Roger Goodell thinks Florida will host another Super Bowl ‘without a doubt’

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is confident the Super Bowl will return to Florida, which has not hosted the event since Super Bowl XLIV

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TAMPA, Fla. — To NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, a question of whether the Super Bowl will return to the Sunshine State has a simple, direct answer.

"I think they’ll get another Super Bowl, without a doubt," Goodell said Friday morning when asked by FOXSportsFlorida.com.

Goodell spoke about Florida’s Super Bowl prospects at the Hilton Tampa Downtown before he served as the headline guest at a breakfast fundraiser for Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School, a charter school founded by two men no stranger to the Lombardi Trophy: former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks and former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. The state has hosted 15 Super Bowls between South Florida, Tampa and Jacksonville, though none since Sun Life Stadium was the site of Super Bowl XLIV in February 2010.

A return trip won’t happen soon. With games scheduled in Glendale, Arizona; Santa Clara, California; and Houston in the coming years, plus either New Orleans, Indianapolis or Minneapolis in 2018, the Super Bowl’s future has been charted with care after breathless bid processes.

The Sunshine State, after serving as the game’s darling destination for years, suddenly finds itself wondering what has happened.

Schedules released

The eight-year drought marks Florida’s longest since Miami’s Orange Bowl hosted Super Bowl II. There were three five-year silence periods between returns: 1971-1976, 1979-1984 and 1984-1989. But back in that era the state had limited competition, mainly with other warm-weather locales like Los Angeles and New Orleans.

The landscape has changed. Florida’s Super Bowl slide is a curious development, though not surprising given an exponential increase in the game’s interest and the league’s willingness to experiment with cold-weather hosts like Indianapolis and New Jersey. The reasons vary: Heightened competition with construction of state-of-the-art facilities; near-misses by Tampa’s bids for Super Bowls XLVIII and XLIX; and concerns about Sun Life Stadium as a viable option for the event.

Take, for example, the age of Florida’s three potential Super Bowl sites. Sun Life Stadium opened in 1987, and EverBank Field followed in 1995. Raymond James Stadium, in operation since 1998, has come close in recent years. But its bells-and-whistles pale in comparison to younger hosts such as MetLife Stadium, Lucas Oil Stadium, University of Phoenix Stadium and the soon-to-be-open Levi’s Stadium.

What’s fresher, often times, is better.

"I just think there has been a tremendous amount of construction and new facilities," Goodell said. "Obviously, it builds more competitiveness for the Super Bowl. It’s a great event to have in your community. So I think what you’re seeing is more and more communities are interested in the Super Bowl, and I think that’s what it is. It’s not a reflection on this community or Miami or any other community."

Goodell is right. It’s hard to see a scenario where the Super Bowl doesn’t return to Florida within the next decade. When it happens, Tampa could be an attractive option.

The city was considered a favorite for Super Bowl XLIX’s relocation if Arizona’s controversial Senate Bill 1062, which would have allowed businesses to deny service to gay couples on religious beliefs, became law with Gov. Jan Brewer’s approval. Meanwhile, the 2017 College Football Playoff national championship game will be hosted at Raymond James Stadium, a major coup for the region.

Still, competition for the Super Bowl will continue to be fierce. The event has become a symbol of prestige, like an American version of hosting the Olympics.

Warm-weather locales, cold-weather locales — everyone wants a taste.

So the days are long gone when officials in Tampa and South Florida, with 14 Super Bowls between them, faced predictable competition in their quest to draw the league’s mid-winter party.

Now, the choices are diverse. The pitches to the NFL must hold more options, more attraction and more punch.

"It’s just the competitive nature of the Super Bowl," Goodell said.

Florida understands it well.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.