ATLANTA – The owners of the 32 National Football League teams began gathering here today for three days of meetings, which will include a vote tomorrow selecting the site of the 2012 Super Bowl.
Indianapolis, league sources say, is the frontrunner. Houston and Phoenix also are competing to host the big game.
Entourages from all three cities are converging today on the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta’s Buckhead district. The Indianapolis contingent, led by Central Indiana Corporate Partnership President Mark Miles, is planning one last dress rehearsal tonight for its presentation.
Tomorrow, bid organizers will make their case that this relatively small, cold-weather market has the hotel rooms, restaurants and other amenities team owners demand in a Super Bowl host city.
Miles and his posse also are armed with a commitment from the local corporate community to add $25 million to the hosting effort.
Though cities seeking the Super Bowl often jockey for an advantage with elaborate presentations, NFL owners limit them to 15 minutes. Mayors and governors have been asked by NFL owners this year to stay out of the lobbying mix.
After the presentations, the owners usually spend an hour or two debating among themselves which city should host. The owners often narrow the selection to two finalists, then pick a winner.
Colts owner Jim Irsay will be a key lobbyist for Indianapolis. Last year, Indianapolis and Dallas beat out Phoenix for the finalist slots, but Dallas won the final vote 17-15. Dallas owner Jerry Jones sweetened the pot at the 11th hour last year with an offer to expand the Cowboys’ stadium by several thousand seats – to a total of 100,000. Dallas also added $23 million to its bid.
This year, the competition doesn’t appear as stiff. But with a typical Super Bowl drawing about 250,000 visitors to a host city and carrying an economic impact estimated at $300 million to $400 million, the three cities are expected to pull out all the stops to win.
“There’s a thought that Indianapolis and Jim Irsay have done everything they need to host a Super Bowl,” said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based consulting firm Sportcorp Ltd., which counts several NFL teams as clients. “You can never predict what these 32 owners will decide, but some think Indianapolis is in a solid position.”