BOSTON – As expected, the Super Bowl is officially returning to California.
At their spring meeting on Tuesday, NFL owners awarded Super Bowl L in 2016 to the Bay Area and the San Francisco 49ers' Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, ending what will be a 13-year drought for the state that has hosted 11 Super Bowls.
The last Super Bowl in California was in January 2003, when Super Bowl XXXVII was played in San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium.
It's the second Bay Area Super Bowl, coming after Super Bowl XIX at Stanford.
The owners also awarded Super Bowl LI (2017) to Houston's Reliant Stadium, which hosted Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004.
South Florida was shut out in its bid for both Super Bowls, which isn't surprising, considering the Miami Dolphins were unable to secure funding for renovations to Sun Life Stadium. Miami and Ft. Lauderdale could wind up being taken out of the rotation, just as San Diego has been, because of an outdated facility.
Next year's Super Bowl will be played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The following year, the game returns to Glendale, Ariz., which hosted Super Bowl XLII in 2008.
The 49ers' new stadium is being built and is scheduled to open for the 2014 season. With the NFL showing a penchant for bringing is championship game to new venues -- Dallas and Indianapolis recently, New Jersey next February -- many believed Santa Clara was a slam-dunk choice.
"I think with the new stadium ... we can host a Super Bowl there," Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice said. "It's going to be awesome. So I realize there's a lot of history at Candlestick. To stay competitive in the NFL, this is something we have really needed for a long, long time, and I think it's going to be awesome."
Not so awesome for the Miami area was a defeat in the state Legislature earlier this month that could severely damage its hopes of being chosen as the 2016 host. Or, for that matter, for South Florida to beat Houston for the 2017 game should it lose to San Francisco for the 50th edition. Both sites will be decided Tuesday.
The Dolphins were denied public money for a stadium upgrade. Multibillionaire Dolphins owner Stephen Ross contends $350 million in stadium improvements are badly needed, but he doesn't want to pay for them by himself. Nor does he want a scaled-down renovation of the 26-year-old facility.
For years, it was thought the NFL would seek to stage the 50th Super Bowl in Los Angeles, where the first one was played (but did not sell out) on Jan. 15, 1967. But with no franchise in LA and no suitable stadium projects approved, that hope disappeared.
Next Feb. 2, the game goes outdoors in a cold-weather site for the first time, at MetLife Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands. If that gamble pays off for the NFL, look for other cities in similar climates -- Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver -- to bid for future Super Bowls.
The league also has expressed great satisfaction with how Indianapolis handled the big game in 2012. New Orleans is a regular bidder, and Commissioner Roger Goodell has said the power outage during last year's game will not impact voting on the Big Easy hosting another Super Bowl.
The 2015 game will be played in the Phoenix area.
Earlier in the day, owners approved a $200 million loan for the Atlanta Falcons to build a new stadium. The multipurpose facility could cost as much as $1 billion, with team owner Arthur Blank committed to funding most of it.
Blank called the decision by the team owners an "important milestone" in moving the project forward.
"The NFL has supported new stadium construction through various means for decades," he said. "Our club owners understand that investments ... are important to the long-term strength of the league, and we thank them for their support."
The stadium also will be built with $200 million from public bonds.
Blank said the design and construction of the Falcons' new home will take place over the next four years and the team plans to open the 2017 season there. The Georgia Dome, which opened in 1992, will be demolished when the new stadium opens.
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