Kovacevic: Why Super Bowl L should be Pittsburgh’s
Kovacevic: Why Super Bowl L should be Pittsburgh’s
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger drops back to hand off the ball in the heavy snow during their game against the Chicago Bears on Dec. 11, 2005, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The Steelers defeated the Bears 21-9.
By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
A year from now, they'll be playing the first Super Bowl in a cold-weather city with an open-air stadium.
And it won't be in pro football's birthplace.
It won't be in the home of the franchise with six Lombardi Trophies, still more than anyone else.
It won't be in the back yard of the family that's done as much as anyone to make the NFL *- and the Super Bowl - the multibillion-dollar monolith it's become.
It won't be in Pittsburgh.
It'll be in East Rutherford, N.J. The one after that will be in Phoenix. And the one after that, the landmark 50th edition, the one that would make such a fine fit for a city that loves its football like perhaps no other, that'll probably wind up elsewhere, too.
Remind me, please: Why is that?
Let's cut through a reasons-Pittsburgh-can't-have-a-Super-Bowl checklist, if you will ...
Problem: No dome.
Response: No duh. But who cares?
It was 33 degrees and cloudy this past Sunday at MetLife Stadium, next year's site.
Oh, the humanity.
Roger Goodell himself laughed off weather worries last week in New Orleans: "Football is made to be played in the elements. Some of our most classic games were played in extreme weather conditions. We know them all, the ‘Ice Bowl,' some of the games that I look back as a fan and say, ‘That was fun.' "
It was 26 degrees with a few snow flurries on the North Shore this past Sunday. What a scene that would make for a Super Bowl.
It would be fairer, too, if you ask me. There's no reason that dome and warm-weather teams should hold any advantage.
Problem: Stadium's too small.
Response: Maybe now, but not for long.
Although the Steelers are currently trading lawyerly barbs with the Sports and Exhibition Authority over who pays, they plan to add 3,000 seats to the south end of Heinz Field. That would raise capacity to 68,000, or just 3,000 less than the Superdome crowd this past Sunday.
Problem: The cold might affect all the run-up events.
Temps were below freezing at the two Super Bowls before this past one, in Dallas and Indianapolis. I was at both. They were plenty uncomfortable when walking outside.
That might happen here, too, but here's guessing we're far better equipped - they couldn't clear snow and ice off even the major highways in Dallas - and far less likely to be discouraged by it. Ask the poor pigs being roasted every Sunday in the Heinz Field lots.
Problem: The logistics wouldn't work.
In the past half-dozen years, we've hosted the G-20 Summit, Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, the NHL's Winter Classic, the NHL Entry Draft and the NCAA basketball tournament. The first two alone provide all the proof anyone would need.
Just to be sure, though, I checked with the folks at Visit Pittsburgh, who make no secret of their wish to have a Super Bowl here.
"Are you kidding?" executive director Jason Fulvi boomed over the phone. "We'd love it. And we absolutely could handle it."
The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported a near-sellout of the 50,000 hotel rooms in that city and across Louisiana and Mississippi. Visit Pittsburgh says we have 24,000 rooms in Allegheny County alone, not counting Cranberry and Southpointe.
"We've found that people will stay 1-2 hours away from a Super Bowl site," Fulvi said, "and even that wouldn't be necessary here."
The David L. Lawrence Convention Center could house the NFL Experience, the Super Bowl's main pregame event. The center's 1.45 million square feet is roughly double the size used in Indianapolis last year.
Transportation is never ideal here, but the new North Shore Connector subway line between Downtown and the stadiums will ease the most critical possible chokepoint.
"Let's put it this way: If the Steelers said they'd get behind it, if the Super Bowl came to Pittsburgh, we would do everything we could to make it amazing experience," Fulvi said. "I wish I was the guy making that call. But that has to come from the Steelers."
Problem: No one's pushing for it.
Response: Now we're getting warm.
I sought comment from the Steelers. A spokesman said the Rooneys were out of town and couldn't be reached.
I sought comment from the NFL. No reply.
If there's any push whatsoever for a Super Bowl in Pittsburgh, not even the region's top tourism execs are aware of it.
Again, why is that?
The Steelers benefited from tax dollars in the $282 million construction of Heinz Field and now seek $26 million more to expand. And yet there isn't a whiff of interest in a risk-free bid for an event that rakes in $500 million-plus for a regional economy?
Make no mistake: Based on all the above, plus the franchise's clout, it could happen. Even in time for the golden Super Bowl L.
The NFL might be happy to tick off James Harrison, but not the Rooneys.