The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is facing up to losing its hosting rights to Super Bowl LVIII due to a potential clash between an expanded NFL regular season and New Orleans’ iconic annual Mardi Gras celebrations.
The Superdome, which is set for an extensive renovation project, was awarded the hosting rights to the 2024 edition of the American football league’s showpiece game back in May 2018, but a recent change to the NFL’s future outlook has raised questions over whether the event will be able to be staged in the city.
The NFL last month signed off on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the sport’s players’ union, NFLPA. The CBA outlined a number of major changes for the League in future years, including the expansion of the regular season by adding a 17th round of games, potentially as soon as the 2021 season.
Under a 16-game season, the 2024 Super Bowl is scheduled for February 4, but an extra round of games would mean a week’s delay, potentially shifting the big event to February 11, two days before Mardi Gras.
NOLA.com said two scenarios are currently being assessed – either trying to play the Super Bowl on February 4 with a 17-game regular season or relocating it and granting New Orleans hosting rights for a future edition that ties in with the city’s events calendar.
New Orleans Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said in a statement: “The New Orleans Host Committee, led by the New Orleans Saints and Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, has remained in close communication with league officials about the change to a 17-game regular season, as it relates to the city hosting Super Bowl LVIII in 2024.
“The Bid Committee, the New Orleans Saints and NFL worked together to build in contingencies if a potential conflict with Mardi Gras should affect the Super Bowl date. Mutually agreed upon terms during the bid process granted assurances that the NFL and Host Committee would explore all options for still hosting the game in 2024, or, agreeing to host the Super Bowl in a future year when the citywide calendar permits.”
The NFL added: “As part of the bid process in 2018, we contemplated the possibility of a 17-game schedule as part of a new CBA. We are exploring options with the Saints and the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation for the city to remain the host of the Super Bowl in 2024 or in a future year that would be suitable for both New Orleans and the NFL.”
In May 2018, the NFL awarded hosting rights for the 2023 and 2024 Super Bowls to Arizona and New Orleans, respectively. The Superdome has hosted the game on seven previous occasions, with New Orleans having staged the event 10 times in total. The Superdome most recently hosted in 2013 (pictured).
In November, Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (LSED) approved the first phase of a $450m (£366.6m/€417.5m) renovation of the Superdome, with a construction firm appointed and the first renderings revealed for the project.
LSED, which oversees the home of the New Orleans Saints for the state, voted to approve the project, with Louisiana-based Broadmoor named as the construction firm for the first phase, which will largely consist of back-of-house work, building a large kitchen and food-service area and adding exits to prepare for the removal of the ramps inside the Superdome.
Image: New Orleans Saints