South Florida’s long shot bid for the 50th Super Bowl would bring a lavish festival to downtown Miami, with football played on a Navy aircraft carrier docked at Bayfront Park, a zipline ride over Bayside Marina and nightclubs set up on barges in the bay.
Rodney Barreto, head of South Florida’s bid committee for the Super Bowl, outlined the $21 million plan Thursday. At the same time, he also betrayed a sense that the failed effort for a subsidized renovation of Sun Life Stadium had all but defeated South Florida’s pursuit of the milestone game.
In the campaign for the stadium money, Barreto and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said a Sun Life rehab was essential if Miami Gardens was going to win the 50th game over rival San Francisco and that area’s new $1.2 billion stadium. The tax proposal died last week in the Florida Legislature, and Thursday’s unveiling conveyed the underdog status.
Several times during his presentation, Barreto referred to the plan for the 2016 game as something that could have been.
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“This would have been the main entry,” Barreto said at one point, and described an interactive cell phone feature as a game visitors “would have played.”
Nicki Grossman, Broward’s tourism director, several times corrected Barreto, and had him refer to the plan as something that will happen.
“I want to keep expectations low,” Barreto later joked.
Still, Barreto said hope is not lost and said NFL owners will have a “tough decision” on May 21 when they are slated to award the 50th game. He urged San Francisco to “put the cork back in the bottle” and be ready for tough competition. The loser will take on Houston for Super Bowl 51. Barreto said South Florida would scale down the plan for the 51st game if it managed to knock out Houston for the consolation prize. He did not provide details.
Also on Thursday, the San Jose Mercury News reported on the San Francisco plan, which highlighted Silicon Valley’s participation in pursuing the big game. NFL owners received the bid Wednesday in a white box containing an iPad, made by hometown icon Apple. Once opened, a magnetic sensor automatically started a video that includes Google Chairman Eric Schmidt promising the most tech-savvy Super Bowl in history.
San Francisco’s bid contains a commitment for the NFL’s full hotel request of about 20,000 rooms, according to the California paper, while South Florida said in bid documents it has secured only about 75 percent of the inventory in advance.
The Greater Miami tourism bureau earlier this year reported trouble booking rooms for one of the three weekends the NFL wants reserved for Super Bowl, since it conflicts with the Miami International Boat Show. The Greater Fort Lauderdale bureau had said promises to keep official Super Bowl events out of Broward — a key part of the Dolphins’ pursuit of Miami-Dade hotel taxes — were hurting advanced bookings for the game.
On Thursday, Grossman said her county understood the trade-off on taxes, and was a “very enthusiastic supporter” of the Super Bowl bid. Her Miami-Dade counterpart, William Talbert, called this “the best package this community has ever offered for a Super Bowl.”
The downtown plan transforms Miami’s commercial core into an NFL street festival, with a Ferris wheel overlooking Biscayne Bay. The area would run from the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center to the mouth of the Miami River, and be open during evenings and weekends for one or two weeks.
Barreto said that, despite cutbacks in federal spending, the Navy has agreed to moor an aircraft carrier in the inlet by the American Airlines Arena and cover the decks with artificial grass for celebrity football games.
A jumbo translucent football, attached to a zip line, would run over the water at the Bayside marina, and interactive video displays would play great NFL moments as visitors walked down a closed-off Biscayne Boulevard. Four barges moored off the Intercontinental Miami hotel would house temporary nightclubs.
Barreto declined to detail how the event would be paid for, and he briefly let reporters inspect the thick bid binder submitted to the NFL. On the reported $21 million cost, which would be paid for with sponsor dollars and some government funds, Barreto said: “Twenty million is nothing compared to what we are going to get in return.”
At the event in Sun Life, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee called the failed stadium tax plan the “elephant in the room.” The NFL typically rewards new and renovated stadiums with Super Bowls, and the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, went to Tallahassee to lobby for the Dolphin plan.
Dee said even without a $350 million renovation of Sun Life, the South Florida bid has its own merits.
“There has certainly been a lot written in the past week about what is not in this bid,” Dee said. “I was happy to hear today about all of the exciting things that are in the package.”