Even before all the Super Bowl confetti is swept up in Las Vegas, the NFL's attention will turn Monday to preparations for its next championship game, at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans on Feb. 9, 2025.
The official handover precedes the news conference for the most valuable player and winning head coach from Sunday's game. On the same stage at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will symbolically pass the torch to New Orleans, which will be represented by Saints owner Gayle Benson, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and a large contingent of state and city officials, underlining the importance of the task ahead.
"On Monday, our attention figuratively and literally turns to New Orleans for the final preparations for Super Bowl 59," said NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy, who added there had been two years of groundwork planning already.
The Super Bowl is a really big show, generating billions of dollars nationally. It is a coveted opportunity for host cities, which generally expect to see about $500 million of economic effect.
New Orleans has more experience than most cities in hosting America's largest annual sporting event. Super Bowl LIX will be the 11th held in the Crescent City, tying it with Miami.
The last New Orleans Super Bowl, in 2013, generated about $480 million, according to a study by University of New Orleans. The game typically brings in hundreds of thousands of visitors who spend their money on accommodations, eating, drinking and carousing, even when they don't buy tickets to the game. It also generates millions of dollars in tax revenue: $23 million in direct state and local taxes in 2013, according to the UNO study.
And it's an opportunity to showcase a city, as about 6,000 news and sports media representatives descend on the place and report back to their audiences on much more than the game itself.
'Best foot forward'
"We're about to put on one of the largest open parties on the planet," said Marcus Brown, chair of the New Orleans Super Bowl LIX host committee and Entergy Corp.'s top attorney. The committee and its dozen subcommittees — covering major areas such as security, hotels and quality of life issues — have a busy agenda that is determined by a strict NFL template.
"We'll want to put our best foot forward," said Brown, who cringes a bit when reminded that the 2013 NFL finale was dubbed the "Blackout Bowl," because of a lost half hour of play when a breaker switch killed half the lights at the Superdome.
New Orleans is used to preparing for big events. However, it will have a lot to live up to after Las Vegas, which is on track to break records for the size and cost of the party it is putting on.
Sin City stepped in to host this year when it became clear, in 2021, that New Orleans would have to reschedule because of a clash with Mardi Gras. The $2 billion Allegiant Stadium, in suburban Paradise, Nevada, was completed in 2020, the second most expensive stadium ever built.
At the top of New Orleans' to-do list is completing the $500 million renovation of the Superdome, a project that started in 2019.
"We are in full demolition mode right now, and then we'll be getting ready to start building back," Doug Thornton, head of stadiums for Superdome operator ASM Global, said of work on the west side of the building.
The remaining upgrades include an overhaul of rest rooms, the addition of self-checkout concession areas and improvements to the 300 Level suites. Those are to be completed by July 1, in time for the Essence Music Festival, Thornton said. Any smaller improvements will be done before the Saints season starts, a condition set by the NFL.
Thornton said the whole project is expected to come in on time and under budget, leaving about $3 million to pay for some contingent "nice to have" improvements, including stadium graphics and upgrades to the end zone entrances at gates A and E.
Lights and sidewalks
Thornton is less certain about improvements required for the immediate surroundings of the Superdome, including upgrading the street lighting and repairs to some of the crumbling streets, curbs and maintenance hole covers.
The quality of life issues are citywide and mostly require City Hall action. They also seem to be the most challenging.
"Our goal would be to beautify the entire [Central Business District] and see if we can have all the lights working, the streets paved and dressed up," Thornton said. "You're going to have a lot of people coming to town, many of whom have experienced a lot of big events. We want to put our best foot forward."
City Hall launched a program in October to remove homeless encampments that had built up in recent years. Though not explicitly linked to the Super Bowl, the plan calls for significant progress by next February.
Super Bowls are designated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as National Special Security Events, which means federal agencies are in charge. At the local level, they are seen as an opportunity to make overdue improvements.
"Lighting has been on our agenda for years," said Jane Cooper, chair of the French Quarter Management District, the state entity that works with City Hall on issues such as security, lighting and cleanliness in the French Quarter.
A recent survey by district staff logged about three dozen broken street lights in the Quarter, which they've estimated would cost almost $2 million to repair. The district has sufficient money but requires City Hall to arrange for the work to be done.
Similarly, there is big backlog of street and pavement repairs.
"In New Orleans, we're used to it and know to keep our eyes on the ground. But it's tough for tourists," Cooper said. "That's not in our purview other than to remind the city that it's a continuing problem. If the Super Bowl can lead to a more organized approach, then good."
Mayor LaToya Cantrell's administration did not make available a spokesperson to talk about Super Bowl plans for this article.
The Downtown Development District, a state agency responsible for another part of the city popular with visitors, also has prioritized lighting ahead of the Super Bowl, said Davon Barbour, its executive director.
"We're trying to increase the canopy of light throughout the district so all our visitors feel safe at night," Barbour said, adding that improved lighting is a major crime deterrent that would help local residents, too.
The Downtown Development District also is surveying lighting in areas under its jurisdiction and has a grant program for local businesses to help fund improvements to their exterior lighting.
Hotels are another top priority for the NFL and the Super Bowl host city. A subcommittee chaired by Walt Leger, head of the tourism marketing agency New Orleans & Co, has been set up to ensure adequate accommodation is available for Super Bowl weekend.
All across the city, hotels small and large are finalizing upgrades and renovations that have been timed for completion ahead of the Super Bowl. Harrah’s, for example, will rebrand as Caesars New Orleans when it finishes its 340-room hotel annex, part of $400 million expansion that has included a new food hall, Emeril’s Brasserie restaurant and a 10,000-person capacity entertainment venue.
That project "is nearing the finish line," said Dayna Calkins, Caesars spokesperson.
The Hilton Riverside hotel is spending $42 million to renovate 750 of its 1,622 rooms ahead of the Super Bowl, and to upgrade its food and beverage venues, general manager David Piscola said.
All major hotels near the Superdome, including the Hilton, have contracted with the NFL to block 85% of their capacity for the four-day Super Bowl weekend, covering about 20,000 rooms. In August, the NFL will tell hotels how it plans to allocate rooms to the competing teams, the 6,000 media representatives, sponsors and others.
Given what has been seen in Las Vegas this year, the Super Bowl is likely to squeeze New Orleans hotel prices to record highs, said Colin Sherman, an analyst at hotel tracker STR.
Peak rates in Las Vegas were forecast to reach $2,000 per night for top hotels, a record high for nightly prices during the week of the big game, according to Sports Management Research Institute. Rates for the previous Super Bowl, in suburban Phoenix, which hosted a professional golf tournament on the same weekend, peaked at $1,889.
When New Orleans hosted in 2013, the revenue per available room in New Orleans peaked at around $420, according to STR.