The competition to host a Super Bowl is fierce, and the NFL is well aware of that. So the league has no qualms about submitting a list of demands for the host city like it is a diva rock star.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune got its hands on the 153-page list of requests and demands for hosting the game. Minneapolis won the right to host the Super Bowl in 2018. And the obligations set forth by the NFL from the city include many prudent ones dealing with security and operations, to somewhat ridiculous ones like bowling venues being offered at no charge, specific ATM machines that accept league-preferred debit and credit cards and team hotels televising the NFL Network a year before the game.
And almost all of the requirements, of course, end up being free of charge to the NFL, which makes billions in revenue annually. The term "no cost to the NFL" appears exactly 150 times in the 153-page document.
The "Super Bowl LII Host City Bid Specifications and Requirements" document that the Star-Tribune published, which was dated November 2013 in preparation for each city's bid, is fascinating and audacious. The Star-Tribune got the document from an unnamed source, and it's possible that someone with access to the document found the NFL to be a wee bit too bossy and wanted to publicize that, or at very least wanted the taxpayers to see what the event will cost and how the money is being spent.
According to the document, the NFL manages every aspect of the game, down to who should be on the host committee ("The Host Committee should be chaired by a business leader with significant local influence, and governed by a board of senior local business and government personnel.") and stadium seating ("All seats must be a minimum of 19 inches wide with seat backs and arm rests. Suites containing stools with unobstructed views are acceptable, provided that the NFL has the right to approve the number of stools to be used.").
The host committee budget, the NFL says in the document, has been between $12 million and $50 million in recent years.
The NFL requires grass fields be re-sodded or artificial turf be replaced or reconditioned if it isn't in top quality condition for the game, at no cost to the league of course. There are specifications for video control rooms, public-address systems and locker rooms. There are demands for local officers for anti-counterfeit enforcement teams, police escorts for team owners, 35,000 parking spaces on Super Bowl Sunday, and 20 free billboards in NFL-designated areas. The NFL also wants three top quality golf courses for the NFL Foundation Golf Classic (probably not applicable to Minnesota in winter) and two top-quality bowling venues for the NFL Foundation Super Bowl Celebrity Bowling Classic. If the cellular service isn't adequate in the team hotels, the hotels must put up portable cellular towers. All of these things (and many, many more) "at no cost to the NFL," obviously.
There's even a section outlining a "familiarization trip" for the NFL, its sponsors, broadcasters and other partners 16 months before the Super Bowl, and the host committee is responsible for "all travel expenses" for the 180 people on that three-day trip.
Everything about the Super Bowl seems to be managed by the league, even down to the food and beverage in the NFL suites:
8. Menus for NFL Suites and Hospitality Areas
The Concessionaire must agree to provide a special menu and preferred pricing (a minimum of a 30% non-commissionable discount) for catering the suites allotted to the NFL, as well as NFL working booths, offices, and operational areas. The Concessionaire must also agree to the extent allowed by law, to serve NFL-sponsor beverages and products in NFL assigned suites.
The concessionaire also has to submit the menu and pricing of its items for game day to be approved by the NFL. If you can dream up a scenario, it is addressed by the NFL in the document.
The Super Bowl is the biggest event on the American sporting calendar and the NFL has plenty of experience in how to operate the game. But some of the demands seem to be made just because they're the NFL and know they can get away with them, but that's the cost of hosting a Super Bowl. The Star-Tribune said the host committee said it has "$30 million in private pledges that will be used to help offset public costs for staging the game."
Just because the NFL presented the requirements doesn't mean every one had to be agreed upon. A city bidding on the game was allowed to detail which specifications could not be met. The host committee told the Star-Tribune “while the Minnesota Super Bowl Bid Committee did not agree to all of the NFL’s Super Bowl bid specifications, the competitive bid remains private." However, to beat out finalists New Orleans and Indianapolis, most of the demands were presumably agreed upon. Until the Star-Tribune leaked the document the entire process had been very secretive, which doesn't seem to be fair to the Minnesota taxpayers who are paying for the Vikings' new stadium that the Super Bowl will be held in and might need to pick up some other costs of the game, although the committee has said the game will be a net benefit to the taxpayers.
The report shows how incredibly organized the Super Bowl is. It also shows that the NFL expects a lot from the host city and micromanages every step of the entire process. At no cost to the NFL, mostly.
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