By Barry Wilner
HOUSTON — Ah, Arizona. Just the place for the Super Bowl to thaw out after a frosty foray into the New York/New Jersey area.
The Super Bowl is heading back to the desert in 2015, one year after it will be at the mercy of winter weather in the Meadowlands. The Phoenix area was awarded the 49th Super Bowl by NFL owners Tuesday, beating the only other candidate — Tampa, Fla.
It will be the third time the Phoenix area has hosted the game, which will be played in Glendale.
“We are thrilled to be back in Arizona,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “I will say it was a difficult choice.”
Phoenix won on the second ballot, prompting screams of joy from the Arizona committee.
“Everyone pulled together throughout the Phoenix area to put together a terrific package we were able to present to the owners,” Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said. “We are delighted.”
It’s difficult to be critical of the choice weather-wise: average temperature in early February in Glendale is about 60 degrees. In East Rutherford, N.J., where the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather climate will be played in 2014, the average is a slightly chillier 31 degrees.
The NFL also set Feb. 2, 2014, as the date of the Super Bowl in New Jersey; that date will not conflict with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“It’s historically warmer on Feb. 2,” Giants owner John Mara said with a smile. He didn’t mention the possibility of snow, freezing rain, blustery winds and all the accompanying elements.
That will not be a factor in Arizona. The NFL has seemed eager to return to the Valley of the Sun since the Giants’ upset of the then-unbeaten Patriots on Feb. 3, 2008 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Tempe, Ariz., was the 1996 host, with Dallas defeating Pittsburgh 27-17.
“This is huge for Arizona,” bid leader Mike Kennedy said. “It feels really satisfying.”
Tampa hosted the game in 1984, 1991, 2001 and 2009.
“Both cities are great sites for the Super Bowl and both had impressive bids,” added Mara, whose team has won championships in both places. “They’ve each been to the altar a few times recently and were denied. They both deserve to host a game again.”
Next year’s game is indoors in Indianapolis, followed by New Orleans in 2013 and then the Big (possibly frozen) Apple.
There is speculation that the 50th championship game in 2016 will wind up in Los Angeles, where the first Super Bowl was played in 1967, if a suitable stadium is available.
“That is a significant event for us,” Goodell said, “and we want to make sure we do it right. I don’t think there is anything off the table on who would host it.”
The league is keeping close tabs on two potential stadium projects in Los Angeles.
“We think there are two opportunities in Los Angeles and we are going to pursue both of them aggressively,” Goodell said.
Neither Arizona nor Tampa received the required 24 of 32 votes on the first ballot Tuesday, meaning a simple majority was needed on the next vote.
Goodell spoke with the Tampa Bay group immediately after it lost the bidding.
“Anytime we are invited to participate, we will do so,” said Paul Catoe, outgoing CEO of Tampa Bay & Co.
Bidwill said the estimated economic impact in Arizona in 2008 was more than $500 million, and he expects it to be higher in 2015. While that number seems high because subsequent Super Bowls didn’t reach that level, it’s still a major boon to local business.
“The impact is in the multihundred millions of dollars, and that is significant value for any community,” said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based sports business consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd., and an observer of the league’s business side. “The Super Bowl also provides a positive target for a community to rally around. There are all sorts of activities — business, volunteer, political — that can be pointed to when they host the Super Bowl.”
Ganis also points out that the Phoenix area has enough first-class hotels for the Super Bowl. That has been a challenge for Tampa, which has involved Orlando and Sarasota and other areas in its bids.
Later Tuesday, owners approved a resolution to play regular-season games in Britain through 2016. Teams can volunteer to play at least one regular-season home game per year in Britain for up to five years. Goodell said several teams have expressed interest and there are financial incentives for hosting games overseas. Visiting teams can play abroad only once in five years.
Tampa Bay will host Chicago on Oct. 23 in London, the fifth straight year the NFL has held an October game there. The Buccaneers will be making their second London appearance in three years; they lost to New England 35-7 in 2009.
Several teams that struggle to sell out home games, such as the Jaguars, Raiders, Bengals and Chargers, could be in line for more frequent trips overseas.
No specifics on venues, dates or teams for future games have been set, but Goodell made it clear more games in London are coming, perhaps two next season.
“We are very pleased with the reception to the game and the way our business has grown over there,” he said. “Can it be sustained for multiple games?”
The meetings began with a five-minute NFL Films tribute to Al Davis; the Oakland Raiders owner died on Saturday.