South Florida risks fielding a divided team for the 50th Super Bowl if it cant resolve a conflict with the Miami International Boat Show. Long a hassle for Super Bowl organizers, the boat show issue now seems to be something of a dividing line among local leaders charged with pursuing the countrys largest sporting event.
A recent planning meeting at Sun Life Stadium for the 2016 Super Bowl bid reportedly got heated when Miami-Dades tourism director, William Talbert, repeated his position that Miami cant play host to the Super Bowl and the boat show on the same weekend. The NFL may want to move its championship to Presidents Day Weekend, the boat shows home for decades, and the potential overlap has caused a rift among the key players that helped give South Florida a record 10 Super Bowls.
Weve worked great together in the past, and well work through this, said Rodney Barreto, the long-time head of South Floridas Super Bowl Host Committee. Were right in the middle of negotiating things.
Though the boat show has complicated South Floridas past Super Bowl bids, the pursuit of the anniversary game in 2016 has brought more challenges and intrigue than ever.
In 2010, the NFL began asking cities to reserve Presidents Day Weekend as one of three potential slots for the Super Bowl in case it ever extended the championship schedule into the middle of February. But South Floridas two main tourism bureaus previously have declined to pursue hosting the game if the NFL opted to hold it on the same weekend as the boat show. Instead, theyve jointly bid on only the remaining weekends.
But in recent weeks, Browards tourism bureau has signaled it wont go along with that approach for 2016.
I will not support a soft bid, said Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, a government agency. My county wont do it. A soft bid is anything short of what the NFL is looking for. Which is three weekends.
Grossman said Broward is ready to step in and be the Super Bowl hub if Miami-Dade cant because of the boat show. Thats in part what happened during the Super Bowls last trip to South Florida, in 2010, when most of the NFLs official events and facilities were housed in and around Fort Lauderdale.
But such a scenario could complicate matters for the Miami Dolphins as the team considers a pitch to use Miami-Dade hotel taxes to fund improvements to the teams stadium in Miami Gardens. The Dolphins and the NFL have said the improvements, including a partial roof, are crucial for capturing the 2016 Super Bowl from the other finalist, San Francisco, home to a new $1.2 billion stadium in nearby Santa Clara. The losing city will take on Houston for the 2017 Super Bowl.
Barreto, a partner in one of Miamis top lobbying firms, said he is in talks with boat show organizers about moving to another weekend for 2016. But if those negotiations fail, Barreto is also floating aggressive moves to let Miami accommodate the Super Bowl while the boat show takes place on Miami Beach. Those ideas include docking barges or even cruise ships in downtown Miami to accommodate NFL events and the throngs of fans, sponsors and media that come to the Super Bowl each year, according to people involved in the 2016 bid.
Housing Super Bowl visitors on ships is bound to invite comparisons to Jacksonvilles widely panned turn as a Super Bowl host in 2005, when a lack of hotel rooms forced organizers to turn to its port for help on accommodations. But the fact thatBarreto raised the option in private meetings reflects the priority being put on keeping Miami in the Super Bowl mix.
Were a big city that can hold multiple events in our town, Barreto said, while declining to confirm the cruise-ship idea. Im not totally convinced the boat show needs to move.
Central to the Super Bowl standoff is Talbert, president of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. In a Nov. 29 interview, he was adamant that the Miami area does not have enough hotel rooms for the Super Bowl, the boat show and the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, another major annualevent the same weekend. Talbert said its not physically possible in Miami to host Super Bowl during the Presidents Day weekend.
Talbert has not responded to interview requests about the Super Bowl since. But a closed-door meeting with the host committee at Sun Life late last week reportedly got tense when Talbert pushed back against Barretos contention that Miami could host both events, according to several sources close to the committee. Barreto said the meeting involved a very frank discussion but would not discuss details.
Amid the tension, the Dolphins and Barreto have established a vetting process for the 2016 Super Bowl that in some ways pits Miami against Fort Lauderdale. While past Super Bowls have purposely straddled the county line to justify receiving upward of $6 million from Broward and Miami-Dade governments, the NFL wants a smaller footprint for 2016, said Dolphins CEO Mike Dee.
Youre going to see this urban core area with a concentrated critical mass of activities in one place, Dee said.
That helps explain why, for the first time, Broward and Miami-Dades tourism bureaus made separate proposals to the Super Bowl host committee this year, rather than collaborating on a single plan, participants said.
I told the committee I thought our bids were usually stronger when we present together, Grossman said. This time the request was made to make our presentations individually. And we did. It heightened the air of competition.
Dee said that a rivalry always existed as the two counties vied for more visitors and events from past Super Bowls. And he noted that no matter where the pre-game NFL activities take place, the Super Bowl will bring a flood of visitors for the tens of thousands of hotel rooms in Miami-Dade and Broward County.
There is a lot on the line here and a lot of economic value, Dee said. Both counties recognize it, and want as big a piece of it as they can.