In one of the least suspenseful Super Bowl votes in recent years, NFL owners awarded Super Bowl L, in 2016, to the San Francisco/Santa Clara area and Super Bowl LI, in 2017, to Houston on Tuesday, shutting out Miami, which until a few weeks ago was a heavy favorite to host the 50th game.
Miami has hosted 10 Super Bowls and remains a favorite site for them, but the twin defeats were an indication of the NFL’s dissatisfaction with the condition of Sun Life Stadium and with the Miami Dolphins’ inability to secure financing for renovations the team and the league feel are necessary to make it competitive with state-of-the-art stadiums like the one under construction in Santa Clara and Reliant Stadium in Houston.
The NFL had hoped to put the 50th Super Bowl in Miami, to celebrate the legacy of the game in a place that has hosted some of its most memorable moments. And Miami would almost certainly have won the bidding for it had a referendum on use of tax dollars and rebates to pay for stadium renovations passed - an iffy proposition in an area still seething over the public financing of the ballpark for the Miami Marlins, whose payroll has since been slashed by ownership. Stephen Ross, the Dolphins owner, has said he will not foot the entire $350 million bill for upgrades to the stadium, which opened in 1987. When the Florida legislature did not allow the controversial referendum to be held, the planned renovations stalled, perhaps indefinitely. It is unclear what the Dolphins’ plan for renovations is now, and without them it seems likely that Miami - facing increased competition from cities with newer stadiums and a willingness by the NFL to place its showcase game in nontraditional locations like Indianapolis and the New York metropolitan area - could join San Diego as beloved Super Bowl destinations undermined by outdated stadiums.
Miami’s stadium shortcomings stood in sharp contrast to the proposal from San Francisco, which emphasized how technologically advanced the new stadium in Santa Clara would be. Spectators will be able to order drinks and food from their seats using smartphones, for instance. When Miami did not secure the stadium renovations, Santa Clara, in the heart of Silicon Valley, emerged as the favorite for the 50th game, with the NFL quietly framing it as a step into the future.
But it also brings the Super Bowl full circle. The first Super Bowl was played in Los Angeles, and for a few years the NFL had hoped to play the 50th game there until it became clear there would be no suitable stadium in Southern California in time for the game.
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