For Los Angeles-area sports fans, the highlight of Sunday’s Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., could be the moment after the game ends.
That’s when anticipation for next year’s Super Bowl officially begins.
Super Bowl LVI will be played in February 2022 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, the eighth time pro football’s championship game will be held in L.A. County and the first time since 1993.
L.A. organizers say they’re forging ahead on the assumption the COVID-19 pandemic won’t get in the way of the 56th installment of the Super Bowl or the surrounding events that are crucial to maximizing the game’s regional economic benefits.
Kathryn Schloessman, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission, said Friday she’s “95% confident” that bans on fans at local sports events will have been lifted by then and the venue’s 70,240 seats will be filled.
“I think we can still host a safe and exciting event here,” Schloessman said. “Will there be changes? Yes. Do we know what they are right now? No.
“There will be different stuff we’re doing because of the pandemic, and there will be different stuff we’re doing because we’re Los Angeles.”
Much about Super Bowl LVI remains up in the air a year out, starting with something as basic as the exact date.
When the NFL awarded the game to Los Angeles six years ago, it was penciled in for Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. But it could be played Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, depending on whether the league opts to add a 17th game to each team’s regular-season schedule starting with the 2021 season. Schloessman said a decision is expected in the next month.
Also yet to be locked in is where related activities – fan festivals, NFL-sponsored parties and the Super Bowl-eve league awards show – will be held, and where the teams will practice the week of the game.
This year’s Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be played in front of a socially distanced crowd of about 25,000 at 66,000-seat Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, with much of the hoopla scrapped or scaled back.
At his annual Super Bowl week press conference Thursday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is excited to bring its biggest event to L.A.’s “remarkable” new stadium, but acknowledged uncertainties.
“I don’t know what the environment’s going to be like by next year,” Goodell said, referring to the pandemic blamed for more than 450,000 deaths in the United States, 17,500 in L.A. County.
The Rams and Chargers played their first season at SoFi Stadium in 2020 without any fans in the stands.
“We hope it’ll be filled with fans, not just in the stadium but around the stadium and enjoying the facility, and we will be back to more of a normal cadence,” Goodell said of next year’s Super Bowl.
“But safety has driven everything we’ve done this year, and safety will drive that decision as we approach it, making sure we keep obviously the participants as well as our fans and others safe through that process.”
Planners want to take advantage of SoFi Stadium’s 298 acres of facilities but scatter pre-Super Bowl events all over Southern California.
Schloessman said the goal will be to “spread the wealth” and help the region bounce back from the loss of major sports and entertainment events during the pandemic.
“We’re looking at the bright side of this whole thing, that we’re going to be the first event post-COVID, the first normal event that’s going to (have) national and international visibility as the world is coming back,” Schloessman said.
“This is a chance to jump-start the economy, to bring jobs back, to bring attention to the industries that have been hit the worst during COVID, which (include) the hospitality industry.”
Schloessman sees the Super Bowl as the kickoff of an extraordinary decade for sports in the L.A. area, which is scheduled to host the 2028 Summer Olympics, 2023 college football championship game, 2024 college basketball west regional, 2023 golf U.S. Open and 2021 Major League Soccer and 2022 Major League Baseball all-star games, and hopes to be a host city for the 2026 soccer World Cup.
The Super Bowl LVI host committee’s website goes live Tuesday, Feb. 9, at lasuperbowlhc.com. Fans can sign up to receive information about events once it’s available.
Source: Orange County Register