Perhaps trying to heal the Packer-sized wounds that many Chicagoans are carrying after last week's NFC Championship, mayoral candidate Gery Chico suggested that our fair city should host the Super Bowl. A Super Bowl bid could be a boon for the city, as host cities generally feel an impact of between $400 and $600 million. Why wouldn't a mayor want that for the city?
Can you imagine the national anthem, with the newly adopted practice of cheering on the singer? Or the beauty of the night-time kickoff with the sparkling Chicago skyline as its backdrop? Watching teams contend with the wind off of Lake Michigan, as the whole country tunes in to watch our city?
Chicago fit most of the criteria for Super Bowl host cities. With two international airports and a widespread public transportation system, Chicago could handle the massive influx of people arriving for festivities. A large convention center is needed for fan festivals, and Chicago exceeds this requirement with the McCormick Center next door to Soldier Field and the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont that could handle any extra convention activity. Each team needs its own practice facility, which could give area universities a chance to show off their facilities.
The NFL requires the city to have hotel capacity within a one-hour drive to accommodate 35 percent of the seating capacity of the stadium. At last count, there were more than 75,000 hotel rooms in Chicagoland. With the many hotels in the Loop and River North, a large percentage of Super Bowl guests could stay within minutes of Soldier Field, not hours. The booming nightlife in the South Loop, West Loop and River North could handle the many, many parties associated with the big game.
But the big question is, "What about the weather?" After all, it is Super Bowl week and Chicago is in the midst of a crazy snowstorm. In the past, the NFL has required an average temperature of 50 degrees for non-domed stadiums, a temperature we rarely reach for one day in the winter, much less average it.
However, the NFL seems to be softening on the weather. New York City will host the Super Bowl in 2014 in an outdoor stadium. As this winter has shown us, the Big Apple can be just as much a victim of cold weather as the Windy City (though we handle the snow with more grace. Plow early and often, New Yorkers!).
The biggest obstacle for Chicago is actually Soldier Field. Though renovations turned our beloved Soldier Field into a state-of-the-art (if ugly) stadium, the surface is just awful. The sod that is chewed up by mid-November would need to be replaced with an artificial surface before the NFL would even think of bringing their most important game to Chicago.
Soldier Field also holds at least 1,000 fewer seats than any other Super Bowl host. That may not seem like that many seats, but with tickets averaging $4,000, that could be too much of a loss for the NFL to bear.
So Gery, take heart. Chicago hosting the Super Bowl may be a long shot, but it certainly isn't the worst statement from a mayoral candidate.