- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2003

NFL owners yesterday selected Washington as one of four finalists to play host to the Super Bowl in February 2008.

The owners, meeting in Philadelphia, also approved Tampa, Fla.; New York and Phoenix. Each city has been invited to make a presentation at the next owners meeting, in Chicago in October.

Several owners have publicly opposed the idea of playing the Super Bowl outdoors in a Northern city. However, the concept’s chief proponent, commissioner Paul Tagliabue, said there was “pretty strong sentiment” for the proposal because of New York’s status as the financial and communications capital of the country and Washington’s as its seat of government.

Tagliabue, a Georgetown graduate and former partner at the District law firm of Covington and Burling, noted that Washington and New York also are major population centers within reasonable proximity of several other teams, such as the Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots.

The commissioner repeatedly mentioned the importance of “major upgrades” to the stadium in New York, an indication of his support for the Jets’ proposal to build a facility in Manhattan. Giants Stadium, home to both of New York’s teams, is located across the Hudson River and is 27 years old.

FedEx Field, the Redskins’ stadium in Landover, is just 6 years old, a year older than Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium. The Arizona Cardinals have broken ground on a new stadium in suburban Glendale.

“I don’t have a personal preference for any of the four cities,” said Tagliabue, a New Jersey native and a resident of New York since he became commissioner in 1989. “Each could be a very strong candidate.”

Owners had mixed reactions to the concept of a Super Bowl played outdoors in a Northern city.

“I’d love to see a Super Bowl in New York,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. “I think absolutely, if they get a stadium.”

Texans owner Robert McNair sided with his team’s fans, who oppose the idea.

“We’ve asked our fans their reaction and, by and large, it’s negative,” McNair said. “Is there a strong enough climate among the owners to overcome that? Maybe so on a one-time basis, but a warm-weather site, I think that is what our fans want.”

Washington — and New Orleans — lost out, as expected, to Miami for the right to play host to the title game in 2007. That decision will be ratified at a special meeting in September. Tagliabue said that with the 2006 game being played in Detroit’s domed Ford Field, the owners didn’t want back-to-back Super Bowls in a Northern city or indoors.

Meanwhile, the proposal by the Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs to expand the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams this season is facing such difficulty in attracting the necessary 24 votes from among the 32 owners to pass that Tagliabue said a vote might not be taken when the meetings conclude today.

Tabling the proposal would effectively kill it, since the owners won’t meet again until after the season starts. The competition committee, comprised of general managers and coaches, recently voted 8-0 against playoff expansion, in part because it wants to stick with the realignment and balanced schedule begun in 2002 for at least two years, as planned.

The Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings and San Diego Chargers, all of whom have been considering moving to Los Angeles, received disappointing news. The owners passed a resolution to work with representatives in suburban Pasadena and Carson on stadium development in southern California. Tagliabue said that neither site would be ready until 2006 since the league wants “a state of the art” stadium if and when it returns to the nation’s No.2 market, which has been without a team since the Rams and Raiders left for St. Louis and Oakland, respectively, in 1995.

That would prevent a team from using the Coliseum in downtown Los Angeles, Edison Field in suburban Anaheim or the Rose Bowl in Pasadena in the interim. The fan apathy that existed toward the Houston Oilers during their years in Memphis (1997) and at Vanderbilt (1998) before they moved into their new stadium in Nashville, Tenn., in 1999 may well have influenced that thinking.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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