Super Bowl passes on Atlanta
Weather a factor, but some surprised by snub
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/25/05
National Football League owners voted Wednesday not to bring the Super Bowl
to Atlanta in 2009, and Falcons owner Arthur Blank responded with a pledge to
crash the party.
"As I said to the governor and the mayor, 'I promise you in 2009 we'll be
there, but we'll be playing,'" Blank said. "And hopefully we'll be in a number
of Super Bowls prior to that. . . . That's an area we can control. We don't have
to wait for 31 other owners to vote to support that."
After eliminating Houston and Miami on the first two ballots in a hotel
ballroom here Wednesday, NFL owners chose Tampa over Atlanta on the final ballot
as host of Super Bowl XLIII. Blank and other members of Atlanta's bid group
believe the ice storm that disrupted the city's 2000 Super Bowl worked against
them, and owners of several other teams agreed.
"I think the issue was primarily the weather," Blank said.
"The weather hurt Atlanta; no doubt about that, the fact we had the ice storm
there the last time," Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said.
The Atlanta group tried to overcome memories of the ice by emphasizing plans
for up to $150 million in renovations of the state-owned Georgia Dome -
renovations that the Falcons felt could be fasttracked by a Super Bowl date.
After that pitch did not trump Tampa's promises of sunshine, Blank reiterated
his commitment to the renovations.
"Arthur Blank has been very clear in his communications with me - win or lose
[the Super Bowl bid], his efforts in that area of enhancing the fan experience
would continue," said Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who joined Atlanta Mayor
Shirley Franklin in speaking to the NFL owners before Wednesday's vote.
Blank has offered to fund the renovations but wants to work out a new
financial arrangement with the state that would increase the Falcons' revenue
from the Dome.
"As a member of the public sector, I'm always interested in private partners
coming in with capital to help us enhance," Perdue said, "and we'll do it in a
good-business, win-win deal for both of us."
The four cities competing for the 2009 Super Bowl made 15-minute, closed-door
presentations to the NFL owners Wednesday, with Atlanta's including a video that
showed the governor as a University of Georgia football player. Each prospective
host team's owner made a five-minute appeal. Then, after a comparative financial
analysis of the bids by NFL staff, the voting began by secret ballot.
Seventy-five percent of the votes were necessary to win on the first or
second ballot, which no city achieved. The city with the lowest vote total on
each ballot was eliminated. Houston was eliminated first - much to the surprise
of the Atlanta group, which had considered Houston strong competition - and then
That left Atlanta and Tampa, and when neither got 75 percent of the votes on
the third ballot only a simple majority was needed to win on the fourth.
"One of the owners said to me, 'It's sort of like giving birth,'" Blank said
of the tense process. "We're pacing around the room while everybody is voting."
Minutes after the final vote was taken, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue
walked down the hall and told the media: "I'm very pleased to announce the city
selected by the owners is . . . Tampa Bay." The vote count was not disclosed,
even to the teams.
The 2009 game will be Tampa's fourth Super Bowl. It also had the game in
2001, 1991 and 1984.
"We were in the game until the end," Perdue said of Atlanta's 2009 bid. "You
can't lose what you don't have. That's the way I look at it. This was a stretch,
and by golly, we're going to play the game, we're going to compete. And we were
there for the last vote."
The NFL has demonstrated willingness in recent years to place the Super Bowl
in far worse winter climates than Atlanta's, but only when the game was used as
incentive to get a new stadium built. The 2006 game will be played in Detroit's
new stadium, and the 2010 game has been committed to New York, conditional on
the Jets' proposed Manhattan stadium being built.
Atlanta's bid group hoped Blank's planned stadium renovations would garner
some votes for the 2009 game. "I don't know whether they did or didn't," Blank
said afterward, "but I know they are terribly important for our fans and the
community and our football club."
The Atlanta group also tried to defuse the weather issue by pointing out the
city's average temperature on the past five Super Bowl Sundays - 54.5 degrees,
Atlanta Sports Council president Gary Stokan said - and the statistical
improbability of another icy Super Bowl week in the city.
"I was really surprised," Steelers owner Dan Rooney said. "I thought Atlanta
was going to get it; I think they made a wonderful presentation. Tampa made a
good presentation, too, and the main thing they were able to say is we did it
the last time [the 2001 Super Bowl] and everything was perfect, and that was
"That's not normal for Atlanta," Blank said of the 2000 ice storm, "but I'm
sure a lot of people remember that experience.
"If you want to be assured of great weather, you have to have the Super Bowl
in Hawaii or somewhere in the Caribbean. [But] the laws of percentages are
certainly higher for great weather as you move south in Florida or Arizona."
Losing the 2009 vote could mean that Atlanta will have a long wait before
playing host to another Super Bowl. A lengthy line of cities with new stadiums
in the works expect to be rewarded with Super Bowls.
"I think it'll be a while before we'll be able to get back in the rotation,"
Blank said, "but we'll wait our turn. . . . There's a long runway now of new
stadiums that are [planned], and often along with a commitment for a new stadium
comes a commitment for a Super Bowl, so that will be an issue going forward. . .
. But Atlanta certainly will be ready at any time."
League officials said Tampa, at the urging of the Super Bowl advisory
committee, changed the percentage of Super Bowl concession revenues that will go
to the league to be in line with other bids. Tampa also promised to give the 31
NFL owners 150 tickets each to a party at Tampa's Busch Gardens the night before
the big game. Owners, in turn, can distribute them to their corporate sponsors,
suite holders or whomever they like. "Everybody does that kind of thing," Rooney
Tampa owner Malcolm Glazer said, "It's such a wonderful community, and
wonderful weather. What a combination."
Yet shortly after the announcement, when members of the Tampa committee were
seen and heard cheering as they came down a big staircase in the Ritz-Carlton
Hotel, surprise took over.
"You really didn't hear that much about Tampa beforehand," Houston's McNair
said. "It's a smaller city, and people have to stay in Orlando and these other
places, and they don't have the facilities. The stadium is fine, and the weather
is fine, but that's it. I have no explanation."
Said Franklin, Atlanta's mayor, "we are planning to go to the Super Bowl with
the Falcons. We're going to be there, anyway."