Super Bowl LI will be the third Super Bowl in the city of Houston. The first was Super Bowl VIII at Rice Stadium in 1974, a dull 24-7 Dolphins stomping of the Vikings; the second, Super Bowl XXXVIII, was at then-Reliant Stadium, the excellent Patriots' 32-29 win over Carolina in 2004. It is a positive sign that the city of Houston did well enough to earn themselves another Super Bowl, though that might have as much do with the advances Houston has made in the past 13 years than their performances that particular week.
If you've ever been to a Super Bowl, you'll know that's a deeply terrible way to visit a city. Super Bowl host cities completely tear themselves apart for Super Bowl week, ridding themselves of all their charm and appeal to transform themselves into Super Bowl Town, a place where street names turn into corporate sponsors and local-owned businesses turn into Bud Light stands and advertisements for pills that help you overcome your prescription opium addiction so that you can go to the bathroom. Never forget:
But cities still clamor for these games, even though the evidence that they have any sort of lasting economic boost is difficult to find. This will be Houston's big week to shine. This is always every city's big week to shine. The hosts for the next four Super Bowls have all been selected. As usual, the primary attribute to get a Super Bowl chosen for your town is "get a new stadium built (or heavily remodeled)."
Super Bowl LII, 2018: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
Super Bowl LIII, 2019: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
Super Bowl LIII, 2020: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami
Super Bowl LIV, 2011: City of Champions Stadium, Inglewood, Calif.
It is safe to assume, unless Roger Goodell figures out a way to have a Super Bowl at Wembley Stadium in London that starts at 11:30 p.m. local time, that all future Super Bowls will be held at current NFL stadiums, or future NFL stadiums built by extorted municipalities. But this isn't like the MLB All-Star Game, which rotates around to make sure that everybody ultimately gets a turn. Unless you have a new stadium for them, suffice it to say, there will be no Super Bowls in the following team's home stadiums, none of whom have hosted a Super Bowl before:
- Green Bay
- Kansas City
- New England
Again, if any of those teams successfully gets a new stadium off taxpayers, they could conceivably be added to the Super Bowl list. On the whole, though, that leaves us with 15 teams that have either hosted a Super Bowl in the past or could conceivably host one in the future. Each has their advantages and disadvantages. All of them should probably not be excited to host one in the future, no matter what the NFL tells them. But purely from a visitor's perspective, here's a ranking of Super Bowl host cities, past, present and future.
15. East Rutherford, N.J. Yeah, this was a fiasco. The residents of New York famously wanted nothing to do with the Super Bowl, the "NFL City" in Times Square was a quagmire and, perhaps worst of all, mass transit was an international incident waiting to happen postgame. Remember this?
They did it once, and they all got to say they had their "NYC Super Bowl." Let's make sure that never, ever happens again.
14. Santa Clara, Calif. Speaking of which. The Santa Clara stadium takes even longer to get to from San Francisco -- where all the actual NFL festivities took place -- and it's not even a particularly attractive location. It is a very NFL thing to have their big event in two cities that have the best, largest public transit systems in the country and still have them in places where everyone drives. This whole stadium-in-Santa-Clara idea has felt misguided from the get-go, and the Super Bowl was no different.
13. Jacksonville. Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005 wasn't the total disaster people made it out to be -- the way it was written about at the time, you would have thought that all visitors were caned upon entering city limits, as per the local custom -- but it's undeniable that the town didn't have nearly enough hotel space for the rush of people coming in and couldn't handle the traffic crushes from all angles. Don't worry: Jaguars owner Shad Khan has made it clear he doesn't want any more Super Bowls in town.
12. Minneapolis. They're hosting next year to reward them for their new stadium, so they've got an immediate opportunity to prove me wrong here. The stadium is supposedly awfully nice -- for $1 billion, it better be -- and it's within walking distance of downtown Minneapolis. Except, of course, is anything within walking distance in Minneapolis? It's currently 30 and snowing in Minneapolis, and that's unseasonably warm. It's unlikely that people will commute to the Super Bowl in a blizzard. But it's on the table here. The nightmare scenario of a Super Bowl having to be canceled or postponed because of a weather emergency has never come to pass. If it's ever going to happen, it'll happen here. (Minneapolis is nonetheless a lovely city.)
11. Arlington, Texas. The weather is nice in Dallas, sure, but if you've ever gone to an event out here, you know how much of a pain it is. Arlington is far away from anywhere you'd be staying, and it's a traffic hub, a convergence that makes it near-impossible to get out afterward. Also, Dallas is a fine city, but not one known for its foot traffic or its unusually vibrant nightlife.
10. Detroit. This city has the advantage of having everything centrally located -- always a plus for a Super Bowl -- and it didn't go too badly a decade ago, but still: Detroit is still a rebuilding area -- an area that actually did get some benefit from that Super Bowl -- that is a few years away from trying again. They are going to try to get another one, though.
9. Tampa. The stadium works out just fine, but it's far away from everything and, as anyone who's ever gone there knows, Dale Mabry Highway is not exactly exemplary of a shining city on a hill. There are many fine sections of Tampa. The area surrounding Raymond James Stadium isn't one of them.
8. Houston. Houston is a much different city than it was a decade ago, and I can say that the place did a splendid job hosting the Final Four last year. But the Final Four isn't quite the Super Bowl, and the stadium is set off pretty far from downtown. This is an underappreciated city, though.
7. Indianapolis. This is as high as I could justify putting a cold Midwestern city, but do not sleep on Indianapolis as a future Super Bowl host. The town specializes in putting on these events -- they're a go-to for the Final Four -- and the NFL was reportedly elated with how their hosting gig went a few years ago. There are tons of hotels, it has a massive, terrific airport and you can walk everywhere downtown. Sure, it's Indianapolis, and it's cold in February. But otherwise, you could honestly do a ton worse.
6. Glendale. Phoenix weather is always pleasant come February, and the downtown area has improved dramatically since that Glendale stadium was built. Still, that stadium is wayyy far away from everything: You get in, you go to the game, and you get out, immediately. Still, if you can weather the bus ride home, Phoenix has more to offer than it used to.
5. Atlanta. It was Atlanta's bad luck that its last Super Bowl coincided with an ice storm that made it difficult for teams to even get to the Georgia Dome to practice. I'm typing this in Athens, Ga., and I can tell you it's 65 degrees and sunny right now. Atlanta is eager for its closeup again, and if the weather cooperates, you can imagine Atlanta getting back in the regular Super Bowl rotation.
4. Las Vegas. This is going under the assumption that when/if the Raiders move there and get a new stadium, the NFL will make sure to put a Super Bowl there posthaste. Frankly, it seems to be asking for some sort of Eugene Robinson incident to have a Super Bowl in Las Vegas, but considering how many people go to Vegas for the Super Bowl every year anyway, well, yeah, this would be quite the scene. Every douchebag you know will fly in for this game.
3. Inglewood. Los Angeles can obviously handle the influx of people, even if traffic around Inglewood will be a nightmare. The weather will be perfect, and supposedly the new complex will be built for visitors in mind. Pity if you live there, though. Still: If Los Angeles could get back in the rotation itself, that wouldn't be the worst thing. Wouldn't justify the Rams or the Chargers, but it would be something.
2. Miami. The stadium is 17 miles from downtown Miami, which is a downside. Everything else is your upside.
1. New Orleans. No. 1, now, and forever.