Thursday, July 19, 2018
Business

Tampa's bid for fifth Super Bowl means secret and expensive promises to NFL

TAMPA — Before Tampa is officially named the host of the 2021 Super Bowl, local organizers have 90 days to convince NFL owners the city can meet certain conditions.

What are they? That's top secret.

The NFL won't make its demands public, a spokesman told the Tampa Bay Times. The organization in charge of submitting Tampa's bid won't, either.

But according to past reports, the list is quite extensive.

Rent-free use of the stadium, 35,000-plus parking spaces and other nearby facilities are a must. In the days leading up to the game, participating hotels must turn over all of their meeting space. For a year, they must keep the NFL Network on all of their TVs. Local governments have to provide security and trash pickup for free and ticket sales can't be taxed.

The league also has asked for free usage of local golf courses and bowling alleys, a $1 million donation to the charity of the NFL's choice and its handpicked ATM providers inside the stadium.

Community leaders covet events like the Super Bowl for the promise of economic impact and the intangible benefit of being a national showcase. For a week, the host city is at the center of the country's attention as thousands of people, media and cameras descend for party and pageantry.

This week, NFL owners turned to Tampa's Raymond James Stadium for the 2021 game after weather delayed the planned opening of the previously selected site in Los Angeles. Politicians and the local sports community celebrated the announcement of what will be Tampa's fifth time as the backdrop to the big game.

"There's nothing like hosting a Super Bowl," Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said.

But to get the game, the city first must bid for it.

The Tampa Bay Sports Commission, tasked with responding to the NFL, won't say what its bid includes. The commission is a nonprofit hired to manage local bids for college and professional sporting events, and its position is that it is not subject to open records laws.

"As you can imagine, landing an event the magnitude of the Super Bowl is ultra-competitive," said Rob Higgins, the commission's executive director. "And we feel that publicly sharing any additional aspects of our bid could compromise our position in the current or future bid processes."

Generally, Higgins said, the bid includes a guaranteed number of hotel rooms within a 60-mile radius of the stadium, the availability of other local venues for events leading up to the game and the pledged support of government, law enforcement and businesses.

Beyond that, he wouldn't provide specifics. Most of what the commission sends to the NFL in three months will remain secret.

The sports commission previously bid for Super Bowl LV in 2016 and was unsuccessful. As part of that pitch, the city of Tampa agreed to provide free "public safety, security, fire and medical emergency, traffic, decorative display and public work/street maintenance services and supplies . . . including all planning, training or deployment activities related to the provision of such services."

Similar services for the 2009 Super Bowl, the fourth and most recent held in Tampa, cost city taxpayers $1.2 million. Some of that was recouped in parking fees.

In 2014, the Minneapolis Star Tribune obtained and published the NFL's "Host City Bid Specifications and Requirements" for the 2018 Super Bowl in Minnesota.

The most common refrain in the 153-page document: "at no cost to the NFL."

In the weeks — even months — before and after the Super Bowl, governments, stadium operators and businesses are expected to provide free of charge dozens of services, facilities and perks for the NFL — a business that reported $13 billion in revenue last year.

Wireless service at the stadium must be "on par with the standards set by the top three NFL stadiums." Like most requirements, if the stadium doesn't meet that standard, it has to be upgraded "at no cost to the NFL." If the stadium's ATMs are not supplied by a NFL partner, the league may remove or cover them and bring in approved machines before the game.

Cities are expected to provide a concrete barrier up to 16 feet high around the stadium and ensure free parking wherever the NFL sets up shop around town.

The host committee must also reserve three "top-quality" 18-hole golf courses where green and cart fees will be waived for a Super Bowl-related golf tournament, as well as another course for use by the NFL in March following the Super Bowl. Free use of up to two bowling alleys is needed, as well, for an NFL event.

If a hotel is chosen as the league's Super Bowl headquarters, it must provide "150 complimentary room-nights for pre-event planning trips" in the months leading up to the game. Hotels that host the teams have to offer "exclusive, complimentary use of all meeting function space."

Meanwhile, the NFL retains 100 percent of the revenue from ticket sales, parking and advertising in and around the stadium. The host committee is required to arrange for all ticket sales to be tax-free, and if it can't, then the host committee has to reimburse the NFL for any taxes paid.

Among the few expenses the NFL is willing to incur is the cost of utilities at the stadium during the Super Bowl, but not for most events held at other venues. Even the cleanup of the stadium is up to the operator, not the NFL.

Asked to confirm the validity of the document, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said he was "not going to dispute it."

"Super Bowl bid requests are generally comparable to those considered by other events such as national political conventions or other major sporting events," McCarthy said. "Clubs and communities recognize the positive impact of hosting the most-anticipated and most-watched television event of the year."

Communities don't have to agree to all the demands in their bids. For example, in Minneapolis, the airport did not agree to give the NFL "exclusive rights" to choose vendors to sell Super Bowl merchandise, the Star Tribune reported.

However, the competitive nature of pursuing a Super Bowl encourages communities to meet most of the NFL's demands or risk losing out.

"We could not be more appreciative of the unique opportunity the NFL has afforded us over the next 90 days," Higgins said, "and we're going to work diligently with our community partners to help officially land our region's fifth Super Bowl."

Contact Steve Contorno at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433. Follow @scontorno.

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Published: 07/19/18