In the near-half century history of Super Bowls, New Orleans has never lost when bidding for sports’ greatest annual event.
So it’s obvious how much is at stake Tuesday in Atlanta when the 32 NFL owners will decide between New Orleans, Indianapolis and Minneapolis as the site for Super Bowl LII in 2018.
It’s why Saints owner Tom Benson is delaying going on injured reserve after his recent knee surgery to make the final pitch to his peers.
And it’s why we’re asking you to tolerate the large measure of civic boosterism you’re about to read.
First, though, the practical side.
The direct financial impact of major sports events may be exaggerated, but there’s no doubt that Super Bowls, Final Fours, NBA All-Star games and BCS Championship games (now the College Football Playoff title game) are the icing on the cake for the travel and tourism industry that is so vital to New Orleans’ economy.
There’s a reason why there are some 22,000 hotel rooms in the CBD, far more than the other two finalists have combined. And it’s why we’re going for another Super Bowl just a year after having hosted one, which contributed to the greatest tourism year in Louisiana history.
Land a Super Bowl or a Final Four, and you build everything else around it. For 2018, Super Bowl LII would be bracketed by a rescheduled Carnival season, just as was done last year, meaning a month of high-end, high-volume business.
And lest you think that all of the money goes to the owners of the hotels and restaurants, think of the small business, not to mention those thousands whose livelihood depends on tips who will be direct beneficiaries.
Besides, this is also just happens to be what we do better than anybody else.
We’re just coming off a run of big sports events in the past three years, and Super Bowl LII is seen as the centerpiece of another one that would start with the 2017 Final Four, which will be awarded in November.
“When you get the Super Bowl, it energizes everything you do,” said Sam Joffray, senior vice president of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, who has done exceptional work in putting the bid together, just as he did in 2009. “Whole cities rally around it. This is one you just don’t want to lose.”
We shouldn’t. Most outside observers consider New Orleans the favorite.
It’s no sure thing, though.
Minneapolis is building a new $1 billion stadium for the Vikings, and almost every city that’s done so in the past 20 years had been rewarded with a Super Bowl, including Indianapolis in 2012.
And that city did such a bang-up job of hosting two years ago that it’s a finalist again, something that just doesn’t happen for cities outside the Sun Belt.
Plus, in 2009, when New Orleans was awarded Super Bowl XLVII, it was viewed as the league’s final contribution to the city’s recovery from Katrina. And the state had just given the Saints a generous stadium deal.
This time, the thrust of the local pitch is to help celebrate the Crescent City’s 300th birthday in 2018.
“N.O. Better Time,” is the theme of the campaign. That hardly carries the same emotional wallop as the one which swamped the bids from fellow finalists Miami and Phoenix in ’09.
“It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” promised Harry Connick Jr. in the video that was part of the executive summary delivered to the owners two weeks ago. “The Tricentennial is not just a special occasion for New Orleans but promises to be a super opportunity for the NFL.”
And a good business opportunity, as well. Obviously Super Bowls never lose money. But New Orleans traditionally has been able to keep its expenses down compared to the Super Bowl cities.
But you don’t come to New Orleans to save money.
You come here to pass a good time. And there are few places where that’s easier to do.
Why do you think no other city has hosted more Super Bowls?
As for the others:
Minneapolis? They’re pitching a tie-in to the St. Paul Winter Carnival.
Surely they must hold that inside. Have you ever seen “Fargo”?
Indianapolis? Do you know what the winner of the Indianapolis 500 does? Drinks a bottle of milk. Party!
The folks in Indy do excel at putting on college and Olympic-type events every year and will long be remembered for their hospitality for Super Bowl XLVI. But that just covers up the fact that the city has no other distinctive characteristics.
The consensus is that Minneapolis will get its Super Bowl soon enough. That’s the way the NFL works, so pack up your parka for 2019.
Indianapolis has more to lose here. The timing won’t be as good for it to even bid again for another four or five years.
Too bad they can’t transplant the Leslie Knopian enthusiasm of the Indy effort to other Super Bowl sites like Atlanta or Houston.
So come on, NFL owners.
Make us 11-0.
And this time, we promise to keep the lights on.