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Los Angeles Lost in Super Bowl Mix

Pro football: As expected, games awarded to Miami and Atlanta, but Tampa gets nod in 2001, which L.A. wanted.

November 01, 1996|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW ORLEANS — There were cheers from representatives of South Florida, Atlanta and Tampa on Thursday, and one more loud message for Los Angeles from the NFL: There is no urgency to return professional football to Southern California.

As expected, the NFL owners awarded the 1999 Super Bowl to Miami, and after picking Atlanta in 2000, the owners ignored an earlier declaration that 2001 might very well belong to Los Angeles, and gave the game to Tampa.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue had promised a Super Bowl to Tampa because it passed a referendum to raise taxes for the construction of a new stadium, but Tampa was expected to receive the 2000 Super Bowl. The league had no plans to give away the 2001 game at this time, but decided to reward longtime Atlanta Falcon owner Rankin Smith, who had pushed hard for a game.

So when is the next chance for the game to return to Los Angeles?

San Francisco, which surrendered the 1999 Super Bowl to concentrate on plans to build a new stadium, is already considered the likely winner for the 2002 game. Detroit, which faces a referendum next week on building a new stadium, has been promised a Super Bowl by Tagliabue if the referendum passes.

New Orleans, which had been advised in 1993 to hold dates open for the 2001 game, is now upset, but plotting for 2003, along with Arizona, which was one of the finalists for 1999 and 2000.

Los Angeles, which had made a preliminary bid for 1999 and 2000, withdrew earlier when advised by NFL President Neil Austrian that the league would look favorably on giving it the 2001 Super Bowl.

"Based on all the information I had, we had to be on top of the list for 2001," said Rick Welch, chairman of the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission. "This is a real surprise--just amazing."

More than that, this appears to be another setback for Los Angeles, which failed to make much of an impression a day earlier with NFL owners in its bid to win favor for a new Coliseum. While impressed with the drawings and architectural plans, NFL owners dismissed the Coliseum project because it did not include a viable financial plan.

A Super Bowl, or in fact, a number of Super Bowls in a 10-year span, was considered a critical mechanism in financing plans to build a new stadium in the Los Angeles area. The Super Bowls will be used as a lure to sell personal seat licenses, club seats and luxury boxes, and the money raised from those sales would help finance stadium construction.

"Los Angeles can still be in line for a Super Bowl or a number of Super Bowls, but first there must be a venue in place," said Austrian in amending his earlier remarks. "At the present time, there is no way to even get a stadium up and running before 2000."

Most people involved in the process to return football to Los Angeles have indicated there is no way a stadium can be built on speculation. But how does anyone in the Los Angeles market begin plotting the return of football if there are no plans to award the area a Super Bowl? The next time the league will consider the subject will be at its annual meeting in March, but it would be another year at the earliest before owners would vote to award additional Super Bowls.

"You can't have a financing plan without a Super Bowl," said Steve Soboroff, who began working with Football LA months ago with the idea of landing a Super Bowl in Los Angeles because of its anticipated $300-million economic impact.

"Obviously, we're not far enough along in Los Angeles to stop the NFL from handing out Super Bowls. The sooner we can get a financing plan going for a new stadium, the sooner we can jump to the front of the line for a Super Bowl.

"I don't think you have to have a Super Bowl in the first year a stadium opens to make it all work, but there will probably have to be assurances that a Super Bowl will be there in another few years."

The promise of a Super Bowl went a long way in swinging a referendum in Tampa's favor. Tampa's new stadium is expected to be completed in September 1998; the NFL says a stadium must be operating 18 months before the game.

No one with the NFL was linking the disappointing Coliseum meeting with the surprising decision to award the 2001 Super Bowl to Tampa, but many of the owners indicated there is no compelling reason for them to consider the Los Angeles market.

"In a sense, we created twins when twins were not expected," Tagliabue said in announcing Atlanta and Tampa Bay as Super Bowl sites. "Now we must look more closely on how we make the decision of where we are going to put the Super Bowl. There are dome sites to be considered, along with traditional locations such as New Orleans and South Florida."

No mention of Los Angeles, and so Tagliabue was asked whether the decision to award the 2001 Super Bowl so soon directly hurt the Los Angeles market, and its chance to get football back?

"The Super Bowl is an important part of the mix in Los Angeles," Tagliabue said. "But it's not the dominant factor."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Super Bowl History

BY CITY

*--*

Miami 7 New Orleans 7 Pasadena 5 Tampa, Fla. 2 Los Angeles 2 Tempe, Ariz. 1 Atlanta 1 Minneapolis 1 San Diego 1 Stanford 1 Pontiac, Mich. 1 Houston 1

*--*

BY STATE

*--*

California 9 Florida 9 Louisiana 7 Arizona 1 Georgia 1 Minnesota 1 Michigan 1 Texas 1

*--*

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