NFL Commish kicks off Pro Bowl, Super Bowl; pushes stadium upgrades; plus Miami Dolphins season tickets up
With just two months until South Florida hosts its record-setting 10th Super Bowl, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in town today for the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee's kickoff luncheon. (Billboards counting down the days until both the Jan. 31 Pro Bowl and Feb . 7 Super Bowl are now up on I-95).
While he praised the region's hospitality and track record for hosting the big game, he also warned -- again -- that the Super Bowl won't be back unless Dolphin Stadium (currently Land Shark) stays current. A $250 million renovation that vastly spruced up the club level isn't enough to compete with newer, glitzier venues in Dallas, Indianapolis, Arizona, the commish said.
"I think the key thing, it’s a great community, they've done a great job hosting Super Bowls in the past, so I think they have that as an advantage," Goodell said of South Florida. "The key thing is making sure this stadium is state of the art and that it can compete with the stadiums in some of these other communities. They are moving to another level some of these stadiums."
It's not Goodell that makes the decision about Super Bowl host locations - it's the 32 owners. But you can be sure he knows the clubs' marching orders. Sure South Florida has its advantages, but without the lighting needed to high definition nighttime broadcasts and other amenities, the dual-purpose stadium won't be at the top of the owners' lists. Goodell and South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman Rodney Barreto say the Florida Marlins' move to a new ballpark, expected in 2012, presents a perfect opportunity to make what Dolphins owner Steve Ross calls "fine tuning" changes to the 22-year-old stadium.
Ross and Barreto say alterations and funding possibilities are being considered. While it's too early to say precisely what changes will be made and how they'll be paid for, it's quite likely we'll learn more soon since the region is bidding for the 2014 Super Bowl. The owners are expected to consider the 2014 site at their meeting in May.
Barreto said the community, which is awarded the game -- not the Dolphins -- needs to decide if it's worth the estimated $450 million to local businesses to host the game.
Meanwhile, Goodell said if the region successfully hosts the Pro Bowl on Jan. 31, that game could come back here regularly. South Florida's considered the test locale for the game being held prior to the Super Bowl and outside of Hawaii for the first time since 1980. So far, more than 45,000 tickets have been sold to the game. Goodell says he is hoping for a sellout and enthusiasm inside the stadium.
Ross, however, is hoping the Dolphins become the first team to both host and play in a Super Bowl at the same time. "I want to be the first city to host playing in the Super Bowl," he said. "That hasn’t happened yet and it should only happen in Miami. This year wouldn’t be soon enough."
Other topics Goodell addressed include the ongoing labor negotiations with the NFL Players Association, lengthening the regular season and replacing the NFL Experience. Goodell said the good news is the league and union are continuing to hold talks about a new contract. He said the regular season could be lengthened by shortening preseason. Goodell said fans don't like preseason games, but the league needs to be consider the impact on players.
He said the NFL Experience is being replaced in South Florida with a series of other community events since the region just hosted the Super Bowl in 2007.
+ The Dolphins just missed their goal of selling 50,000 season tickets for the 2009 season, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said. Even so, the team sold 49,415 full season tickets up 7 percent from 46,131 in 2008. Plus, some 10,000 represent new season ticket holders.