Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

The NFL would like us to spruce things up for the Super Bowl

It’s only $50 million. What else do we have to spend it on?

Before Houston hosts Super Bowl LI in 2017, NRG Stadium needs upgrades, including Wi-Fi installation and improvements to suites and club seats, according to Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s senior vice president of events.

O’Reilly said Thursday the improvements should be paid for by Harris County. Wi-Fi was guaranteed in Houston’s Super Bowl bid that was voted on by NFL owners in 2013.

The cost could be more than $50 million, including $5 million for Wi-Fi, according to those familiar with the situation.

NRG Stadium, which opened in 2002, was the site of Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. The stadium has undergone enhancements, including new scoreboards on each end, but more are necessary before the 51st Super Bowl will be played in February 2017.

“The 2004 Super Bowl was a huge success and a (source) of great pride for this city,” O’Reilly said. “There’s a blueprint for making the investment and ensuring you’ve got the Wi-Fi coverage across this building. It’s been done by many, if not all, of the similar-aged stadiums.

“Comparable stadiums of this age have been helped by updating, (including) suite facilities (and) club facilities. That’s lacking. In 2004 and those early years, it might have been right at the top of the league, but there’s a drop-off now.

“There are investments that need to be made to have that special Super Bowl experience – those commitments that were made within the bid when Houston was awarded the Super Bowl.”

O’Reilly was part of a five-person group from the NFL that toured the downtown area and the facilities at NRG Park on Wednesday and Thursday.

“That burden rests with the county, the folks that own the stadium and (were) part of that bid as well,” he said in regard to who should foot the bill for the improvements. “I’m surprised a bit, but there’s an opportunity to remedy that, an opportunity for people to work together, find a solution and get this done.”

Before I get to what the county has to say about that, let me refer you to what Jeff Balke has to say about it.

What is most galling about the request demand that taxpayers foot the bill for upgrades to a stadium for one single event is where they want the money to go, namely club seats and luxury suites, the areas of the stadium reserved for the wealthiest Texans fans and, in the case of the Super Bowl, only the luckiest super rich people able to finagle tickets to the “big game.”

And this is on top of the fact that NRG was the most expensive — by a mile — stadium built in Houston, the only one that did not require voter approval and, in the rush to submit a proposal to the NFL for an expansion franchise, received very little in the way of legitimate negotiation between McNair and the county, and virtually no transparency. Both Minute Maid and Toyota Center were subject to city-wide referendums, two of those in the case of the Rockets arena.

[…]

Wi-fi is a practical upgrade that will directly benefit the tens of thousands of people who attend events at NRG Stadium and the cost of around $5 million seems reasonable, considering we’ve known for some time it was an NFL requirement. But the league must be laboring under the false assumption we desperately need (never mind want, which is debatable) the Super Bowl here if it thinks Harris County citizens consider it a good use of funds to fork over $45 million in tax revenue for cushy new digs for the richest football “fans” on earth.

And, don’t bother threatening us. The city has received more than our fair share of those from sports league officials over the years, from David Stern to Paul Tagliabue and Bud Selig. Owners from Bud Adams to Les Alexander and Drayton McLane have threatened to move their teams — Adams followed through — without new digs. But at least in most of those instances, the threat was something tangible — build a new stadium or the team will leave — and the reward provided a legitimate benefit to the city (stadiums that have helped to revitalize downtown, after all).

This threat is just a bunch of jackasses in a suits extorting cash subsidies for the top one percent — not of the general populace, which would be bad enough, but the top one percent of people who will go see one game on one day in 2017. Sure, maybe these upgrades will be a nice perk for the season ticket holders who fork over hundreds of thousands a year to Bob McNair, Inc. for the privilege of cheering from the comfort of a luxury suite. But, it sure as hell isn’t doing anything for the average Houstonian, most of whom can’t afford to go to a single NFL game and many, I would wager, who have never set foot inside NRG.

It’s insulting. It’s idiotic. And it will probably get paid for anyway. Because, let’s face it, they agreed to this kind of oversight when they bid for the game. Either the county didn’t read the fine print or they all just hid it from us so we would be too far down the road to be able to argue.

So, yeah. According to the Chron story, Edgar Colon of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp., disputed the notion that Harris County ought to be on the hook for fifty million bucks. I personally would be fine with passing the bill along to the Texans. I agree with Jeff that springing for Wi-Fi updates is a reasonable request with a tangible benefit for a decent amount of people. The rest, not so much.

Related Posts:

Comments are closed.