?NFL owners voted Tuesday to play the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis -- the latest example of the league using its marquee event as a reward for cities that spend taxpayer dollars to build new stadiums.
It's a trend the Falcons hope will continue next year when the NFL chooses the site of the 2019 Super Bowl, the first that the team's planned new downtown stadium will be eligible to host.
Voting by secret ballot during a meeting in Atlanta, the 32 NFL owners chose Minneapolis over New Orleans and Indianapolis as the site of the 2018 event.
Minnesota and NFL officials attributed the outcome to the Vikings' new indoor stadium, which is under construction on the site of the old Metrodome at a cost of $975 million, about half of it public money.
"The league has always been very good at rewarding cities that make public investments in stadiums," Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay said. "So that bodes well for Atlanta. Beyond that, I think we as a city qualify on our own. We are pretty good at hosting big events.
"We think we deserve it. And we don't want to just get a Super Bowl; we want to host (multiple) Super Bowls. I think we are a city that can do that."
Atlanta wasn't eligible to seek the 2018 Super Bowl because the NFL requires a stadium to be open for two football seasons before it hosts the event. The new Falcons stadium is scheduled to open in 2017, making the 2019 Super Bowl the first for which it can bid.
Atlanta has begun the bid process for 2019 by submitting a letter of interest to the NFL. The league is expected to narrow the applicants to three candidates in October and choose the site next May.
"2019 is our hope," Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. "That's our aspiration, and we'll see where that takes us, but that's our hope.
"We're in queue. There will be other cities and stadiums in queue as well. It'll be very competitive."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Super Bowl bids have become more competitive because of new stadiums.
"I think Atlanta is a great example of that," Goodell said. "I know (a Super Bowl) is something (Blank) and the Falcons want for this community. I know this community wants it, and they are a great community. That stadium is going to serve them well going forward."
The new Minnesota stadium is scheduled to open in 2016. The decision to play the 2018 Super Bowl there required four ballots in Tuesday's day-long meeting at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead.
"All three bids were outstanding," Goodell said. "I think a distinguishing factor ... was the stadium project ... and the commitment that community has demonstrated."
After Indianapolis was eliminated, Minneapolis prevailed over New Orleans, which has hosted 10 Super Bowls, tied with Miami for most by any city.
Vikings co-owner Mark Wilf said he stressed, in his pre-vote pitch to his fellow owners, the public-private partnership behind the stadium and what a Super Bowl can do to ensure the facility's success.
With the NFL in something of a stadium-building boom, the trend of playing the Super Bowl in new venues has accelerated.
The 2011 Super Bowl was played in a stadium the Dallas Cowboys opened in 2009, the 2012 Super Bowl in a stadium the Indianapolis Colts opened in 2008 and this year's Super Bowl in a stadium the New York Giants and Jets opened in 2010. The San Francisco 49ers will host the 2016 Super Bowl in a stadium that will open this year.
The NFL obviously was not deterred by Minnesota's winter weather.
"We just have to be prepared for that," Goodell said. "Minneapolis embraced that, just like New York and New Jersey embraced it in their bid (for this year's Super Bowl).
"People will make their choice. If you want to play golf, that may not be your first choice. You may play golf and then come to Minneapolis," Goodell said. "People come to the Super Bowl for a variety of reasons. They want to be part of something special. I think that's going to ... happen in Minneapolis. It's going to be very special."
Minneapolis has hosted one previous Super Bowl -- 1992 in the Metrodome.
Atlanta's desire for a future Super Bowl permeated the Falcons' stadium ground-breaking ceremony that was held Monday night in beautiful May weather and attended by Goodell.
"Welcome to a typical evening in Atlanta," Blank said at the outdoor event. "So for those of my NFL partners who will one day vote for a Super Bowl, this is normal weather in Atlanta -- even in February."
A plane circled the ceremony, pulling a banner that read: "Break Ground on Super Bowl Too."
Atlanta has hosted two Super Bowls, 1994 and 2000, the second marred by an ice storm.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the new stadium will place the city on "the leading edge" of the competition for such events.
"What this stadium does is differentiate us from having a 20-year-old facility, like many cities do in the United States, (to) having one of the best facilities in the world," Reed said.
Bonds backed by revenue from Atlanta's hotel-motel tax will pay for $200 million of the cost of building the $1.2 billion stadium, with the Falcons responsible for the rest. Hundreds of millions of additional hotel-motel tax dollars will go toward the stadium for interest, maintenance and operating expenses over 30 years.
Also at Tuesday's NFL meeting here, owners deferred action on expanding the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams, meaning the postseason will remain unchanged for the 2014 season. Goodell, however, said he expects playoff expansion to be approved for the 2015 season.
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