Jury still out on Denver as Super Bowl site

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Denver’s potential as a Super Bowl city might not hinge on how the league’s title game went in the open-air MetLife Stadium last month, but rather in the snowstorm that hit the New York-New Jersey area the next day, stranding thousands of travelers who had come to see Super Bowl XLVIII.

At the league meeting this week NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the gathered franchise owners did not discuss the prospect of future Super Bowls in cold-weather cities with open-air stadiums. So, any read on whether or not the league believes Denver is viable as a potential bidder for a Super Bowl in 2018, 2019 or 2020 will have to wait.

The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos, 43-8, in Super Bowl XLVIII in the league’s first Super Bowl played in an open-air stadium in a cold-weather city. The temperature was 49 degrees at kickoff, but the following day a snowstorm affected hundreds of flights and forced scores of travelers to make alternate plans to try to get home.

Goodell said Wednesday the owners did not consider the pros and cons of awarding another open-air Super Bowl in a cold-weather city, but did review how things went in the New York-New Jersey area in February.

“We discussed the New York Super Bowl really in the context of what we achieved," Goodell said. “The successes that occurred, things that we can do better ... but the overall reaction was very positive."

Broncos president Joe Ellis said he believes, after speaking informally to team owners and other high-ranking executives around the league, the decision has not been made as to whether the NFL will have a repeat performance in a northern city with an open-air stadium, but that there are some hurdles that would have to be cleared.

“And it comes down to how appealing it is the league, the public, the ownership and how the fans really feel about it," Ellis said. “That game could have been played in conditions that were far worse this time, like the next day.

"And I think everybody needs to ask the question 'do you want to put the most important game of the season on in conditions people saw in New York the day after the Super Bowl?' Is that fair to fans? To players? To coaches? To the league? To the teams? Here you are showcasing the No. 1 event in the world and you’re doing it in conditions that prevent you from doing it in the best way possible. I think that’s something that needs to be considered, needs to be discussed before they go forward."

Ellis said beyond the weather issues, the contingency plans that came with Super Bowl XLVIII, which included playing the game on either Saturday or Monday, were expensive and difficult to schedule. That list included items like scheduling security and emergency personnel as well as the potential use of public transportation on a weekday if the game had been moved to Monday.

“There were a lot of risks taken there, and a bunch of contingency planning had to be in place that actually may have been somewhat costly and somewhat cumbersome up front before you even had to execute them," Ellis said. “It will be interesting to see how they feel about going through those exercises again."

All of that said, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen’s desire to have a Super Bowl in Denver is well-known throughout the league, and if the league does open the bidding to cities like Denver with open-air stadium again, Bowlen would want to be in the mix. Cities like Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle would likely want to make a bid as well.

“We could do it," Ellis said. “I know Denver could do it, and for all we know it would be 60 and sunny, or it could be different, but nevertheless there’s no question in my mind that if the league chooses to go forward and do another game with these considerations in mind, cold-weather site and outdoor stadium, that we could do it as well as any city in the country. It’s just a matter of whether or not that will be a consideration, something ownership wants to do again."