center, and the Sugar Bowl will be CFP semifinal games in 2018, 2021 and 2024.
However, Hundley said, it’s too early to say whether New Orleans would seek a CFP game beyond 2020.
Hancock said there was no timetable for awarding the years beyond 2020, but he noted that the first six CFP title games will be played six different states — a sign of the commissioners’ desire to move the game around the country.
“It was extremely competitive this time,” he said. “And I will be even more competitive when we begin to look at the seventh, eighth and ninth games.”