There may be no city more perfect to host a Super Bowl than Las Vegas, where gambling, drinking and watching sports are always a winning combination, even if you lose your pants betting against Patrick Mahomes.
A friend of mine who went to Vegas for the Super Bowl described the weekend as “Galifianastic,” which is shorthand for saying they all partied like Zach Galifianakis’s character in “The Hangover.”
CBS did a great job of showcasing the town’s greatest showmen, from Penn & Teller to Wayne Newton to “The Chairman,” Frank Sinatra, whose song “My Way” was used in a pregame feature on the bond between the players and their family members. The only thing missing was an NFL salute to Moe Greene, the fictional Vegas mobster who fatally crosses Michael Corleone in “The Godfather.”
While watching Vegas get its close-up last week in the run-up to the Super Bowl and during the game itself, thoughts of a Chicago Super Bowl danced in my head.
Instead of Taylor Swift, we’d have our own Buddy Guy hanging out in the super suite with his South Side pals. The “Super Fans” from “Saturday Night Live” would reunite on “The NFL Today” to talk about “Da Bears,” the chefs from “The Bear” would narrate a pregame video on our great local restaurant scene, and of course Bill Murray would show up everywhere to do Bill Murray-type things.
Features on Papa Bear, Coach Ditka, Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers and Walter Payton, and a hip-hop version of “Super Bowl Shuffle” during the halftime show. The sky’s the limit.
Chicago, as everyone knows, has never hosted a Super Bowl, unless you count the “Super Bowl of Rock” in 1977 with Foghat and Emerson, Lake & Palmer as headliners at Soldier Field. (Some of us still haven’t recovered from ELP’s extended version of “Karn Evil 9.”)
But now that the Bears are inching toward their goal of building a new domed stadium, we can finally start dreaming of a day when the entire world will be focused on Chicago (or one of its suburbs) for the Big Game. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said as much during his news conference before Super Bowl LVIII.
“As we’ve seen here (in Vegas), a great stadium can host additional events,” Goodell said. “I think that’s true with Chicago. I think the domed stadium that they’re talking about, both downtown and also potentially in Arlington (Heights), I think those are both great opportunities that they need to explore. The good news is that they’ve got quite a bit of time on their lease.”
OK, so maybe it’s not a done deal. But at least Goodell didn’t laugh at the question.
Super Bowls in cold-weather sites aren’t ideal for the corporate ticket holders looking to play a round or two of golf before the game, which is why most of the games have taken place in stadiums in and around Miami, Los Angeles and New Orleans. The next three are scheduled for New Orleans (2025), Santa Clara, Calif (2026) and Los Angeles (2027). After the success of this year’s affair, Las Vegas will no doubt get another one soon.
But the anti-cold weather city sentiment has turned this century, and even East Rutherford, N.J., hosted the game at MetLife Stadium in 2014 when the temperature turned out to be a relatively balmy 49 degrees, or about what it was in Chicago last week. Detroit (2006), Indianapolis (2012) and Minneapolis (2018) have also hosted Super Bowls in their domed stadiums, and fans attending the games presumably found something to do in those cities in the chilly days and hours before kickoff.
If the Bears build it, a Super Bowl could come. But that’s a big “if.”
The Bears have spent so long discussing a new stadium it seems like it’s already on its way. There is a long way to go, obviously, but at least the Bears are making it sound epic. President and CEO Kevin Warren told the Tribune’s Dan Wiederer last summer he wants the new stadium to be an experience everyone remembers.
“I really want people having goosebumps,” Warren said. “I want tears. I want you to be choked up when you hear that national anthem.”
We’re choked up just thinking about Jennifer Hudson’s anthem at the Chicago Super Bowl. Hopefully we won’t be shedding tears because the Green Bay Packers are playing that day.
So when could this happen, assuming the Bears eventually decide on a new site and start building?
Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders, began construction in November 2017 and hosted a Super Bowl in February 2024, a little more than six years later. If the Bears get the shovels in the ground by next year, maybe we could host one by 2031 if the NFL cooperates.
It’s all still a pipe dream, and perhaps a Chicago-hosted Super Bowl will never happen. This is the Bears we’re talking about, after all. They’ve promised a brighter stadium experience for fans since before Justin Fields was born, and even a domed stadium plan is nothing new.
In 1995, when the idea of a McDome on the lakefront was introduced, a Tribune poll found that 44% of those asked favored a domed stadium, as compared with 41% who liked the idea of an open-air facility. Among self-identified “Bears fans,” 47% preferred an open-air stadium to 45% for a dome.
Back then, Bears President Michael McCaskey said a dome is “just so far from what most fans want and what all of the players want. They want to be outside on green grass under an open sky.” At least his brother, Chairman George McCaskey, understands the idea that Bears fans love sitting through “Bears weather” at Soldier Field in December is a tired anachronism.
All they really want is to watch a perennial winner, a foreign concept to the McCaskeys.
With 2024 a crucial year for both the team and the stadium issue, the question that must be asked is whether the Bears will get to a Super Bowl before Chicago gets a chance to host one. The odds of either happening are long at this point.
Maybe a “Super Bowl of Rock” reboot will have to suffice.