The bid for the 2018 Super Bowl could come down to Dallas and Indianapolis. And more succinctly, it could be Colts owner Jim Irsay vs. powerful Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Dallas and Indianapolis are among the six teams bidding for the 2018 Super Bowl. The other four are New Orleans, Miami, Tampa, Fla., and Minneapolis, NFL officials confirmed Monday.
Late Tuesday afternoon at a meeting in Washington, D.C., NFL team owners are expected to whittle down the list to two to four finalists, which then will deliver in-person presentations at the team owners’ meeting in May.
The city of New Orleans will be celebrating its 300th anniversary in 2018. Minneapolis will have a new stadium, and Tampa is thought to have a strong bid. But more than a few sources close to the league think Dallas and Indianapolis are the frontrunners to win the bid.
“A lot of times, it comes down to the clout of the team owners in terms of which city gets the Super Bowl bid,” said one source, who has worked closely with several NFL team owners. “Jim [Irsay] has increased the clout he had back when Indianapolis bid for the 2011 and 2012 Super Bowls. Jerry’s influence goes without saying.”
In 2007, Irsay lost a lobbying battle against Jones for the 2011 Super Bowl. But with Jones’ blessing, the source said, Indianapolis was granted the 2012 Super Bowl.
“I’d be stunned if Dallas and Indianapolis don’t make the cut today,” the source said. “I think New Orleans has an excellent chance as well.”
One thing that could hurt Dallas’ bid, league sources said, is that the owners voted to hold the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston, and they might be reluctant to host the game in the same state on consecutive years.
Colts owner Jim Irsay told NFL Media in an interview Monday that he thought Indianapolis had hosted one of the best Super Bowls in 2012, and that the city is in a strong position to win back the big game in 2018.
“It really was one of the finest Super Bowls,” Irsay said. “Indianapolis really is a unique Midwestern city that, quite frankly, can do it better than any other place in the country.”
If past performance is the primary factor, Indianapolis likely would win. The city was widely praised for hosting the event in 2012. Conversely, the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas was marred by several mishaps.
One of the biggest issues was the setup of the 100,000-seat Cowboys Stadium, now dubbed AT&T Stadium. Dozens of ticket holders were denied entrance because temporary seats were not set up properly. Lawsuits filed by ticket holders are still pending, and that could be a serious black eye against Dallas. But due to the size of Dallas' stadium and its amenities, a Dallas Super Bowl could generate millions more dollars for the league as one held in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Irsay knows he might need to lean on more than Indianapolis' limited track record as Super Bowl host to lure back such a lucrative event for the city. Irsay, sources said, has gotten much more politically savvy since Indianapolis lost its bid for the 2011 game, and has made it a point of stockpiling support from other owners over the last six years.
“I’m ready to go in and call in as many favors as I have to from the other 31 owners,” Irsay said when the city announced its bid at Lucas Oil Stadium on Aug. 30. “I’ve got some information on them and some various things I can use when the time comes. I always keep those in my back pocket. You’ll see me blitzing on every down when that comes. It’s always fun to go out there and really twist some arms.”
Irsay made those comments with a smile on his face, but he knows the influence he’ll need to exert this week and in May—if it comes to that—is serious business.