Last week, as city officials basked in the glow of the wildly successful staging of Super Bowl XLVII (with one notable exception, of course), it was instructive to contemplate the things that would remain in New Orleans after the game fades into history. To name a few:
Resurfaced streets and new curb cuts in the French Quarter. A significant facelift for an airport that badly needed one. New plantings and sculptures downtown. And a Superdome that was once a symbol of human misery transformed into a glowing beacon that symbolized, for TV cameras, just how far New Orleans has come since Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the federal levees.
One underreported aspect of Super Bowl weekend was the Super Saturday of Service, which was a cornerstone of New Orleans' bid to host the game. Volunteers from the NFL, along with people from sponsoring corporations and New Orleans citizens, worked on five city parks to help clean up, plant trees and make other improvements. (The turf from the game was scheduled to surface Harrell Stadium in Carrollton/Hollygrove.)
Success has many parents, and city officials deserve kudos, but we think two groups of people deserve special praise for making the run-up to Super Bowl successful. First, some 17,000 volunteers pitched in to help behind the scenes and welcome many thousands of Super Bowl visitors. Second, the citizens of New Orleans put up with months of inconvenience (traffic delays, construction and more) on the word of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who promised everything would get done on time. It did.
That's small comfort to some, particularly French Quarter residents and businesses, for whom the inconvenience was a daily affair — and for those who found much of the corporate branding an affront to their small-business sensibilities. On that score, it should be noted, organizers included local businesses and artists to good advantage, from the 40-plus Louisiana bands that entertained in Woldenberg Park over the weekend to the po-boy shops and oyster houses that shared space (and exposure) with white-tablecloth restaurants at the Super Bowl media party.
There was one major glitch, of course, and it was the one thing for which the game will likely be remembered: the 34-minute blackout during the third quarter, which spawned a million grim jokes. For those whose Super Bowl was just a few hours on TV, it loomed large; for those who were here all week (including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and team owners), it was one blip in what was otherwise a flawless performance by the city. Goodell and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said as much, in fact.
Many sportswriters and pundits thought (or hoped) the blackout would scotch New Orleans' chances for hosting another Super Bowl in the near future, to which we say: Dream on. We're aiming for 2018.
Indianapolis, home of the 2012 Super Bowl, has announced that it will bid for the 2018 event (Indy's media, which had no complaints when they came to our Super Bowl, promptly made hay of the blackout). Minneapolis and San Francisco, both cities with big stadium building plans, will likely be in the mix. Dallas, Denver, Houston and Miami may also compete for Super Bowl LII. Formal declarations of bidding will come later this year, followed by presentations to the NFL, and a final decision in May 2014.
Of course, New Orleans has one consideration those other cities don't — Carnival. Turns out that Mardi Gras 2018 falls on Feb. 13 — just one day later than this year. Assuming the 2018 Super Bowl will be held Feb. 4, the first Sunday of the month, we would have the same split Carnival calendar that we had this year: two weeks of Mardi Gras with a week of Super Bowl in the middle.
That isn't ideal. A Fat Tuesday in March would put some padding between celebrations, but this year we proved that a three-week party with some football in the middle was a piece of (king) cake for New Orleans. Another advantage: The krewes that were inconvenienced by this year' schedule will have plenty of time to prepare.
"New Orleans is the perfect Super Bowl host," wrote Lynn Zinser of The New York Times — a full week before the kickoff. Actually, Zinser's full quote was: "Which is why New Orleans is the perfect Super Bowl host: crazy set up shop here long ago and called it home." We'll still take the compliment — and the 2018 Super Bowl. Bring it on.