Super Bowl week kicks off Monday in Houston, a city that got high marks the last time it hosted the game 13 years ago. Before the big festivities get underway, FOX Sports ranked each Super Bowl host city from recent years on the town itself and how it handled the crush of the biggest sporting event in America. (If you're wondering which cities host the best games -- probably a random occurrence but still interesting -- we ranked based on that criteria last year.)
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New York/East Rutherford (MetLife Stadium) - 2014
The overblown worries about a postponed Super Bowl never materialized, but there were other concerns for the first cold-weather championship. The Super Bowl coming to New York (and being played across the Hudson) just wasn't that big a deal to a city that has so much going on and probably believes the Super Bowl to be inferior to whatever's happening at the Garden that night. A Super Bowl is supposed to take over a town. In Manhattan, at least, it got as much attention as those creepy Times Square muppets. And then there was the transportation problem. Fans were stuck at MetLife Stadium for hours after the game because NJ Transit and the NFL misjudged the number of people who would be taking public transportation.
San Francisco/Santa Clara (Levi's Stadium) - 2016
Great city, great stadium, way too far from each other. It's 75 minutes south from the Golden Gate Bridge to Levi's Field, a few minutes more than it'd take to go from the bridge north to Napa Valley. Given the current state of the 49ers, spending a Sunday in wine country is probably the best way to ease the pain.
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Jacksonville (EverBank Stadium) - 2005
NFL owners beg for Super Bowls. They'll spend billions (or get the government to get the public to spend billions) to build a new stadium so that they have a reason to host the Super Bowl. Jags owner Shad Khan, who wasn't with the team during its only hosting gig but presumably has ears and heard about everyone bashing the Florida city, is the opposite. He actively doesn't want a Super Bowl, refreshingly saying about another game coming to town:
"Here in Jacksonville? Absolutely not. What it takes to get a Super Bowl, I think, is setting Jacksonville up for failure. I think with time and money, energy is much better served on something else. For example, what they’re going through in Miami. A big renovation with the Dolphins would be a great venue for a Super Bowl. I’d love to see Florida get Super Bowls, but I think Tampa and Miami are much better suited for that. The requirements now for hotel rooms and some of the other infrastructure amenities -- we don’t have here, so let’s not kid ourselves."
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Dallas/Arlington (AT&T Stadium) - 2011
Dallas is basically Los Angeles in Texas, minus the self-righteous Hollywood folk: A great city with plenty to do, none of which is remotely close to each other.
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Detroit (Ford Field) - 2006
Super Bowl XL is credited with being a "catalyst" that helped create a "surge of development" in downtown Detroit. (Others disagree, but they don't fit our narrative.) The stadium is close to everything, the airport easily handled the crush of people and the game went off without a hitch (except for Seahawks fans complaining about the officiating -- oh, the irony).
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Tampa (Raymond Jame Stadium) - 2009
Tampa is a perfectly okay place to have a Super Bowl. The stadium is within the city limits, and the city limits are, uh, perfectly okay.
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Minneapolis (Metrodome, U.S. Bank Stadium) - 2018
All the worry about Minnesota snow is overblown. You worry about a little snow in Dallas or Atlanta because those cities aren't equipped to deal with that. A lot of snow doesn't affect Minneapolis because clearing it is an art form. What would cripple Washington D.C. would be a mere annoyance in Minnesota. Nobody ever has an unkind word to say about the city, so other than the cold weather what's not to love? They're going to build an ice palace next year! Beat that, Glendale.
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Phoenix/Glendale (University of Phoenix Stadium) - 2015
Glendale ain't Phoenix, and Phoenix ain't Los Angeles. Still, the stadium is gorgeous, and Phoenix has been built up over the past few years so suck it up, take the shuttle and thank the football gods you're not in Minneapolis or Jacksonville.
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Indianapolis (Lucas Oil Stadium) - 2012
Cold weather? Not when you're in a 72-degree, climate-controlled skywalk that means you can get from 5,200 hotel rooms, dozens of restaurants, countless bars, at least four different places to get a soft pretzel, a movie theater and a Taco Bell to the Colts' stadium without stepping outside.
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San Diego (Qualcomm Stadium) - 2003
Oh, never mind.
Los Angeles (Rose Bowl, Memorial Coliseum, the eventual $3 billion Los Angeles stadium that will be half-empty for Chargers games) - 2021
How badly did the NFL want to get back to Los Angeles for the Super Bowl? The Rams/Chargers new stadium in Inglewood was awarded Super Bowl LV despite the facts that ground had yet to be broken for construction and Inglewood is always up to no good. L.A. is one of those three or four perfect Super Bowl locales. There's something nice about watching a game that kicks off in glorious California sunshine and then is cast in darkness for the final half. It makes people in the East feel like they're watching a game on a different planet. Sadly, we won't get that experience with the new stadium as it will have a roof. In Los Angeles -- a city where practically everything that can be outside is outside. Having a roof in Los Angeles makes about as much sense as having a trophy case in Philadelphia.
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Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium) - 2019
Jerry Jones is going to have a fit when he sees how awesome Atlanta's new stadium is. And the fact that it's about one mile from downtown is only a feather in its cap. Atlanta has hosted only twice - in 1994 and 2000. With the city's warmer-weather winters, top-of-the-line stadium, proximity to the week's big events and Donald Glover, it should be getting back into the rotation.
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Miami (Hard Rock Stadium) - 2020
The big complaint about most Super Bowl cities (as seen above) is that the stadium isn't very close to downtown. It's a reasonable beef about a reasonable issue. Football stadiums and the parking lots they require make for a huge footprint. Some need about 30 times the land of a basketball arena. Built-up cities usually don't have the type of acreage, forcing the stadiums into the 'burbs. It's a necessary evil. Hard Rock Stadium is about 20 miles from downtown Miami, which is a small hassle, but not so bad a hassle that it takes away from being in Miami for a week. Even the rundown Hard Rock Stadium -- one of the worst in the NFL -- can't change that. Sure, a recent renovation spruced it up a bit, but it can only do so much -- like the time we put up a Van Gogh print in the frat house.
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Houston (NRG Stadium) - 2017
Houston is a swell town and a fine place to host a Super Bowl. (The complaints are the usual ones, which are pretty rich coming from sportswriters using corporate credit cards and filling out expense reports for meals.) It's been 13 years since the city has hosted the game, and apparently the area around NRG Stadium has been built up with the Discovery Green, which will host most of the Super Bowl Live experience, serving as the new epicenter of the week.
New Orleans (Mercedes-Benz Superdome) - 2013
First: With Atlanta's stadium opening in September, are there really going to have two stadiums named "Mercedes-Benz" in the same division? (Apparently! Mercedes' naming rights with the Superdome don't end until 2021.) That's far too confusing, and the dual names will end up canceling each other out, thus ensuring nobody ever refers to either stadium by its German name (not that anyone called the Superdome anything but the Superdome.)
Second: Any and every Super Bowl cities list has New Orleans at No. 1 and for good reason -- it's New Orleans. It's a city that knows how to throw a party and is adept at hosting big events. It's insane the city will go at least nine years in between Super Bowls (the games are awarded through 2021, so the first time the Superdome will get another is in 2022 or 2023). New stadiums (Minnesota, L.A.) get to cut in line when they open, which is what bumped back New Orleans, but is it really necessary for Atlanta to host a Super Bowl in its second season rather than its third or for L.A.'s stadium to get awarded a game before it had even broken ground? For as universally adored as New Orleans' Super Bowls are, the gap is absurd (and the longest wait New Orleans has ever had for one of its 10 Super Bowls). The Superdome should be hosting a Super Bowl once every five years. Those new stadiums can be the ones getting cut in line.