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Will Washington, D.C., Ever Host The Super Bowl?

January 28, 2014

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the NFL pledged to help the New York and Washington, D.C., tourism industries by bringing the Super Bowl to one. 

Guess which one they picked. 

It's one thing to bring the Super Bowl to cold-weather sites with dome stadiums. I covered the Washington Redskins' most recent Super Bowl trip, which was to Minneapolis in January 1992, and it was brutal outdoors, but nice indoors. But the NFL is gambling for the first time in 48 title games by playing outdoors Feb. 2 in New Jersey, where the weather could be a factor. 

Suddenly, every open stadium outside Green Bay is pondering a Super Bowl bid. Because the Super Bowl brings $350 million in economic development to town, officials in many cities want to host one. And if Jacksonville can host the game, everybody has a chance. 

But will D.C. ever get a Super Bowl?

First, this open-air concept is getting a chance only because it's close to NFL headquarters, and league officials have long wanted a reason to bring the game to the nation's largest media market. The 9/11 tourism losses, which long ago rebounded in New York and D.C., were the perfect excuse to try it. 

Tourism losses for New York weren't true anyway. In 2000, before the Twin Towers attacks, New York City drew 36.2 million visitors, according to It dipped to 35.3 million for 2002, but rose to 39.9 million by 2004 and 52.7 million in 2012.

The Super Bowl is supposed to be a week-long pregame party. Often, only one-fourth of the people coming to the host city actually see the game. The rest come to have fun and see celebrities. That's why cold-weather cities are shunned, even with domes. Atlanta and Dallas had ice storms during the week leading up to the games they hosted, and you won't hear much talk about talking about going back to either one of those cities.

NFL owners like warm-weather sites. That's why Miami and New Orleans nearly owned the game for years, with occasional moves to Arizona and California. Somebody else would get it every five years, but that core rotation remains. If Los Angeles ever gets a team, that city will be a regular, too. 

D.C. is a great tourist town. I'm also a licensed tour guide and show around my share of the 20 million people coming to the town annually. But it's mostly an outdoor series of sights (Smithsonians aside), and few venture to see the Lincoln Memorial and White House during the winter. D.C. would be like many cities with created indoor events to satisfy the crowd paying big money to come to town.

Second, D.C. would need a domed stadium to compete for a bid, though a new baseball stadium hasn't brought MLB's All-Star Game to town yet. The Redskins' lease at FedEx Field will expire in 2027, and there aren't any viable city locations aside from the old RFK site, and that's iffy. 

But D.C. does have a bid committee for the 2024 Summer Olympics. At minimum, D.C. would need an indoor stadium. Marry that concept with the next Redskins stadium, and it might happen. Otherwise, that stadium would probably stay in Maryland, possibly at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. 

Third, Redskins owner Dan Snyder needs to make peace with fellow owners to gain a Super Bowl venue for D.C. Owners decide where the game goes, and Snyder lacks enough friends in the room. Many owners don't like Snyder, who increased players' and coaches' salaries through reckless spending. They don't forget that. Snyder once named a Super Bowl committee that was never heard from again. 

Overall, D.C. might get one chance in the far future for the game, but not before opening a new stadium 14 years from now. A cold-weather, open-stadium venue is going to happen maybe once a decade, and watch New Jersey get the next one, too. 

You know, because it will help New York tourism. It seems the Times Square naked cowboy doesn't draw enough anymore.