First Texas Came For California's Businesses. Now It's Coming For Its Super Bowl
It’s still unknown which two National Football League teams will face off next month in this year’s Super Bowl, but another competition has some wondering if the real showdown will be between two potential stadium sites in Los Angeles and Arlington, Texas.
California and Texas have been in an unofficial battle over the past few years, with both markets vying to attract and retain businesses, residents and investment activity — and Texas regularly winning, partially thanks to its low-regulation environment. In the latest volley in that battle, AT&T Stadium, home to the Dallas Cowboys, has been offered as an alternative to host this year’s Super Bowl, currently poised to occur at Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13.
It’s not uncommon for alternative sites to be tapped in case of emergencies; last year’s game, for example, was originally slated to be held at SoFi stadium, but it was moved to Tampa Bay as a result of weather-related construction delays.
News of this year’s potential second site, however, quickly gained widespread media traction as industry players and watchers questioned the potential impact of the omicron variant on local markets, specifically in restriction-rich California.
Discussions around a potential relocation kicked off last week, and they amplified when Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones told 1053 The Fan that DFW's AT&T Stadium would make a great backup option for the event should California’s tight Covid-19 restrictions get in the way.
Gov. Greg Abbott added fuel to the fire via a Jan. 6 tweet claiming “Texas is 100% open” and would welcome the game’s relocation.
NFL officials declined to speak to Bisnow but have been working to downplay speculation, saying in other news reports it is customary for the league to have backup locations for all games, not just the Super Bowl.
“Our plans for Super Bowl week and the game in Los Angeles are moving forward fully. We’re confident in our protocols for putting on full-capacity games safely,” Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s executive vice president of club business and league events, told the Los Angeles Times.
So, what are these protocols exactly — and how would a Super Bowl look different in Texas compared to Los Angeles? Here’s how the two markets and stadiums stack up against each other.
SoFi Stadium — the league’s most expensive venue to date — officially opened in the summer of 2020 in Inglewood, about 14 miles southwest of Downtown LA. The stadium hosted its first game in September of that year, but because of the pandemic, no fans were allowed in the stands. The first public event at the stadium wasn’t a football game; it was a Taylor Swift concert.
The stadium has been operating without pandemic-related capacity restrictions since August 2021, meaning all of the venue’s 70,000 fixed seats could be filled at any given game. An NFL official told the Los Angeles Times that hosting games without capacity restrictions has prepared them to safely hold the Super Bowl at the venue.
The AT&T Stadium, opened in 2009 and located just west of Dallas in Arlington, is the world’s largest domed structure, according to its website. The stadium has a capacity of 80,000, according to Saint Gobain, the manufacturer behind the facility’s retractable roof. Colloquially known as “Jerry World,” the stadium also hosts non-football sporting events and concerts.
The last time the stadium hosted the Super Bowl was in 2011.
“When we got that Super Bowl, we did a great job,” Jones told KRLD-FM last week. The team declined a Bisnow request for comment.
“This is the center of the country and logistically it makes a lot of sense for the NFL, considering our entire national fan base,” Jones said, adding the NFL often likes to target markets with a new stadium, such as Los Angeles, which has “kept us from having another one sooner than we have."
“I always want to have it. We deserve it.”
Meanwhile, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer mirrored sentiments by the NFL during a public videoconference last week that the Super Bowl would happen in Inglewood next month, Deadline reported.
“I feel really confident the event will happen here in L.A,” Ferrer said. “There’s no indication that it won’t, and we’ll work really closely to enhance safety if, again, we’re still in the middle of a horrific surge.”
A regular refrain in the Texas vs. California corporate relocation battle is that Texas is a low-regulation market, which businesses find appealing. That is reflected in coronavirus-driven restrictions, namely mask mandates.
There are no masking requirements in Tarrant County, Texas. Judge B. Glen Whitley removed the county’s local mask mandate last March after Abbott chose to end the statewide equivalent, according to the Dallas Morning News.
In Los Angeles, people aged 2 and up are required to wear masks, regardless of whether or not they are fully vaccinated, when they visit indoor public spaces and so-called mega-events outdoors.
Effective Jan. 15, outdoor events with more than 5,000 attendees will be considered mega-events. The LA County Department of Public Health considers SoFi Stadium an outdoor venue.
In line with county requirements for large events, SoFi Stadium updated its Covid testing requirements for the attendees right before the end of 2021, requiring attendees ages 12 and up to show proof of full vaccination or provide documentation of a negative rapid test taken no more than 24 hours prior or a negative PCR test taken no more than 48 hours prior.
Comparing Case Rates
LA County has a daily case average of 322 per 100,000 residents, up 334% over the past 14 days. That is twice the case rate in Tarrant County where about 154 cases per 100,000 residents have been reported each day over the past two weeks, marking a 579% increase over the previous 14 days, according to The New York Times. Just over half of Tarrant County residents are fully vaccinated, per the dashboard, behind LA County, where 68% of residents are fully vaccinated.