Miami Dolphins

Chilly in Atlanta? Here’s a hot thought: Super Bowl returns to new-look Miami in 2020

Miami, are you ready? Promo video 2020 Miami Super Bowl LIV with Pitbull

Video posted by Official Twitter of the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee 2020. Miami Superbowl LIV with Pitbull.
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Video posted by Official Twitter of the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee 2020. Miami Superbowl LIV with Pitbull.

Early Monday morning, after the Super Bowl trophy has been raised, the confetti fallen and the last celebratory libation imbibed, there will be one final handoff.

Not from quarterback to running back, but from Atlanta to Miami.

And by 8:30 a.m., South Florida will officially be on the clock.

America’s biggest game is headed back to Miami in 2020 after a decade away.

The first ceremony of many during the next 12 months? When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell literally hands the ball to Mayor Carlos Gimenez in the shadow of Atlanta’s football palace the morning after the league crowns a new champion.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross will be there, reveling in a moment that is only possible because he agreed to privately finance a half-billion renovation to the Dolphins’ 32-year-old stadium.

So will Rodney Barreto, who for the third time is chairing South Florida’s Super Bowl host committee.

Barreto will smile, pose for pictures, then fly home and get to work.

And to be clear, an ocean of work awaits him.

In 12 months, some 150,000 people are expected descend on Miami for a week of football, feasting and fraternizing.

And it’s Barreto’s job to make sure they see the best of a Miami that has changed in many ways since the Super Bowl was last in town.

“What’s new is Miami’s new,” Barreto said this week. “Look around. We didn’t have Brightline. We didn’t have Perez Art Museum, we didn’t have the Museum of Science. We didn’t have a tunnel. We didn’t have the neighborhoods of Wynwood and the Design District as you see them today.

“Look at Brickell,” Barreto continued. “Brickell’s on fire. I think you’re really seeing a different Miami. People are going to come to our town and see a completely different town. That is replicated in Fort Lauderdale. You’ve got all these different neighborhoods blowing up.”

Expect to hear that message time and again between Monday, when the committee is dropping a hype video narrated by what they are calling a very recognizable Miami voice, and Feb. 2, 2020.

Please, come to Miami to party.

But understand there’s so much more to the city than Hyde Beach and Club Space.

Said Janelle Prieto, the host committee’s vice president of communications: “We want to make sure people see Miami as not just a place that you come to party and you leave; no we live here, we raise our families here, we have businesses here, [and we’re environmentally] sustainable.”

Prieto, who is one of some 30 South Florida representatives here during frigid Super Bowl week to observe and evaluate, provided the Miami Herald a list of talking points next year’s event. The highlights?

Miami-Dade County will host the Super Bowl for a record 11th time in the NFL’s 100th season.

Aside from the game, the biggest event of the week will be Super Bowl Live, a free, weeklong festival in Bayfront Park featuring concerts, family-friendly activities, games and NFL exhibits.

“I think people see the Super Bowl and they go, ‘Oh, that’s something corporate, we can’t go,’” Prieto added. “It’s a free event and it’s going to allow all the communities to come together, really get a taste of what the NFL is and what the game is.”

The host committee also talked up economic benefits associated with the game, starting with the tens of thousands of full hotel rooms, packed restaurants and yes, overflowing nightclubs.

Barreto estimated the Super Bowl will bring a half-billion-dollar economic impact on the area, and while economists say those figures should be viewed with a degree of skepticism, there’s no question there will be a boost.

Which is why the county and city seem open to providing some sort of taxpayer-supported assistance to an operating budget expected to run well into eight figures.

Barreto would not say the exact dollar amount the committee is requesting from local governments, but conceded that his ambitious fundraising goal (from public and private sources) keeps him up nights.

“I’m negotiating with the city [of Miami] as we speak,” he added. “And I’ve been working with the county already. Everything’s good. The county’s a big part in this. You look at the return on their investment. And the return is through the roof. What I mean by that is a 30-second spot on the Super Bowl is $5 million now. You know how many 30-second spots we’re going to get for free for our community? I would say it’s north of $150 million. You couldn’t buy that.”

Barreto was proud to point out that, beyond a sales-tax exemption on game tickets, the committee held the line on other breaks that the NFL wanted during the bid process.

Aside from the financial demands, the Super Bowl needs an army of workers, both paid and unpaid, to work. The host committee wants 10,000 volunteers to act as ambassadors for the city. Those interested in applying can do so at the host committee’s website, MiamiSB2020.com.

Then there’s the daunting security challenge. Interagency planning meetings have already begun. The county sent a law enforcement delegation to Atlanta to meet with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and their Atlanta counterparts and tour Mercedes-Benz Stadium from a security perspective.

Barreto, who has been helping Miami host Super Bowls for three decades, says his biggest challenge in the coming year is “all the coordination of all the people involved.”

He continued: “Everything we do, we have to get pre-approval from the NFL. So if we go to sign up a sponsor, we’ve got to negotiate a whole deal, and then we take it to them and they have veto power. What’s going to be challenging to me is managing my calendar. My phone is blowing up with emails, LinkedIn. I’ve got everybody asking me, they want to become my friend. I’ve already got all things of people, standing in line, asking me to hold tickets and suites. That’s going to be the most challenging part, because I don’t want to disappoint anyone.”

That’s an impossible ask, of course, but Barreto has a pretty good track record of delivering. The NFL kept Super Bowls away from Miami for a decade, but that was purely a power play to force the Dolphins to upgrade their stadium. After countless failed attempts to convince taxpayers to pick up the tab, Ross agreed to largely pay for it himself.

He did get one concession out of the county: a $4 million bonus payment from the county’s hotel taxes for hosting the Super Bowl.

That first payment from the county is due in 2025 — which, incidentally, is when the Super Bowl might return for a 12th time.

Barreto has already filed paperwork with the league for Miami to be considered for the games in 2025, 2026 and 2027.

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Adam Beasley has covered the Dolphins for the Miami Herald since 2012, and has worked for the newspaper since 2006. He is a graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Communications and has written about sports professionally since 1996.
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