BOSTON - Where the Super Bowl will celebrate a half-century of existence will be decided this week by NFL owners.
They have two choices for the 50th anniversary game in 2016: the San Francisco Bay Area and South Florida.
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 very recently, New Jersey next February - Santa Clara would appear to have a strong chance. Only once has the Bay Area staged a Super Bowl, in 1985 at Stanford Stadium.
"I think with the new stadium ... we can host a Super Bowl there," said Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice. "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 today.
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.
"The House leadership has made our efforts to bring the Super Bowl back to Miami and South Florida much more difficult," said Rodney Barreto, chairman of the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee.
Miami does have experience on its side, having played host to 10 Super Bowls, tied with New Orleans for the most. All of the South Florida title games have been successful, although the only outdoor Super Bowl played in the rain was held there in 2007 when Peyton Manning and the Colts won the championship.
"This is not the stadium we had hoped we could include in the bid," Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said. "But we will be there when the NFL owners vote, and we'll put our best foot forward."
A three-quarters majority of the 32 owners is required on the first ballot today. If neither city gets that, then a simple majority wins on the next ballot.
The loser in the 2016 bidding will face Houston for the 2017 Super Bowl. Houston had the 2004 game.
Texans owner Bob McNair is cautious about his city's chances, even with South Florida's political and financial struggles.
"Certainly what happened doesn't help Miami's bid. There's no doubt about that," McNair said. "But that doesn't say that the owners couldn't decide to still go to Miami."
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 playing host to another Super Bowl.
The 2015 game will be played in the Phoenix area.