- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2003

CHICAGO — Washington Redskins executives have spent the last several weeks crisscrossing the country trying to rally support among NFL owners for playing the 2008 Super Bowl at FedEx Field.

With the vote on the Super Bowl XLII host set for tomorrow, NFL sources say Phoenix, Ariz., which will open a new stadium for the Cardinals in 2006, remains the favorite to land the game. As a result, the Redskins have met face-to-face or arranged conference calls with about 25 NFL owners.

And in each meeting, the pitch is essentially the same: Now is the time to break the decades-old tradition of playing the Super Bowl in cities with either warm winters or domed stadiums.

“We are making our case as effectively as possible,” said Dave Pauken, the Redskins’ chief operating officer. “Washington is unquestionably a football town. We have so many one-of-a-kind venues to stage every event connected to the Super Bowl. This is the nation’s capital. It would be such a unique, patriotic game. Obviously, we’re having to deal with concern about the weather. But we feel we’re very much in this.”

Washington also is competing with Tampa, Fla., but that city is seen as more of a long shot to win the game because Raymond James Stadium was the site of Baltimore’s Super Bowl XXXV triumph just three years ago.

The New York Giants, who like Washington sought to be the first with an outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl, dropped out of the 2008 race earlier this month and are now seeking the 2009 game.

The Super Bowl vote will conclude a midseason owners’ meeting being held here. Also being discussed are the league’s still-nascent return to Los Angeles and the upcoming NFL Network.

Each of the three remaining finalists for the 2008 Super Bowl submitted formal written bids to the league by Oct.15, detailing plans for security, transportation, corporate hospitality, lodging, game operations and a myriad of other areas.

Tomorrow morning’s vote will be conducted by secret ballot, with approval for any city requiring votes from least 24 of 32 NFL owners. If that three-quarters majority is not achieved in three successive votes, a simple majority vote determines the winner. Super Bowl host cities represent the only league business conducted by secret ballot.

“These three bids all are really well done,” said Jim Steeg, NFL senior vice president of special events. “Now, the lobbying has really picked up.”

Complicating the Redskins’ vote stumping is the unpredictability of NFL owner sentiment. It’s easy to assume most northern-tier owners would favor a wintry Super Bowl and most southern owners would oppose it, largely for fear of missing a turn in the typical Super Bowl rotation. But league sources say current owner opinion is not limited to any specific geography or market size.

“It’s literally all over the map,” one league source said.

Redskins sources say the lobbying so far has generated positive responses or pledges of support from about 15 teams. Whether that translates to actual votes will not become clear until tomorrow.

Not only is Arizona still the warm-weather front-runner, but the Cardinals also generated significant goodwill around the league by aiding the league’s last-minute switch of the “Monday Night Football” game from wildfire-ravaged San Diego to Sun Devil Stadium. Both Tempe Mayor Neil Guiliano and Cardinals vice president Michael Bidwill are openly hoping for extra Super Bowl votes as a result of the switch.

Leading the Redskins’ formal Super Bowl presentation to NFL owners will be Fred Thompson, former Tennessee senator and currently the president of the Federal City Council.

FedEx Field already has a heated field and the largest battery of premium seating in the league. The Redskins plan to add 6,000 lower-level seats to the 6-year-old facility should it land the Super Bowl.

The next four Super Bowls will be held in Houston, Jacksonville, Detroit and Miami.

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