Why Pittsburgh is unlikely to host Super Bowl in 2023
February 3, 2016 2:36 PM
Heinz Field, as seen from the Spirit of Goodyear blimp in 2001. Without a domed roof or significant upgrades, it likely will not be viable to house the Super Bowl in 2023.
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Super Bowl takes place Sunday in the San Francisco Bay area for just the second time in the 50 years of the game, which should be a lesson for Pittsburgh.
If the city wants a Super Bowl, build a new stadium. Pittsburgh likely still would not get one, but it would help if it put a dome on that new stadium, built more and bigger hotels and also created a public transportation system, like BART in San Francisco, that actually goes places.
Every once in a while, Steelers president Art Rooney II is asked about his team’s chances to land a Super Bowl for Pittsburgh. The Steelers filed an application with the NFL last year seeking the Super Bowl in 2023 for Heinz Field. This is far from a formal bid, but has stoked all kinds of conjecture.
“We don’t have to submit the application for a couple years yet, so we’re still in the stage of really evaluating things,” Rooney said when asked last week where the situation stood. “And we have a little task force that’s kind of working together to determine how strong of a bid we can make and we are working with public sector people to kind of bring them up to speed on things like that. So, we’re still working on it. We have a ways to go.”
You have to give the Rooneys credit for at least trying, but the reality of it is there is as much chance of Pittsburgh landing the Super Bowl eight years hence as there is the city getting the Olympics — any Olympics.
For one, the NFL is not about putting Super Bowls in old stadiums that are not at least extensively renovated. By 2023, Heinz Field will be 22 years old. Three Rivers Stadium was imploded at age 31.
What’s the chance the Steelers will build a new one (the price on new stadiums is approaching $2 billion and more) or pour millions of dollars into Heinz by then to bring it up to the kind of standards stadiums need to attract Super Bowls? They surely won’t build a dome over Heinz.
Yes, yes, they gave a Super Bowl to New York, and the stadium there has no dome. But that is New York, and it was a new stadium when they brought the Super Bowl there two years ago.
Before it would entertain another northern open-air stadium (if, indeed, it ever will), the NFL is going to give future Super Bowls to all those new stadiums being built — Atlanta (dome), Minnesota (dome) and Los Angeles — then return to newer, bigger, better-equipped stadiums and cites from the past. The rotation of southern and western sites will continue — Houston, Miami, Tampa, New Orleans, Arizona and Dallas. Also, the Super Bowl in Indianapolis was so popular and successful that the NFL will return to the domed Lucas Oil Stadium before it entertains another northern open-air stadium. Then it will return to Los Angeles, Atlanta and San Francisco.
If the NFL does want to roll the dice again on an open-air stadium in the North, guess what? It will be New York again. After New York, Pittsburgh would be way down the list of northern sites behind places such as Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington and New England. Maybe even Denver and Baltimore. And if Oakland and/or San Diego get new stadiums, they go right near the top of the candidates.
If Pittsburgh had a brand new stadium by 2023 that seated 75,000 with a dome and a suitable press box (yes, that really matters), it still would be a tough sell. Public transportation is terrible and while hotels continue to be built in and around town, they cannot compare to most other cities on the list.
It’s no poor reflection on Pittsburgh, just the reality that the NFL has so many other choices that fit a Super Bowl site so much better.
Better the Steelers and Pittsburgh should expend their energies on something reasonable, like trying to lure the NFL draft here, which would seem at least attainable after the NFL moved it to Chicago last year, out of New York for the first time in decades.
The Steelers and Pittsburgh once had a chance to bid for the Army-Navy football game and ultimately backed out, even though Heinz Field was young at the time. Landing a Super Bowl would be more difficult than landing a PAT bus on the moon.
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette.
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