Eagles plan to bid for Philly Super Bowl 'if all goes well' Sunday, says team president
NEW YORK - If the NFL's decision to hold Super Bowl XLVIII in the outdoor chill of MetLife Stadium comes off well Sunday, the Eagles are likely to make a bid to have Lincoln Financial Field host the game, team president Don Smolenski said Wednesday in a telephone interview.
Since Lincoln Financial Field opened in 2003, the Eagles have not made a bid to host a Super Bowl. But Smolenski said the team probably would make a play for the game if fans and corporate sponsors enjoy their experience in North Jersey and weather conditions don't mar the game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.
"If it goes well, that's definitely a possibility," Smolenski said when asked if the Eagles would try to bring the Super Bowl to Philadelphia.
"We're very proud of Lincoln Financial Field. We do think it's a great facility, and we think over the years that's been evident. It would be a sense of pride. Philadelphia is a world-class city with world-class facilities, and it's a great sports town. It would be a chance to showcase Philadelphia on an international stage."
Smolenski's comments echoed those of Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie in July during the NFL's owners meetings in Phoenix. "I will. Yes, I will," Lurie told reporters then when asked if he would pursue a Super Bowl. "If it's a success, New York will help us."
Not only are the Eagles making no secret of their desire to have Lincoln Financial Field host a Super Bowl, they're spending $125 million to renovate and update the stadium, making it a more attractive site for the biggest event in American sports. They announced Wednesday that they had entered a partnership with Panasonic Eco Solutions North America to install two enormous end-zone video boards - the pair will take up more than 9,400 square feet - and several smaller LED displays throughout the stadium.
The other renovations include an improved sound system, an integrated WiFi system, and an expansion of the venue's capacity by 1,600 seats. Lincoln Financial Field officially seats 67,594, and the expansion would push the capacity closer to 70,000 - a figure that Smolenski said is a benchmark that the NFL takes into consideration when selecting a Super Bowl site.
"We're so close that I don't see that really as an obstacle," he said.
Though the Broncos and Seahawks will play Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford, N.J., New York and New Jersey have shared responsibility for the run-up to the big game. It hasn't exactly been an equitable or convenient division.
Both teams are headquartered at hotels in Jersey City. The Seahawks are practicing at the Giants' facility in East Rutherford, the Broncos at the Jets' facility in Florham Park, 28 miles west of their hotel. Tuesday's media day was held at the Prudential Center in Newark. But the media center, the fan-friendly attractions, and the see-and-be-seen parties are in or around Times Square in Manhattan, and the NFL hasn't been shy about advertising this as a New York-based Super Bowl.
Having Lincoln Financial Field host the game would avoid a similar identity crisis, Smolenski said, thanks to Philadelphia's cultural infrastructure.
"It's manageable," he said. "It's got great public transportation. There are a large number of hotel rooms, convention-center space, a lot of unique spaces for events, from the Art Museum to other historic buildings downtown. It's got open avenues like Ben Franklin Parkway and other open areas where you could set up NFL experiences, and it has an international airport - all within two or three miles of one another, all of which makes it unique. And don't forget the Amtrak train station. Those are all positives."
The city's tourism and convention officials were excited over the possibility of hosting a Super Bowl. Last year, the Philadelphia area landed the U.S. Open golf tournament. The city also has hosted several NCAA basketball tournament games.
Competition to host the Super Bowl is fierce and is often done four or five years out before the game. For instance, New York-New Jersey made the bid for the 2014 Super Bowl in 2009, and the 32 NFL owners approved the bid in May 2010.
After Sunday's game, the next three Super Bowls will be in Arizona, San Francisco, and Houston. Six cities have submitted bids for the 2018 game.
"Without having the specifics of what a Super Bowl [request for proposal] would look like, knowing the other cities that have hosted the event over the years, I'm very confident that Philadelphia would have what it takes to host an incredible Super Bowl," said Larry Needle, executive director of the Philadelphia Sports Congress.
The Sports Congress, a division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, works to attract sporting events and meetings to the region.
"Philadelphia could make the event a smash, and besides the economic impact, which would include a week of hotel rooms, parties, media presence, support industries, etc., it would seal the city's image as a place where big events happen and happen well," said Meryl Levitz, CEO and president of Visit Philadelphia, formerly the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp.
"Yes, we can absolutely host a Super Bowl," said Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, which has 91 member hotels. "In the past, we have hosted the Republican National Convention in 2000, and we are also looking forward to the possibility of the pope visiting at the World Meeting of Families in September 2015. The Super Bowl is smaller than these two events.
"We have more than enough hotel rooms throughout the five-county region," he said. "For example, we had more than enough hotel rooms when we put in the bid for the 2016 Olympics."
Center City has 11,686 hotel rooms and Philadelphia County has just under 40,000.
Inquirer staff writer Suzette Parmley and Philly.com's Matt Mullin contributed to this article.