ARLINGTON, Texas — A Super Bowl, the granddaddy of all sporting events, takes years to plan. Stadiums are chosen several seasons ahead of when they’ll host.
But the NFL has contacted AT&T Stadium in Arlington to act as a potential backup site if Super Bowl LVI cannot be played at SoFi Stadium in California on Feb. 13.
That would give North Texas just over a month to plan of the world's biggest events.
“There’s no doubt that Dallas-Fort Worth and North Texas can do this and do it absolutely brilliantly,” said Rick Baker, president and CEO of the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association.
Hosting a Super Bowl with 39 days' notice might sound like an insurmountable task, but Baker and other North Texas event planners say theirs might be the only community in America that could pull it off.
“Would it be hard? Yes. Would it be possible? Yes,” said Tara Green.
Green was chief operating officer for the 2011 Super Bowl XL host committee - Arlington’s one and only time to host the NFL’s biggest game.
During Super Bowl week, a major ice storm brought the region to a standstill and tainted the experience for fans, celebrities and anyone who tried to attend any of the myriad of events surrounding the game.
AT&T Stadium has not been chosen as a Super Bowl site since that frigid week.
“That was a very different time and the building was brand new. There is so much that has taken place since then and large-scale events work perfectly out there,” Green said.
“North Texas could do it. North Texas has the regional experience hosting these big events. We have a world class airport. We have hotels that will be able to pivot and accommodate. So, I think it could be possible. It will be very hard but very doable.”
There’s also a blueprint in place, Baker said.
In December 2020, Baker and Cotton Bowl organizers were contacted about potentially hosting the 2021 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
The Rose Bowl is played annually in Pasadena, CA, but COVID restrictions in that state would have prevented family, friends or any fans from attending the game.
“Twelve days before the Rose Bowl was scheduled to be played on January 1 – on December 19 – we got word, ‘Hey, it’s on. You’ve got it.’” Baker said. “It was a bold of lightning, but when something like that happens people come together and really make it work.”
Baker acknowledged that moving the Rose Bowl was less daunting than moving a Super Bowl.
But, “some of the best big event people anywhere are right here,” he said.
“I think this area is perfect for these kinds of things when we have to react quickly.”
COVID protocols in California are much different than they were when the Rose Bowl was moved.
As of Jan. 5, 2022, the state has no limits on how large a crowd can be.
But it has extended its indoor mask requirements until Feb. 15 – two days after Super Bowl Sunday.
The Grammy’s, scheduled for Jan. 31 in Los Angeles, have also been postponed.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy tells WFAA the NFL looks into backup venues every year and said the league still plans to play the Super Bowl in Los Angeles.
“As part of our standard contingency planning process that we conduct for all regular and postseason games, we have contacted several clubs to inquire about stadium availability in the event we cannot play the Super Bowl as scheduled due to weather-related issues or unforeseen circumstances. Our planning process for the Super Bowl in Los Angeles is ahead of schedule and we look forward to hosting the Super Bowl there to culminate another fantastic NFL season for our fans and clubs,” McCarthy said.