LOS ANGELES — For the first time in almost three decades, the Super Bowl is returning to the Los Angeles area.
Super Bowl LVI is scheduled for Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, a suburb of L.A.
It will mark the eighth Super Bowl in Los Angeles County but the first since 1993 — the longest drought in the history of the NFL championship game.
In fact, L.A. was the setting for the very first Super Bowl, then known as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game.
The reason for the 29-year gap between Super Bowls has everything to do with the long absence of professional football in the City of Angels.
A longstanding NFL rule prohibits regions without a team from hosting a Super Bowl.
L.A.'s future as a Super Bowl city was left in serious peril when the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Raiders relocated to St. Louis and Oakland, California, after the 1994 seasons.
Flash forward to Jan. 12, 2016, when NFL owners voted 30-2 to allow the Rams to return to L.A. It was the start of a seismic shift in the NFL, which had been seemingly resistant to relocation for much of the four previous decades.
NFL owners opposed the Rams moving out of L.A., rejecting a request by the franchise to relocate to St. Louis by a 21-3-6 vote. However, the threat of litigation by then-Rams owner Georgia Frontiere led the majority of owners to reluctantly change their votes in a 23-6 decision.
When it came to the Raiders, things were a bit more complicated.
The Raiders, who played in Oakland from 1960-81, never received the blessing of the league when the franchise left for L.A. Raiders owner Al Davis won a court battle when the NFL opposed the move in 1982. NFL owners, fearful of another contentious battle with Davis, didn't try to block the move, allowing the Raiders to return to Oakland.
A year after the Rams returned to L.A., the Chargers abandoned San Diego, where they had been since 1961, and headed north on Interstate 5.
The Raiders also retreated from Oakland for a second time in 2020, this time trading up the San Francisco Bay area and betting on the Las Vegas desert.
Each region also invested in building palatial venues, with the Chargers and Rams sharing SoFi Stadium and the Raiders christening Allegiant Stadium, both opening in 2020.
Super Bowl XXVII at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, was the last Super Bowl to be played at a non-NFL stadium. The 1993 Super Bowl between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills was the stadium's fifth and final time hosting the game. The Rose Bowl replaced Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the area's Super Bowl venue in 1977. It also hosted the game in 1980, 1983 and 1987.
The Coliseum hosted the inaugural game in 1967 and Super Bowl VII in 1973.
From the moment professional football departed Los Angeles, the NFL had made its return a priority for the league. Then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue vowed that the NFL would return to L.A. by 1998, either through expansion or relocation. But the late-1990s was filled with movement among other franchises, putting Los Angeles on the backburner.
First, the Houston Oilers left the Lone Star State in 1996 and became the Tennessee Oilers, spending a season in Memphis before settling in Nashville.
The Browns also left Cleveland that year and became the Baltimore Ravens. But the Cleveland Browns would return in 1999 as an expansion franchise that retained the original franchise's historical records.
Houston wound up also benefitting from expansion in 1999, when the Texans became the NFL's 32nd franchise, to begin play in 2002. NFL owners chose Houston over two other ownership groups seeking to establish a new team in L.A.
Throughout the years, there had been rumblings of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who entered the league as an expansion team in 1995, relocating to Los Angeles after Shad Khan purchased the franchise in 2012. But, despite dwindling attendance, an annual commitment to play a game in London and a decade of futility, the Jaguars remained in Jacksonville, while mounting frustrations in St. Louis and San Diego ultimately led the Rams and Chargers back to L.A.
The most recent Super Bowl in Southern California was in San Diego in 2003, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII to win their first Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Super Bowl XXXII, awarded to San Diego in 1993, was on the brink of being moved to the Rose Bowl after a San Diego councilman led a crusade to halt renovation work at Jack Murphy Stadium, but a judge ruled in February 1997 that the construction didn't violate any contracts. The ruling came at the 11th hour before the NFL's deadline to determine where the 1998 game would be played.
Now the Super Bowl is back where it began. So, too, are the Rams. That's super.