South Florida will stake its big-event experience against a state-of-the-art upstart in quest of staging the 50th anniversary Super Bowl.
The region, which has hosted a record 10 Super Bowls, was named Tuesday along with the San Francisco 49ers ' $1.2 billion stadium under construction in Santa Clara, Calif., as finalists for the milestone game in February 2016.
The runner-up will be considered along with Houston for the 2017 game, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the owners' fall meeting in Chicago.
"This is fantastic news for South Florida," said Rodney Barreto, chairman of the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee. "I'm interested in any Super Bowl. But the most important one, in my opinion, is 2016 with the 50th anniversary. It needs to be in South Florida; it needs to be home.
"We feel that our deep history of hosting Super Bowls will prevail."
The question is whether Sun Life Stadium, which turned 25 this month, will measure up against the state-of-the-art facility in Santa Clara due to open in 2014 or Houston's 10-year-old Reliant Stadium, which features a retractable roof when the 32 owners vote.
Before South Florida staged its most recent Super Bowl in 2010, Goodell cautioned about the need for upgrades to the stadium to remain a viable site. That led to an unsuccessful attempt by the Miami Dolphins to obtain hotel tax revenue to help fund more than $200 million in renovations.
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said there was no promise of stadium improvements in the application submitted to the NFL in August for the two games. Dee said the Dolphins have not renewed an effort to seek funding for renovations and currently have no working plan for further alterations to the stadium.
A $250 million renovation was completed before the 2007 season that vastly expanded the club level and added high-definition televisions.
Asked how South Florida can expect to compete with the newer facilities, Dee said, "I don't know. We're going to put our best bid forward possible. I think that's all we can do.
"We are cognizant of how competitive it is."
The NFL has made it clear that the 50th game is special, and Goodell said earlier this year, "We are looking at plans to make it spectacular."
Frank Supovitz, the NFL's senior vice president for special events, said there was no discussion of stadium improvements in the process of narrowing the field for the two games.
"I don't really have any insight as to how renovations would play into a Super Bowl bid except to say … you do have two very strong contenders with which you're competing. And they do have state of the art facilities."
The San Francisco Bay area has played host to one Super Bowl, the 1985 game in which the 49ers defeated the Dolphins 38-16 at Stanford Stadium. Houston had the game twice, including the 2004 game at Reliant Stadium.
The strongest argument for South Florida is its track record in staging Super Bowls and other major events such as the NCAA's BCS Championship, which will return to Sun Life Stadium in January.
Barreto said he recently sent a letter to Goodell signed by "15 to 20 mayors between Miami-Dade and Broward County" asking for serious consideration for South Florida as host of the 50th Super Bowl.
"The good news for South Florida is we don't have to reinvent the wheel every time," Dee said.
Barreto said the intangibles South Florida has to offer should figure prominently in the decision, including the weather, beaches, golf courses, entertainment and ease of access with three major airports in the tri-county area.
"It's a lot more than just a game," he said, adding, "We're going to have to rally the community around going after it."
The Dolphins received no community support in its recent quest for public funding for its stadium improvement plan. When the proposal was presented to Broward County, commissioners expressed vehement opposition, using terms like "vile" and "shameful."
That priciest aspect of the renovation plan was a proposed addition of a canopy top over the seating areas, which was in part a reaction to the NFL's dismay about the downpour that marred the 2007 Super Bowl.
It should be noted that Goodell never stipulated that a roof was essential for getting future Super Bowls. Other priorities include upgrading the lighting for high-definition television along with the sound system and moving the lower stands closer the field.
"This means a great deal to our community both economically and culturally," Barreto said. "I'll be reaching out to community leaders and will be working with the Dolphins to bring everybody together to put together the best possible bid."
The economic impact of the 2010 Super Bowl and Pro Bowl on South Florida
Other hosts set for upcoming Super Bowls are New Orleans in 2013, New Jersey/New York (MetLife Stadium) in 2014 and Arizona in 2015.