By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) — After this year’s successful Super Bowl in New Jersey, cold-weather cities across the country are lining up to see if they can be next to host an open-air Super Bowl in a northern climate.
The Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos and New England Patriots have all made it clear they are interested in hosting a Super Bowl, and the Bears are no different.
“The mayor has done a great job of keeping Chicago a world-class city and trying to find more events to keep that status high, which Chicago deserves,” Chicago Bears president & CEO Ted Phillips said Thursday on Bears All Access on 670 The Score. “There’s a lot of different factors involved. Obviously, Chicago has plenty to do, plenty of hotels, good transportation, it’s not as sprawling a city as New York was, in my opinion, so I think the city would do a first-class job.”
Phillips was quick to point out that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hasn’t said if there will be more open-air Super Bowls in cold-weather cities and added that he thinks the league is “always going to be leaning on the warmer-weather cities.” Any additional cold-weather Super Bowls will likely occur “over a long period of time,” as he put it.
“We are more than happy to sit down with the mayor and the league,” Phillips said. “We definitely don’t want to be in a situation where Chicago gets left behind as a possible Super Bowl site.”
Logistically, after hosting the 2012 NATO Summit, the city is ready for a Super Bowl right now. Hotels aren’t a problem, there’s two airports to fly in to and everything is centrally located right downtown. Grant Park could easily be transformed into a Super Bowl village without having any greater impact on traffic than summer events like the Taste of Chicago and Lollapalooza already do, while McCormick Place could host endless indoor events throughout the week right next to Soldier Field.
In that regard, Chicago has a leg up on this past Super Bowl, which centralized much of the week’s activities in Manhattan but hosted the game across in the river in New Jersey. As Jeff Knapple, CEO of Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment, recently told Forbes, “Chicago would own the Super Bowl unlike New York ever could.” Knapple would know, as he’s the one who negotiated the 25-year, $425-million naming rights deal for MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
If anything holds up a potential bid for a Super Bowl — which can’t happen in Chicago until 2019 at the earliest — it’s the stadium.
The most obvious problem is the 61,500 capacity at Soldier Field, well below the NFL’s desired 70,000 capacity for the Super Bowl. There are exceptions — Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis only holds 68,658 — but Soldier Field would be a big one. There’s also the issue of the natural grass playing surface, which has been better in recent years but still deteriorates late in the season, as grass tends to do in Chicago as winter comes around. There are certainly solutions to this issue — especially with the NFL involved — but MetLife Stadium’s artificial playing surface was ideal.
When it comes to the stadium, even Phillips admitted, “New York was definitely a unique situation given the $1.5 billion stadium that was built for the Giants and the Jets.”
But Soldier Field also has positive attributes. There are plenty of suites, a good portion of the seats on the east end have an indoor concourse to combat the weather and it’s hard to imagine a more picturesque setting for a Super Bowl than on the lakefront with the Chicago skyline in the background.
While adding seats wouldn’t be easy, upgrades to the stadium can be made, and in a separate conversation within Thursday’s interview on Bears All Access, Phillips said some upgrades to Soldier Field are in the works.
“We’re in the midst of having discussions with the park district and our new concessionaire Aramark about making improvements at Soldier Field,” Phillips said. “Nothing I can really discuss right now in detail, but things that should enhance that fan experience that’s so important to everyone that’s been a loyal season-ticket holder down at Soldier Field.”
Meanwhile, while a Super Bowl in Chicago likely won’t happen in the near future, an NFL Draft might.
“Clearly (the NFL Draft) would be an easier get than the Super Bowl, for obvious reasons,” Phillips said. “The idea of possibly rotating the draft has at least been brought up in meetings over the past couple of years. To my knowledge, as of right now, it hasn’t been decided to be a definite go for the league in terms of rotating. Obviously, they have a long history with Radio City Music Hall and New York as being the draft central, but I would not be surprised if in time other cities, major markets like Chicago, get that opportunity and we would embrace that, obviously.”
The NFL Draft is a television event and doesn’t come with the huge tourism boost the Super Bowl does, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to start hosting some events in conjunction with the NFL.
Goodell has shown an open mind when it comes to moving the Super Bowl around and Chicago — even Chiberia — might as well be in the conversation.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.