Monday, February 19, 2018
Sports

Tampa Bay area waits its turn to bid for a fifth Super Bowl

TAMPA — The National Football League today picks its host cities for Super Bowls L and LI — that's 50 and 51, for the Roman numeral-challenged — and Tampa Bay is not in the conversation.

No surprise there, because the NFL did not invite the bay area to submit a bid for either game.

Instead, invitations for those two games went to San Francisco, South Florida and Houston. The league will choose between San Francisco and South Florida for the 50th championship in 2016.

San Francisco is considered a strong favorite because the Florida Legislature adjourned this month without acting on a proposal to provide taxpayer support for a $350 million upgrade of Sun Life Stadium in the Miami suburbs.

The runnerup for the 50th game is expected be in the mix along with Houston to host the 51st Super Bowl.

Without the public funding, Miami's bids for both games are considered to be mortally wounded.

Tampa hosted the Super Bowl in 1984, 1991, 2001 and 2009.

In 2010, Tampa and South Florida were among three finalists for the championship, but the NFL went with New York for 2014.

In 2011, the NFL decided to send the 2015 game to Glendale, Ariz., near Phoenix. At the time, insiders talked about how Tampa was a strong contender, and local officials speculated they might get a chance to bid on Super Bowl LI.

But it turns out that the bay area's next shot could come this fall, when the NFL is expected to invite a select group of communities to submit the next round of bids.

"I fully anticipate we will be back in the regular (bidding) rotation come (Super Bowl) 52," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Monday. He said he understood the NFL's desire to do something special for Super Bowl L, as well as its practice of rewarding communities that build new stadiums with the opportunity to host Super Bowls. (San Francisco is one of them, with plans for a $1.2 billion new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. Houston's Reliant Stadium, with its retractable roof, is one of the league's newer stadiums as well.)

Before the process begins, the league sends a questionnaire to each franchise to help gauge its community's interest in putting forth a bid.

When that happens, "we can't get that response in fast enough," said Rob Higgins, executive director of the nonprofit Tampa Bay Sports Commission. "If and when we're invited in the future, we'll do everything we can to land the fifth Super Bowl for our community."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403 or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.

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