Gil LeBreton

North Texas stuck waiting in line for Super Bowl

The fluke winter weather in 2011 should not be a lingering factor as North Texas seeks another Super Bowl.
The fluke winter weather in 2011 should not be a lingering factor as North Texas seeks another Super Bowl. The Dallas Morning News

On the last weekend of January 2011, members of the Super Bowl XLV host committee gathered at the Angelika Film Center in Plano for the premiere of SLANT 45: The Movie.

The weather, as a committee member recalls, was “outstandingly gorgeous.”

“Hey,” someone interrupted, “did you hear that some bad weather may be headed our way?”

The committee member remembers shrugging and heading into the theater.

We all know what happened over the next week. The southern tail of an arctic storm system swept across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, pelting roads with a sheet of ice and then blanketing it with more than 4 inches of snow.

Cowboys Stadium became Ice Station Jones. And when the sun was able to peek through, it sent glaciers of ice cascading down the stadium’s sloped roof onto victims below. Seven were injured, including a photographer who had his shoulder broken in four places.

Oh, and there was also that little seat debacle, where 1,200 Super Bowl ticket buyers showed up only to discover that they had no seats.

Two schools of thought emerged from the icy debris of Super Bowl XLV.

One was that, surely, the NFL and its big game would never return.

The other reviewers were those who confidently predicted that with a stadium so grand, so big, so Texas, that Arlington would become a part of the Super Bowl’s regular rotation, much like New Orleans.

Both camps, as it turned out, probably overreacted.

Super Bowl 50, the second chance that Jerry Jones wanted, went to the San Francisco Bay Area and its new stadium in Santa Clara. And while local activists have complained about the NFL’s broad and garish footprint, the prevailing welcome has been surprisingly enthusiastic for a game in which their beloved 49ers aren’t playing.

The game fits nicely here, with the city’s many hotels and restaurants. Transit runs the gamut from Uber to cable car. And the weather — hovering around 50 degrees, night and day — has allowed visitors to roam the streets, something they couldn’t do at the North Texas Super Bowl.

This won’t be San Francisco’s last Super Bowl. And there’s the problem for Arlington and AT&T Stadium.

“I have absolutely no doubt that the Super Bowl will be back in North Texas at some point,” said Tony Fay of the LDWW Group, who served as vice president for marketing and communications for the Super Bowl XLV host committee.

“Our stadium is second to none. The influence of the Cowboys and the Jones family is strong.

“There are just a lot of great cities and great stadiums now, and as much as we wanted to believe we would be in a small four- to five-city rotation, we’re just going to have to wait our turn.”

The NFL has adopted a handshake policy of rewarding its municipalities who come forward and help build new football venues.

That’s how Minneapolis was able to jump the line ahead of legacy host New Orleans and get the 2018 game. The Vikings’ new U.S. Bank Stadium will open next season.

New stadiums in Detroit (2006) and Indianapolis (2012) were also rewarded with Super Bowls.

With Houston already awarded the February 2017 game, the Cowboys asked to be considered for the Super Bowls in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Four cities have been named finalists for the 2019 and 2020 games — New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Miami.

New Orleans and Atlanta — another new stadium — are expected to get those. But the Rams’ new stadium in Inglewood, Calif., will be ready by then, and there likely will be a strong push to move Stan Kroenke to the head of the line.

That would leave North Texas likely competing with Tampa Bay and South Florida for the 2022 and 2023 Super Bowls.

Would the NFL really make Jerry Jones wait that long — or even longer? In 2022, Jerry will be 80 years old.

Fay, for one, is confident that Charlotte Jones Anderson and the Cowboys organization have the savvy to put a winning bid together.

Some of us, meanwhile, might argue that the entire area needs a full-time North Texas Sports Commission to seek out and attract events not only for AT&T Stadium but also for American Airlines Center, College Park Center in Arlington, and the new, $450 million city arena opening in 2019 at the Will Rogers Complex.

The next round of host Super Bowl cities is expected to be voted upon at the NFL owners meeting in May. They could decide to name more than the 2019 and 2020 games.

For once, I’m on Owner Jones’ side. The weather in 2011 was a fluke.

The biggest and best stadium in the NFL shouldn’t have to wait 12 years between Super Bowls.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram