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John DeShazier: New Orleans' Super Bowl bid 'put our best foot forward'

Posted May 20, 2014

But public funding of Minneapolis' stadium too much to overcome

Atlanta – NFL owners on Tuesday bypassed one pattern in favor of another one, as Minneapolis was awarded Super Bowl LII in 2018 ahead of New Orleans, which was vying for its NFL-record 11thSuper Bowl.

New Orleans had been successful in each of its previous 10 bids. But Minneapolis, which is building a $1 billion stadium, will utilize around $500 million in public funds to construct the facility.

Ultimately, that investment helped Minneapolis fend off the bid which would have put the game in New Orleans during the city’s 300-year celebration.

“It is hard, it’s hard on every one of us because a lot of work goes into this,” said Steve Perry, CED of the New Orleans Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Perry was one of the two speakers from New Orleans who addressed NFL owners during the committee’s presentation.

“It’s such an incredible fit for our city,” he said. “But at the same time, the league has got to reward great levels of taxpayer investment. Half a billion dollars, the taxpayers put in in Minnesota. The stadium is beautiful and I think that was the deciding factor.

“This business is a public-private partnership business. The investment of the public sector in making these franchises successful – just like we did, look at the money we’ve put into the Superdome, the incentives with the Saints – these things matter. This was a tough decision for the owners, you could tell. You could sense it in the room.”

The vote count wasn’t disclosed. Indianapolis was the third finalist, and was the first city eliminated.

New Orleans last hosted the Super Bowl in 2013; Minneapolis, in 1992.

“I would like to congratulate Minnesota on securing Super Bowl LII and to applaud Indianapolis on a great bid,” Saints Owner Tom Benson said. “I want to thank the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and everyone from our great city and state that worked tirelessly to put forth the best Super Bowl bid I have ever been a part of.

“We will be back in the mix to get another Super Bowl to New Orleans soon, as we stated in our presentation. New Orleans is the perfect Super Bowl city.”

Following his speech to his fellow owners after New Orleans’ presentation, Benson tripped and fell as he left the podium. He was taken to an Atlanta hospital before going back to New Orleans.

“Following my presentation, I accidentally tripped and hit my head, having had knee surgery just over a week ago,” Benson said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, the doctors wanted to clear me before we fly back home (Tuesday night).”

The New Orleans contingent said it understood the NFL’s trend of leaning toward cities that have constructed, or are on the verge of constructing, stadiums with significant aid from public funds.

“At the end of the day, Minnesota, particularly with the public money, really swayed the owners with the decision,” said Rod West, CAO of Entergy Corporation and the other speaker for the New Orleans committee. “It was close, it went down to the wire, they went through the different voting sessions and we suspected that it might come down to us and Minnesota. They ultimately won it. We’re happy for them, we’re sad that New Orleans didn’t get it and I hope they’re going to put on a great show.

“I think one of the major advantages that Minnesota had – and we knew that coming in – was that they were building a stadium where the public put up nearly half of that money. And let’s be clear – the NFL has a history of rewarding those cities that put that good faith forward to build stadiums. They rewarded New Orleans when we did it after (Hurricane) Katrina.

“So it’s not a shock. Of course, we’re disappointed. We came here to win it. But we wish Minnesota well and we’re going to do everything we can to put New Orleans in position the next chance we have to get a Super Bowl.”

The committee stressed the belief that the vote was more about what Minneapolis did, and less about what New Orleans did not do.

“We nailed it,” said Jay Cicero, president/CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation. “We did everything that we were supposed to do, on time. The videos were fantastic, the speaking was fantastic, the financial offer that we put together was very competitive and we were right there. In the end, we feel it was the new stadium that did it for Minnesota, and we congratulate them.”

But the setback, the contingent vowed, only will be temporary.

“It’s a loss,” West said. “We came here to win it, let’s be clear. We did not come here to show. We didn’t come here just to put on a good show. We came to Atlanta to bring the Super Bowl back to New Orleans. We didn’t get that, and so we’re a little down about it. But one thing New Orleanians should be proud of, we put our best foot forward. We didn’t leave anything to chance.

“This is an ongoing opportunity for the city of New Orleans. We won’t have the Super Bowl for our tri-centennial. We may have it soon after, because the first chance the NFL gives us to come back, we’ll be back.”

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