Super Bowl and boat-show conflict looms in Miami

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South Florida is preparing a bid for the 2016 Super Bowl, but a potential tourism conflict looms because the National Football League could move the game to Presidents Day weekend, when the five-day Miami International Boat Show has been held since the 1940s.

Local tourism officials previously have declined to pursue a Super Bowl if it fell during the weekend of the boat show, but this time they might not have a choice. The Miami Herald reported that the NFL is requiring for the first time that potential host cities agree to a Presidents Day weekend Super Bowl if they want to pursue the big game at all, said two people who have seen the NFL request for Super Bowl bids.

The NFL “invited South Florida [to bid] knowing there was going to be an issue with Presidents Day weekend and the boat show,” Broward County tourism director Nicki Grossman said. “In the past South Florida has not responded to a Super Bowl date that included Presidents’ Day weekend. This package is different.”

South Florida vies with New Orleans as the top Super Bowl host, with government and tourism leaders touting the game as both a boon to the economy and a publicity bonanza. But the notion of accommodating the Super Bowl and the boat show — not to mention a major arts festival in Coconut Grove — strikes some top tourism officials as a bad idea.

“There is not sufficient hotel inventory available in Miami that weekend to host a Super Bowl,” Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau president William Talbert told the Herald. “We have taken a close look at that weekend and it’s not physically possible in Miami to host Super Bowl during the Presidents Day weekend because of the boat show and the Coconut Grove Arts Festival. The hotel inventory is all being used for these two great events.”

His comments are at odds with the region’s top Super Bowl organizer and reflect the burden that the boat show might be to South Florida’s Super Bowl hopes for 2016 and 2017. The NFL invited Miami and San Francisco to bid for the 2016 Super Bowl by April 1, with the loser vying with Houston for the 2017 game. Talbert said the bid package says both decisions will be made in May.

In recent months Super Bowl organizers approached the boat show about moving to another weekend, but so far both sides say that doesn’t seem to be a possibility.

The show, which debuted in 1941 and says it attracts roughly 90,000 visitors, does not want to share Miami with the NFL. Show director Cathy Rick-Joule said attendance likely will drop if vendors and buyers must contend with Super Bowl room rates during boat show weekend.

“It’s going to be a huge burden then. I would suspect it’s going to be a big turnoff,” she said. “A lot of our mom-and-pop [exhibitors] are a two- or three-person outfit. They can’t justify spending two or three nights in a hotel for those rates.”

For now, South Florida’s Super Bowl organizers face a largely hypothetical challenge because the current NFL schedule has the Super Bowl occurring two weeks before Presidents Day weekend. The bid requirements for the ’16 and ’17 Super Bowls include three consecutive weekends as possibilities for the game, with the latest falling on the Presidents Day holiday.

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