On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at: **MurphyTakes5@packers.com*.*
At the NFL owners' spring meeting in Charlotte last week, the main item on the agenda was the selection of the host cities for Super Bowls LIII, LIV and LV in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. It is very rare to have the host cities for three Super Bowls determined at one meeting, so there was a lot of interest across the league in these three votes.
A total of five cities (Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans and Tampa) bid on the Super Bowls. It was complicated, though, because the five cities didn't bid on all three Super Bowls. New Orleans, which has hosted 10 Super Bowls (more than any other city), could only host the Super Bowl in 2019 because of conflicts with Mardi Gras in 2020 and 2021. (This gives you a good idea of how important the Mardi Gras is to New Orleans!) Ultimately, Los Angeles only bid on the Super Bowl in 2021, to ensure that construction in and around its new stadium would be completed to host the Super Bowl. There was also an understanding that no city would host more than one of these three Super Bowls.
Representatives from each of the cities attended the meeting and made presentations highlighting the strengths of the city, the stadium and their bid. Each bidding city's NFL owner also had the opportunity to speak to the owners. Separate votes were then taken for each Super Bowl. If a city received three-quarters of the votes (24) on the first ballot, it was awarded the Super Bowl. If no city received enough votes, one city was eliminated. The process continued until a city received 24 votes or the field was narrowed down to two cities, and a city received a majority of the votes.
Heading into the selection process, I thought Atlanta and Los Angeles were good bets to host Super Bowls. They will both have new stadiums and have received public funding. The owners have, in the past, liked to reward cities that have provided funding for new stadiums with a Super Bowl. So, the main question was what Super Bowls would Atlanta and Los Angeles host. Atlanta bid on all three Super Bowls, while Los Angeles bid initially on the Super Bowls in 2020 and 2021, but ended up only bidding on 2021. Atlanta ended up winning a very close contest over New Orleans to host the Super Bowl in 2019. There was quite a bit of support for New Orleans. It is a great city to host a Super Bowl, with almost all hotel rooms within walking distance of the stadium and the amenities in the area. In the end, though, Atlanta prevailed on the strength of its spectacular new stadium and the public funding for the stadium. When Los Angeles withdrew its bid for the 2020 Super Bowl, two things became clear – Los Angeles would host the 2021 Super Bowl and the 2020 Super Bowl would be in either Miami or Tampa Bay. Miami ended up prevailing primarily because of the major renovations that will be made to its stadium, all funded by Dolphins' owner Stephen Ross. Also, Miami has a great history of successfully hosting Super Bowls and obviously has great weather in February.
The Super Bowl has become a major event within the country, almost like a national holiday. Hosting a Super Bowl has a tremendous economic impact on a city, as well as generating international publicity for the city and local community. Given the fact that there is so much at stake, it is not surprising that so many cities want to host a Super Bowl.
Now, on to your questions:
Charles from Denver
Hi Mr. Murphy. My question to you is would you ever like the Super Bowl to be played at Lambeau Field?
Thanks, Charles. I am often asked this question by fans. I would love for a Super Bowl to be held at Lambeau Field – it would be great for the local community as well as the Packers. However, I think it is highly unlikely that we would ever host a Super Bowl for several reasons. First, with an open-air stadium, the weather in Green Bay in early February would be a real concern. The Super Bowl was held several years ago in New York – the first time ever that a Super Bowl was held in a northern city in an open-air stadium. I see this as a one-time event (the key factor in selecting New York was the opportunity to benefit the New York community after the 9/11 tragedy, and for providing public support for the stadium for two NFL teams), though, and not a precedent. Also, we are well below the NFL requirement for hotel rooms in the area (we have approximately 4,100 rooms in Green Bay, with a requirement of 20,000). We also only have one indoor practice facility in the area. As I discussed in the column above, the bid process for hosting a Super Bowl is very competitive, and the benefit to local communities is significant (estimates of the economic impact of hosting a Super Bowl vary from $200 million to $300 million). While we realize that hosting a Super Bowl here is a long shot, we will try to host as many home playoff games as possible.
Bill Jones, Menominee, MI
Do you anticipate teams will squib-kick more often to encourage kickoff returns now that a touchback is brought to the 25-yard line?
Great question, Bill. I believe teams will use the squib or mortar (high, short) kick to try to pin the opponent inside the 15- to 20-yard line, rather than to encourage returns. We actually had a lot of discussion at the league meeting regarding this issue. I would say that this is an open issue as to how teams will handle the new rule, and that is the reason that the rule was passed for one year only. We want to see what teams actually do as a result of the new rule. When the NCAA moved the touchback to the 25-yard line, they did not see a lot of squib or mortar kicks, but their kickers are not as talented as ours. It will be interesting to see what teams do – they will be tempted to try to pin teams back, but the risk is high, because if the kicker misses the kick and it goes out of bounds, the team will get the ball on the 40-yard line.
Ray Lombardi from Clark, NJ
Mark, I understand you are on the competition committee. One rule that is not fair is "hands to the face" is a penalty for everyone except the ball carrier. A runner with the ball can use a straight arm to the face of a defender, which is not only an unfair advantage, but unsafe. Can you lobby to make "hands to the face" a penalty for everyone?
Actually, Ray, the hands-to-the-face penalty does apply to all players, including ball carriers. You're right, though, in the sense that it is very rarely called against a runner. Several years ago, calling this penalty against ball carriers was actually a point of emphasis for our officials. As a former defensive back, I realize I might be biased on the issue, but when ball carriers put their hands in the face of a defender, it gives them a big advantage. The defender has very little to grab onto in this situation, and often ends up being called for a facemask or horse-collar penalty.
Adilson from Rotterdam, the Netherlands
I was just curious to know how far along the plans are to solve the parking problem around the Titletown District project. A lot of parking space will be lost with the project and for a team that is always sold out (even for a practice with Family Night) that seems like an inconvenience to say the least. Last October you said you are looking into putting a parking structure on the west end of Titletown and I'm interested to know if there has been any progress with those plans.
First, Adilson, it's great to hear from fans like you in Europe. We appreciate your support of the Packers. Parking is obviously a very important issue for us on gameday, and, with the addition of the Titletown District, we've spent a lot of time recently studying this issue. We think next season will be the most challenging for us from a parking standpoint because the entire Titletown District will be under construction, and there will be no parking available in this area. Anticipating this issue, though, we purchased quite a bit of land south of the stadium, and have created new parking lots in this area. Also, for the 2016 season, we will have a large number of our employees park at the Packers Pro Shop warehouse on Ashland Ave. (one mile away), and shuttle them to the stadium. Long term, we will have a lot of surface parking available around Titletown, and we are still studying the possibility of a parking structure in the southwest portion of Titletown. Interestingly, we don't have nearly enough parking for our fans at the stadium and the adjacent lots. We've had to rely on homeowners and business owners in the area to provide the needed parking on gamedays. I anticipate that there will be opportunities for additional neighbors to provide parking over the next few years. Also, we've worked very closely with Green Bay Metro in recent years on their gameday bus service. The bus service has proven to be very popular, and ridership has steadily increased each year (last season, more than 26,000 people rode the bus to and from games).
Dave from Orlando
I was excited to see that the NFL is moving the Pro Bowl to Orlando next year. Do you think this will be a permanent move?
It will be interesting to see if Orlando becomes a permanent site, Dave. The Pro Bowl has been played primarily in Honolulu for the last 35 years. In the 1970s, the Pro Bowl was held in NFL cities, but many players decided not to play in the game. By moving to Honolulu, the hope was that more of the top players would play in the game because of the tropical location. But the quality of play in the game has declined over the years, and the league and the NFLPA recently adopted a new format and new rules to try to make the game more exciting. The game used to be held the week after the Super Bowl, and really became an afterthought, so the ratings and attendance dropped. Several years ago, the league moved the Pro Bowl to the Sunday before the Super Bowl, and this has proven to be a boon to ratings for the game. It also serves as a three-hour promotion of the Super Bowl (the network broadcasting the Super Bowl also broadcasts the Pro Bowl), and has helped to produce record ratings for the Super Bowl in recent years. Also, on two occasions when the Super Bowl has been played in a warm-weather site (Miami, Phoenix), the league has held the Pro Bowl at the Super Bowl site.
In response to your question, I do think there is a good chance that Orlando could become a permanent site. The league has decided to put a real focus on youth football around the Pro Bowl. They are calling it a Youthful Celebration of Football. I can't think of a better place to celebrate youth than Orlando, with Disney and all the other family-oriented amenities located in the Orlando area. The league will host its NFL Flag Football Championships the week of the Pro Bowl. Also, USA Football will hold its annual national convention that week in Orlando. The Pro Bowl will be held in the Citrus Bowl, which was recently renovated. Last year, over 8 million people watched the Pro Bowl and the audience skewed much younger than a typical game, another indication that focusing on young families and youth football players makes a lot of sense. I also think that the NFL players, especially those with young children, will enjoy the week in Orlando. Obviously, Orlando will have to do a good job of hosting the Pro Bowl and the other events during the week, but I think Orlando has a chance to have a long run as host of the Pro Bowl.