The big top came down Monday on the National Football League's traveling road show called the Super Bowl, accompanied by resounding cheers for the city's efforts in staging a near-flawless event.
The city, which was host to the game for the first time, received smashing reviews for its organization, as the entire event--from the stadium to traffic--was devoid of any major problems and hummed along like a fine-tuned engine.
San Diego reaped an unprecedented public relations coup. Most of the Super Bowl news emanating from the city was overwhelmingly favorable, from national newspaper stories to network snapshots of scenic spots taken from a blimp.
The only blemish was disappointment by restaurateurs about suffering a lack of business, a trend that showed up early last week and continued to the very end. The loss of business, eased by a late infusion of fans into the city starting Friday, has made the restaurant industry lukewarm about the idea of whether San Diego should go after another Super Bowl.
Though not nearly as affected as restaurants, hotels were left with about 2,000 vacant rooms, a surprising development because full houses were expected. Even with the empty rooms, however, the hotels experienced about a 93% occupancy level, which is considered good business.
"Yesterday put us on the list," an unabashed Leon Parma said Monday. Parma, owner of Coast Distributing Co. and a member of the San Diego Super Bowl Task Force, believes it's a virtual certainty that San Diego will join the list of cities that regularly hold the Super Bowl.
He said he has been told by several NFL team owners that San Diego will be selected for a Super Bowl again, the only question is when. Locations for the game have been chosen through 1991. The next open date is 1992, but Parma said it's his understanding that NFL owners want to award that year's game to a "northern tier" city--one with a dome such as Seattle, Indianapolis or Detroit.
If that's the case, Parma said, San Diego's next chance would be to host the 1993 Super Bowl. Also, he said, the team owners aren't expected to make a decision this year, holding off their choice for 1992 and beyond until 1989.
"The smoothness of every activity yesterday was the result of excellent planning," Parma said. "People were able to move to and from the game with ease and without congestion. I think the city did a great job, we should all be proud."
Not as effusive but equally satisfied was Jim Steeg, the NFL's director of special events, who spent the last two weeks in San Diego making sure the city and stadium were prepared for the game. While acknowledging that it's natural for those involved to be "in a euphoric state" in the days immediately after the game, Steeg nonetheless said San Diego is "absolutely" in the running for future Super Bowls.
"Everyone seems very, very happy," said Steeg, speaking about those NFL team owners and officials he had talked to. "Sure, there were some problems, but nothing of any consequence. We had a little confusion in the parking lot at 8, and by 8:15 it was fixed."
He said he had spoken to Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, who heads the owner's site selection committee, and that Braman was extremely laudatory of San Diego and its Super Bowl production.
"The weather helped . . . and the mood of the people was so good," Steeg said. "People felt so comfortable coming in."
Despite the praise, some businesses that expected to reap a Super Bowl financial bonanza are less than enthusiastic about having the game back in San Diego soon.
Paul McIntyre, executive director of the San Diego Restaurant Assn., said that even the influx of visitors that began on Friday wasn't enough to make up for the very weak business the rest of the week.
"It looks like (there was) a good Friday and Saturday, but in most cases not spectacular, and a poor Sunday. Certainly not the kind of crowds that were projected," he said. Although business picked up considerably during the weekend, McIntyre said restaurants in San Diego are traditionally very busy on Friday and Saturday nights.
Overall, he said, 98% of the restaurants in his association--which number about 350--were either "flat or down all of January and for Super Bowl week itself."
He thinks there are several reasons for this. Many locals apparently stayed away from their favorite restaurants out of fear the eateries would be swamped with people, which wasn't the case, thus eroding the restaurants' traditional base, McIntyre said. He also believes the countless parties, hospitality suites and other food and beverage freebies cut deeply into business.
"We gave away dinners instead of selling them," he said. " . . . There was too much free food . . . for the press and others. It was pretty common."
Would the association support having another Super Bowl in San Diego? McIntyre replied candidly: "We're paranoid."