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Miami left behind by shifting realities facing Super Bowl hosts

BOSTON -- During a recent presentation in South Florida to assembled media about Miami's bid to hold the 50th installment of the NFL's Super Bowl, the chairman of the area's Super Bowl host committee made the ultimate Freudian slip.

Twice, Rodney Barreto used the past tense -- "This would have been the main entry," he said, while referencing a hypothetical Super Bowl Park -- as he laid out plans that now appear to be doomed because of an inability to find funding for stadium renovations.

"This is not the stadium we hoped we could include in the bid," Miami Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said.

By this point, most of us know about the Dolphins' failed efforts to gain public funding for a renovation of Sun Life Stadium. We also recognize that as the primary reason for South Florida's likely inability to build on its history as a Super Bowl host site.

But might we also be applying too much emphasis on this excuse?

As the league's 32 owners prepare to vote on the sites of Super Bowl L and Super Bowl LI on Tuesday at the NFL Spring Meeting in Boston, it is important to recognize an overlooked aspect of Miami's plight: It isn't just about an updated stadium. It's about an updated process.

Even if Dolphins owner Stephen Ross had been able to get public funding -- a big "if" that still would've required a successful vote by the community -- South Florida would still be facing far more competition to land a Super Bowl than ever before. Should San Francisco win Super Bowl L, Miami will be up against Houston for Super Bowl LI.

"As you can tell from the last 10 or 15 years of the Super Bowl, there are more and more cities interested in hosting them," said Frank Supovitz, the NFL's senior vice president of events. "They've gone to non-traditional sites, those you don't automatically associate with the rotation. Not just New Orleans. Not just Miami. Detroit had one. Indianapolis had one. New York will have one. And now San Francisco is vying for one. The number of competitive regions has increased."

The league's willingness to step outside the box -- deliberately going to a cold-weather venue in New Jersey's MetLife Stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII -- has created a surge in the number of cities that now believe themselves capable of hosting the big game. That belief has led to major efforts to improve other venues for consideration.

While the NFL says the development of new stadiums is nothing more than an organic byproduct (not a strategic incentive) of the Super Bowl hosting process, the formula is working. It just doesn't seem to be working very well for Miami.

"It hasn't been a strategy of the NFL (to award Super Bowls to teams with new stadiums)," Supovitz said. "But it's come to us as a happy consequence."

In other words ... It takes more than sunshine and hotels to land a Super Bowl these days. An exceptional bid (like the one San Francisco has prepared for Super Bowl L) is required to even gain consideration. And an exceptional bid, of course, requires a venue of exceptional potential with regard to hosting the big game.

The NFL is also now entering the bidding process with a very different approach altogether. Until recently, Supovitz said, the league would accept bids from any city. But after the league rewarded the New York area with a Super Bowl, it recognized an opportunity to decide, years in advance, what type of game it would like the title match to be.

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No longer are you likely to see a city like New York up against a city like Miami. Instead, the league plans to pit cities against one another with specific strategies in mind. For example, the NFL knew it wanted to follow the New York Super Bowl with a game at a warm-weather site. So after several cities put their names in the hat for 2015, the league narrowed the list down to two -- Glendale, Ariz. (the eventual winner) and Tampa, Fla. -- that were then allowed to put together a bid.

"Not that long ago, there really was no strategy in determining where the best place to have the Super Bowl was going to be," Supovitz said. "We could have three winter Super Bowls in a row. We could have a warm-weather site competing against new buildings in new cities.

"Now, we're trying to have sites competing on a strategic basis."

For instance, the league wanted to hold Super Bowl L in a place that reflects Super Bowl tradition. Miami has hosted 10 Super Bowls before, while California was the site of the league's first Super Bowl. Both sites' bids include considerable references to the game's history.

However, the bottom line for Miami, which has relied on its desirable geography and exceptional social scene, is that it will have fewer opportunities to host the big game. And without a first-class venue, those opportunities will be even more difficult to win.

So, yes, South Florida's inability to get an updated stadium has likely thwarted its efforts to be named the site of Super Bowl L, especially considering the San Francisco 49ers' beautiful new stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. But it's worth noting that San Francisco's plan, which includes efforts to make it the most technologically advanced in-game experience ever, is precisely the type of proposal NFL owners are looking for.

"It's an evolution," Supovitz said. "It's a lot different than it was 10 years ago, five years ago, quite frankly, three years ago. There are a lot of changes to it. Our job is to put incredible proposals in front of the owners, and if they are confused to which is a better proposal, we've done a good job."

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @JeffDarlington.

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