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NFL Considering Moving Super Bowl LVI to Texas

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SoFi Stadium in LA. | Image from NFL

The NFL is considering the possibility of being forced to relocate the Super Bowl from SoFi Stadium outside Los Angeles due to the recent explosion of COVID-19 cases driven by the new Omicron variant.

While it isn’t uncommon for the NFL to have a contingency plan in place, the unique challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic this season mean that nothing is out of consideration for the NFL.

On January 5, Los Angeles County reported more than 26,000 new cases and a seven-day daily average of nearly 23,000 cases, far outpacing any other region in the State of California. For example, nearby San Diego has seen an average of only 7,000 new cases daily. Throughout the pandemic, California has instituted some of the most restrictive regulations in hopes of containing outbreaks.

In North Texas, COVID cases have also recently exploded, but a combination of factors, including a significantly lower population than LA County, have kept the numbers from hitting the astronomical figures seen in Southern California over the last ten days.

Dallas County Health and Human Services, which releases daily and batch numbers weekly, says that the most recent four-day total spanning from January 1 to January 4 was 4,800 new cases. The most recent single-day number released was for December 31, which showed a total of 2,422 new cases for that single day.

SoFi Stadium is one of the newest venues in the NFL and was originally slated to host the 2020 season Super Bowl. However, construction delays identified as far back as 2017 pushed the opening of the stadium off by one year, forcing the league to move the game to Tampa Bay last year. That decision was made with years of planning available to ensure a smooth transition.

The NFL has only rarely moved Super Bowl games in the past. In 1975, the sport’s biggest game was moved from the Superdome in New Orleans to nearby Tulane Stadium due to construction delays, similar to the decision made in 2017 to move the 2020 season Super Bowl out of LA. The 1998 season also saw a move from San Francisco to Miami after a plan to renovate Candlestick Park fell through.

Probably the biggest relocation in NFL history happened in the early 1990s when Arizona was slated to host Super Bowl XXVII in Sun Devil Stadium and the event was moved to Pasadena, California. That decision was not based on construction delays but rather the failure of the State of Arizona to approve a state-wide, paid holiday to recognize the life and achievements of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The move cost Arizona roughly $300 million in revenue and forced business owners to step up and support the paid holiday. Voters approved a state-wide holiday in 1992, and a few months later, the NFL awarded the state Super Bowl XXX.

Among the first facilities to be contacted by the NFL was AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. The world-class facility was used as a replacement site last year when the Rose Bowl had to be relocated out of Pasadena due to COVID-19 restrictions in the state that forbade any type of public sporting event.

Super Bowl LVI is currently scheduled to take place on February 13 in Inglewood, California. The league has only just begun to explore options, and no decision has yet been made about what measures might be taken to keep the game in California or what the process of moving it out of state would entail.

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