Underdog status: New Orleans' hopes for 2019 Super Bowl up in the air, but city officials optimistic _lowres

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome lights up purple to mourn the death of singer-songwriter Prince on Thursday April 21. (Advocate photo by SOPHIA GERMER)

Doug Thornton gets asked the question so many times he’s lost count.

When is the Super Bowl coming back to New Orleans?

“Most people just assume we have it already for some future date and just want to know when,” said Thornton. “They all just take it for granted that we have it coming up.”

Thornton, executive vice president of SMG, is hoping he will be able to answer “2019” the next time he’s asked.

He’ll know Tuesday.

That’s when Thornton and Mark Romig, president of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, get to make a 15-minute sales pitch to lure the NFL’s biggest game back to the Big Easy in 2019.

New Orleans is one of four cities (Atlanta, Miami and Tampa are the others) that will bid for the 2019 Super Bowl on Tuesday at the NFL owners’ meeting in Charlotte.

Atlanta, with its new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium set to open two seasons from now, is considered the favorite for the game scheduled for Feb. 3, 2019.

Jay Cicero, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, knows the odds are against the Crescent City landing its 11th Super Bowl.

“We are an underdog going into this,” Cicero said. “But we know we have a strong presentation, no doubt about that.”

New Orleans, which last hosted a Super Bowl in 2013, came up short in its most recent bid to host. That was in 2014 when Super Bowl LII (set for 2018) was awarded to Minneapolis. New Orleans finished second.

If New Orleans doesn’t earn the bid Tuesday, it would mean the city wouldn’t host again until at least 2022.

Because of conflicts, New Orleans can’t bid on the other years (2020 and 2021) that will also be voted on at Tuesday’s meeting.

The 2020 Super Bowl conflicts with college football’s national championship game, which New Orleans will host. Because of the quick turnaround between the college championship game, set for mid-January and the Super Bowl, the NFL doesn’t allow cities to host both events in the same year.

The 2021 Super Bowl conflicts with Mardi Gras and a convention being held in the city.

“With our ability to bid on only one of three years that are available and the fact that there are new stadiums (Atlanta and Los Angeles) and significantly renovated stadiums (Miami) in the mix, we understand we are underdogs,” Cicero said. “So we are just putting everything on the table that we can and hoping the owners see it our way.”

Los Angeles, with its new stadium in the works, and Miami, with a newly renovated stadium have good chances of landing two of the games as well.

In fact, the L.A. Times reported one NFL executive as saying “absolutely” when asked if L.A. will get one of the bids for either 2020 or 2021.

But for the city of New Orleans, it’s all about 2019.

“With us being able to only bid on 2019, that really narrows the window,” Thornton said. “The other stadiums have flexibility with all three years. That makes it more challenging. You have five cities competing for three dates and we’re hoping to thread the needle here with the one year. We hope the owners view this as an opportunity to come to New Orleans in 2019 and reward the city with the new stadiums in 2020 and 2021.”

And while other cities will showcase their new stadiums, Thornton will try to sell owners on the changes at the nearly 41-year-old Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“Part of our presentation is that we have had over 400 million dollars invested in the Superdome campus since 2005,” Thornton said. “We have $40 million going on now.”

Thornton cited the new video display being installed in the dome. It will be the third-largest in the NFL. He also noted the renovated suites and locker rooms.

“We feel like the Superdome is competitive and exceeds the requirements,” Thornton said.

But it’s what is outside the Dome that Cicero is hoping is the major selling point for owners.

“There’s no match if you’re talking about hosting an event here as opposed to any other city,” Cicero said. “No other place do you have 20,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the Superdome and the French Quarter and the Convention Center. When you walk out of your hotel room, you feel like something special is happening here.”

And it’s why Cicero, despite the odds Tuesday, likes the city’s chances.

“We are always optimistic because New Orleans is such a great place,” he said.