Tribune, January 26, 2003
unity doomed Oakland's only bid to host Super Bowl
Landing NFL's marquee event
would take concerted effort from entire region
THE OAKLAND Raiders' return to the Super Bowl today is a glorious
moment for the team, a thrill for fans and a pride booster for the
But the biggest financial boon is for
San Diego, this year's Super Bowl host. When San Diego last played
host to a Super Bowl in 1998, the event generated a local economic
impact of $295 million, with $125 million in direct spending,
according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study.
"Obviously, we're hoping for more this
year," said Rick Schloss, spokesman for the San Diego Super Bowl
This is the third time San Diego has
been host to a Super Bowl and the 11th time in 37 games it has
been played in tourist-friendly California. Los Angeles has been
host to seven Super Bowls. San Francisco was host to the one
at Stanford in 1985.
Oakland is California's only city with
a National Football League team that hasn't been host to football's
marquee event. In 2000, Oakland made a bid to host the 2005 Super
Bowl, but lost out to Jacksonville, Fla. (and on that day watched as Houston and Detroit landed the 2003 and 2006 Super Bowl bids)
Its effort was hamstrung by clashes
within the city; legal battles among the city, Raiders and the
NFL; and a lack of agreements to use hotel rooms in San Francisco,
which wants to play host to its own Super Bowl once it builds
a new stadium for the 49ers.
Oakland has the potential to accommodate
a Super Bowl. It has the weather, a stadium that could be upgraded,
and ample hotel rooms in the region. And the Bay Area is a popular
place to visit. It just needs to get everyone on board from the
city, Raiders and San Francisco to lobby the cause.
When it made its unsuccessful bid three
years ago, some of those elements were missing.
The NFL has a laundry list of requirements
for being a Super Bowl host, but the four cornerstones of a bid
The city has an NFL team.
There is a stadium with at least 70,000
It has an average January temperature
of at least 50 degrees or a domed stadium.
There are 24,500 hotel rooms within
an hour's drive of the stadium.
Network Associates Coliseum seats 63,000
people, but Oakland's bid called for adding 12,000 temporary
seats, a $9 million project to be funded privately by selling
Also, Oakland has only to worry about San Francisoc Mayor
Willie Brown and now Gavin Newsom," said Zenophon Abraham, 40, a former city of Oakland
economic adviser who spearheaded Oakland's bid to hold the 2005
Super Bowl. "If Willie Brown said, 'We'll support you,' we'd
have gotten our contracts easily."
If Oakland had succeeded in its Super
Bowl bid, the event would have attracted 140,000 visitors and
likely had a local economic impact of $250 million, including
$60 million for San Francisco hotels and $32 million for Oakland
hotels, he said.
"They had more to lose, and lost it," Abraham
But getting San Francisco's cooperation
wasn't Oakland's only problem. Oakland didn't believe enough
in itself, said City Manager Robert Bobb, who tapped Abraham
to lead Oakland's Super Bowl bid in 2000.
"There were more doubting Thomases
than you could shake 10 sticks at," Bobb said. "Without belief
that we could do it, corporate and political support, there was
Bobb, a cheerleader for the city's
bid in 2000, supports another Oakland bid to hold the Super Bowl.
"We are a city that has major league
facilities as well as three professional sports franchises," Bobb
said. "The city and county need to decide whether we want to
be on the sidelines or major league. Even though we have three
major league teams, from a psychological standpoint we are still
trying to make it into the big leagues."
Oakland also has had big-league legal
battles. In 1997, the city and Alameda County sued the Raiders
to try to force the team to stay in Oakland. The Raiders countersued
the next year, claiming the team was defrauded when it returned
to Oakland in 1995 -- a $1.1 billion lawsuit is scheduled for
trial in March. The Raiders also have had their share of legal
disputes with the NFL.
The Raiders voted for Oakland's bid,
but the team's rocky relationships made it difficult to get its
active support. Also, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown provided reluctant
"I think we need to get our internal
act together," said Abraham, who was president of the Oakland-Alameda
County Sports Commission, a 45-member board that coordinated
Oakland's Super Bowl bid. "It's got to start with the mayor and
the business community.
"You've got to have a shared vision.
It's really that simple."
Oakland's bid presentation had "an
awful lot of holes," from details on stadium capacity to use
of hotels, said Jim Steeg, NFL senior vice president of special
Lack of cooperation
The lack of cooperation between San
Francisco and Oakland over use of hotels was a key issue, he
"The Super Bowl is not just 10,000
rooms; it's 30,000 or 40,000," Steeg said. "It's a regional activity."
Indeed, other Super Bowl host cities
have received help from neighbors. Miami has relied on Fort Lauderdale,
Tampa has relied on St. Petersburg, and Los Angeles has relied
on Orange County.
When the 1985 Super Bowl was at Stanford,
the Miami Dolphins practiced and roomed in Oakland. Jacksonville
sweetened its successful 2005 bid by promising 8,000 rooms on
cruise ships to be docked within walking distance of its new
NFL owners chose San Diego this time
partly because of its weather, plethora of hotel rooms, and tourist
attractions, Steeg said. San Diego, which has successfully held
two previous Super Bowls, also had an advocate in Chargers owner
"This game in San Diego would not be
here if Alex Spanos didn't lobby the owners," Steeg said. "It's
a key ingredient for the team and owner to participate. If you're
talking what's the top 10 -- that's probably one through seven."
Still, Oakland has a chance to hold
the Super Bowl, he said.
"We wouldn't have let them bid if we
didn't think it was a possibility," Steeg said.
While California has been a popular
spot, its outlook for holding future Super Bowls is uncertain.
Los Angeles lacks an NFL team. San Francisco needs a new stadium.
Even San Diego's 36-year-old stadium is considered outdated and
a liability. The Chargers have said that without a new stadium
they might leave.
San Francisco twice has been awarded
Super Bowls only to not hold the games.
Its successful bid to play host to
the 1999 Super Bowl called for up to $30 million in renovations
of Candlestick Park. But in 1996, the 49ers and city officials
decided it would be better to build a new stadium than it would
be to remodel Candlestick, so San Francisco gave up the 1999
game with the understanding that it would get another one with
a new stadium.
After San Francisco voters approved
a measure for a new stadium and mall at Candlestick Point, the
city was awarded the 2003 Super Bowl. But the new stadium was
put on hold and this year's game was then awarded to San Diego.
"When the 49ers are ultimately able
to build a new stadium, I think San Francisco will see a Super
Bowl," said John Marks, chairman of San Francisco's Super Bowl
bid and president and chief executive of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors
Bureau. "Obviously, there's a lack of clarity on when that will
Opening for Oakland
San Francisco's stadium delays gave
Oakland an opening in 2000 to bid for the 2005 Super Bowl. But
Marks didn't think Oakland had a chance to be host for a variety
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist," he
said. "I just though there was too much unsettled between the
city and the Raiders and far too much unsettled between the Raiders
and the NFL."
Oakland's bid included several letters
of support, including some from business leaders, local and state
officials, and the president of the Oakland Raiders Booster Club
-- but none from the Raiders.
"You need the complete support and
leadership of your home team," Marks said. "Without that, the
chances of getting rewarded a Super Bowl are slim and none.
"We provided very passive support for
their bid because what Oakland lacked, San Francisco has -- that
is an adequate number of hotel rooms to stage the game."
After two false alarms, Marks was wary
of asking San Francisco hotels again to set aside rooms for the
Super Bowl. The hotels had lost business twice because of the
false alarms and "I didn't want to cry wolf three times," he
Also, he wanted to keep San Francisco
at the front of the Super Bowl host line once it builds a new
"The city of Oakland does not have
the number of rooms (the NFL) requires, but the Bay Area does," said
Manette Belliveau, executive director of the Oakland Convention & Visitors
Bureau. "We looked at this as a Bay Area bid."
Once the economy picks up, more hotels
will be built in Oakland, she said. That would boost Oakland's
efforts for holding a future Super Bowl, which she hopes will
"I think we put in an excellent bid," she
said. "The competition was very difficult.
"It's an amazing event for any city
to host. The Super Bowl is the largest, the biggest. It's the
greatest. ... It's good for the whole region."
The NFL picks Super Bowl sites for
political and financial reasons, said sports economist Roger
Noll, a Stanford University economics professor.
"Oakland is a reasonable choice financially," he
said. "Politically, there is no good reason to pick it -- Al
Davis is not a favorite among other owners, and there is no subsidy
of the NFL on the table at the Coliseum. Part of the deal in
building a new stadium for an NFL team frequently is to give
the city a Super Bowl."
While there is no significant financial
risk in holding a Super Bowl, the local benefit is not necessarily
so big, he said.
"The NFL basically keeps all the profits;
the city basically breaks even," Noll said. "The economic impact
is virtually zero in cities that are winter tourist destinations.
The local hotels do boost their rates; however, these are almost
all national corporations, so the money just flows to the company.
The only cities that benefit from mega-events are places that
have little or no winter tourism (including conventions) like
Super Bowl 2004
The 2004 Super Bowl will be played
in Houston, 2005 in Jacksonville and 2006 in Detroit, which is
estimating a local economic impact of $372 million. When Atlanta
was host the 2000 Super Bowl, it had a $292 million economic
impact on Georgia, according to a Georgia State University study.
The NFL estimates the local economic
impact of holding a Super Bowl is $150 million to $250 million.
"Whether it's $150 million or $200
million or more, it's absolutely significant and furthermore,
it's really an enjoyable time for everyone in the neighborhood," San
Francisco's Marks said.
Holding a Super Bowl "puts the city
and all the entire surrounding areas on the map and in the spotlight," said
Beth Schnitzer, a board member for Oakland's Super Bowl bid and
vice president of market development for Pier 39 in San Francisco.
She said Oakland has a good chance
to hold a Super Bowl.
"There's got to be cooperation with
San Francisco," said Schnitzer, a veteran sports marketing consultant
who worked one year for NFL Properties and is attending today's
Super Bowl. "It's important to have 100 percent support from
the team, community leaders, political leaders, the convention
and visitor bureaus and chambers of commerce."
Abraham, who has a ticket to today's
Super Bowl game, remains optimistic about Oakland's chances of
playing host to the event. He has a bet with an acquaintance
that Oakland will stage a Super Bowl within 12 years.
Abraham is now chief executive of Sports
Business Simulations. He resigned from the city in November 2000
after the NFL awarded Jacksonville the 2005 Super Bowl.
"It was the greatest experience and
the worst experience of my life," he said. "We didn't fail. We
were one of three finalist cities."
Staff Writer Laura Counts contributed
to this report.