Win For H-Town
It's a Super Day for Houston. The NFL just awarded the city Super Bowl LI in 2017, adding more punch to the notion that Houston is the city of the future. It's certainly become the city of mammoth sporting events.
Houston beat out Miami as the host of Super Bowl LI after San Francisco was awarded Super Bowl L in 2016. The decision was made in a vote in a high-end Boston hotel, but as is typical with the NFL these days, it played out as a TV show on the NFL Network. Complete with "pregame analysis" and reporters embedded in each bid city's war room.
It'd be easy to say Miami lost this Super Bowl more than Houston won it. The Dolphins stadium situation — the Florida Legislature refused to even hear the bill that would have put a $350 million referendum for stadium improvements on the ballot — essentially crippled the South Florida bid.
"Houston has been virtually reborn since we hosted Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004," said Houston bid chairman Ric Campo.
Now there's talk that Miami could become the next San Diego, a longtime Super Bowl regular that now has no chance to get the game again.
It's easy to say this is all about Miami's failings, but it's also wrong. Even if Miami had its stadium act together, Houston would have been more deserving of the big game.
"I think Houston just had a better package overall," Houston bid chairman Ric Campo said on the NFL Network moments after the Bayou City win was revealed.
Houston getting the game was expected, but that didn't make the celebration any more subdued in the Houston bid room. And now thoughts are already moving forward to the game and Houston's chance to make a major impact.
"We're going to put on a party no one has seen in a long time," Campo said.
Houston is fast becoming a mecca for major sports events. It hosted the Final Four in 2011 and gets college basketball's showcase again in 2016 (the year before Super Bowl LI). The NBA All-Star Game called Houston home for the second time in only eight years last February. Minute Maid Park hosted the MLB All-Star Game in 2004 and figures to get another crack soon. And, of course, the Super Bowl was there in 2004.
Mayor Annise Parker likes to say that Houston knows how to throw a party.
This Super Bowl bid — like the successful Final Four pitches before it — used Discovery Green and the ability to stage big-name concerts in the park and host a massive NFL Experience in the George R. Brown Convention Center as a huge selling point. The big game will be played at Reliant Stadium, with its new massive scoreboards. But in many ways, Super Bowl week will center around Discovery Green.
Of course, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair was smart enough to dangle some other special perks in front of his fellow billionaire owners. McNair promoted a private, dedicated runway at Ellington Field for the NFL's owners jets during the week of Super Bowl 51.
"It's a happy moment for us," McNair said in a live TV interview.
Campo presented Houston's bid to the owners, going third after both Miami and San Francisco presented. Campo's presentation included three different videos — including an introductory pitch from former Secretary of State James Baker III.
Campo touted Houston's diversity as the perfect stage to launch the next 50 years of Super Bowls. He also cited its recent recognition in Forbes magazine and the New York Times for being "the coolest city" in America and one of the top 10 cities in the world to visit, respectively.
"Houston has been virtually reborn since we hosted Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004," Campo said in part of the presentation broadcast by the NFL. "Houston is an international business city. We're pretty hip as well."
And Super deserving.