SBJ/November 2 - 8, 1998/No Topic Name

New Orleans looks Super for '02

San Diego lost out to the Big Easy for the 2002 Super Bowl despite pledging to spend up to $1.6 million reconfiguring Qualcomm Stadium.

NFL owners last week gave New Orleans an unprecedented ninth Super Bowl, which could carry an economic benefit of up to $500 million.

"I'm just so disappointed right now," said Alex Spanos, owner of the San Diego Chargers, who lobbied hard to land the big game.

In the end, the New Orleans bid offered something the NFL couldn't refuse: 20,000 hotel rooms within a mile of the Superdome and a city accustomed to hosting massive events.

Jay Cicero, president of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, said the proximity of hotel rooms is important because the city and the NFL share transportation costs for the event.

City officials also plan to use their convention center to host the NFL Experience, a virtual-reality NFL theme park.

"We have the reputation of being able to throw a great party," said New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial. "There is a high degree of familiarity between us and the NFL."

By the time 2002 rolls around, New Orleans will also have a new 17,500-seat arena, 6,000 additional hotel rooms, a family theme park and an expanded airport, the kinds of things corporate America loves as it wines and dines clients during Super Bowl week.

New Orleans officials said the economic impact from the 2002 Super Bowl could reach $500 million. In 1997, the last year New Orleans hosted the Super Bowl, the event brought about $250 million to the city, officials said.

The Super Bowl hosted by San Diego in January brought an economic impact of $295 million, according to accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The NFL had expressed concerns about seating at that Super Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium, where the first several rows were not sold because of sight-line problems.

But San Diego had hired an NFL architect to design temporary seating to allay those concerns, said Mayor Susan Golding. San Diego had proposed two options, at costs of $750,000 and $1.6 million, to get 2,000 additional temporary seats in the stadium.

Minutes after the decision, San Diego officials were looking to the future.

"We will bid for subsequent Super Bowls," Golding said, including 2004 and, if it becomes available, 2003.

The 2003 Super Bowl is scheduled for San Francisco, but that is dependent on the 49ers following through on a commitment to build a new stadium.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said San Diego would be a "strong contender, if not a front-runner," for the 2004 Super Bowl.

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