Jacksonville’s ship came in today.
With the help of some shipping companies who will bring in 10 cruise ships to help provide rooms, NFL owners voted to bring the Super Bowl to north Florida for the first time.
Jacksonville beat out Miami, which has played host to eight Super Bowls, in a closely contested race for the 2005 game.
As expected, the owners gave the 2004 Super Bowl to Houston and the 2006 game to Detroit, rewarding both cities for building new stadiums. Neither had opposition.
Cruise Ships Will Expand Lodging
That wasn’t the case for Jacksonville, which required four ballots to become one of the smallest metropolitan areas to land the biggest one-day event in American sports.
“This raises us to a first-tier city,” said Wayne Weaver, owner of the Jaguars.
Jacksonville, with a metro population just over 1 million, earned its first Super Bowl even though the NFL had serious concerns about a lack of hotel space and airline flights.
The city will dock at least 10 cruise ships near Alltel Stadium on the St. John’s River, adding about 8,000 rooms to its downtown hotel capacity. Sydney used a similar tactic during the Olympics.
“I think the membership bought into that,” Weaver said. “We’re going to give them a different and unique experience.”
Also, three airlines agreed to triple flights to Jacksonville during the Super Bowl week, ensuring fans will be able to get in and out of the city.
“There was a sentiment for diversity, a change of scenery,” said Art Modell, owner of the Baltimore Ravens. “Miami will always be a part of the Super Bowl rotation, but Jacksonville deserved it.”
Miami brought a delegation that included former Dolphins coach Don Shula and ex-quarterback Dan Marino.
Oakland also bid for the 2005 game but was given little chance because of its feud with Raiders owner Al Davis. The California city, seeking its first Super Bowl, was eliminated on the second ballot.
Second Super Bowl for Houston
Detroit’s delegation was led by Mayor Dennis Archer and racing team owner Roger Penske.
“Fortunately, a lot of the owners knew Roger Penske personally,” Archer said. “That was a nice touch.”
Houston was represented by Mayor Lee Brown and Bob McNair, owner of the Texans expansion team that will begin play in 2002.
As part of his $700 million entry fee, McNair was promised a Super Bowl as soon as possible. It will come at the end of the Texans’ second season at their new 69,500-seat retractable roof stadium, under construction next to the Astrodome.
Houston first played host to the Super Bowl in 1974 at Rice Stadium. The city split with the NFL in 1996 when the Oilers left for Tennessee, but today’s decision brought the reconciliation full circle.
“It shows the strength of the city and the resiliency of the community to go through such a downer and turn it around in such a short period of time,” McNair said.
Detroit also is getting its second Super Bowl. The 1982 game was played at the suburban Pontiac Silverdome.
The 2006 Super Bowl will be held at a new downtown domed stadium, 65,000-seat Ford Field. The $315 million project is scheduled to open in 2002, luring the Lions back to the city.
“This really speaks volumes about how the city is coming back,” Archer said, adding that he hopes the NFL’s decision would convince Major League Baseball to award an All-Star game to Detroit.
The NFL raised some concerns about Detroit’s ability to meet the requirement for 17,500 hotel rooms within an hour drive of the stadium. The city is counting on three casino hotels that have not been built.
“Fortunately, we’ve got ample time to fill in the blanks,” Archer said.
New Scheduling Formula Approved
During their three-day meeting at a downtown Atlanta hotel, the owners also approved a new scheduling formula when the Texans create a 32-team league.
The league will abandon its current six-division alignment and go to eight four-team divisions — four in each conference.
Under the new format, each team will play six games within its division (home-and-away against the other three teams), four games against another division within its conference, four games against a division in the other conference and two games within the conference based on the previous year’s standings.
Those final two games were the main sticking point, with some owners wanting to preserve them for traditional or regional rivalries after realignment — Jets-Giants, Raiders-49ers, Dolphins-Buccaneers, Chiefs-Rams and so on.