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South Florida, San Francisco finalists for hosting Super Bowl in 2016

The National Football League on Tuesday named South Florida as a finalist to host Super Bowls in 2016 or 2017 — and a push for a renovated stadium might be a key to winning a bid.

The competition pits Sun Life Stadium against San Francisco and Houston, and the contest could be a prelude to the Dolphins revving up efforts for tax dollars to fund a $225 million renovation.

The NFL is also giving South Florida a chance to reclaim its title as the league’s top host for the nation’s biggest sporting event.

This February, New Orleans will host its 10th Super Bowl, tying South Florida for hosting the most games.

According to the NFL’s announcement, the runner-up for 2016 will vie against Houston for the game in 2017.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday night that several team owners have said that if the Super Bowl returns to Miami Gardens, major upgrades to the building would be required.

The Dolphins have said that the major upgrade that is needed is a partial roof that could shield fans from the elements. In 2007, Super Bowl ticket holders were drenched by a rare February downpour.

During a press conference Tuesday in Chicago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the Dolphins “feel that [renovations] are a large part of their bid.”

But a short time later, Mike Dee, who is the Dolphins’ chief executive officer, said that the organization was “not pursuing anything” after he was asked about the possibility of getting public funds to renovate the 25-year-old stadium. The Dolphins’ application to host the game made no reference to any potential renovations, he said.

Added Frank Supovitz, a top NFL executive: “I really don’t have any insight as to how renovations would play for a bid, except to say you do have two strong contenders with which you’re competing and they both have state-of-the-art facilities.”

While the NFL has recently given greater weight to the condition of a potential venue than its location, there is a feeling within the Dolphins organization that the NFL might make an exception with Super Bowl L. But here is what Miami is up against: The San Francisco Bay area is home to a new $1.2 billion stadium set for completion in 2014. Houstonopened a retractable-roof stadium in 2002 — 15 years after Sun Life Stadium.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins’ stadium lacks high-definition lighting, seats close to the action and a roof to keep their fans dry — all of which are standard in most new facilities.

“We’re not there yet. I don’t know,” Rodney Barreto, chairman of South Florida’s Host Committee for the Super Bowl, said when asked if proposed renovations will be part of the final pitch.

“We’re going to reach out to community leaders and the community leadership,” he said. “I’ve got to see if there [will be] any preconditions from the NFL” requiring renovations.

Concerns about the conditions of the stadiums have been widespread since South Florida’s last Super Bowl bid. When Supovitz addressed the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce in 2009, for instance, he warned that South Florida would have a harder time winning Super Bowls with the current facility.

“I’m not going to have anyone rained on in North Texas,” Supovitz told the business group, referring to the Dallas Cowboys’ new $1 billion stadium.

Nicki Grossman, Broward’s tourism director, agreed that an NFL city with a new stadium is always a strong contender for a Super Bowl. Still, she said South Florida should have a good shot at landing the 50th anniversary game.

“I’m happy with South Florida’s chances,” she said. “We’re going to have to work at it.”

However, another potential wrench for South Florida’s Super Bowl is Miami Beach’s tourism calendar.

When the NFL proposed delaying Super Bowl until President’s Day in 2014, South Florida said it would reject the championship game because the Miami International Boat Show is held on the same weekend. That event already packs hotels and event venues, and Miami-Dade tourism officials said they would not want to host Super Bowl at the same time.

“I don’t know that that’s on the table,” said William Talbert, head of Miami-Dade’s tourism bureau, referring to having the game held on President’s Day week. “If it is, we’ll sit down and seriously look at it.”

Miami Herald staff writer Hannah Sampson contributed to this report.

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