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Super Bowl organizers float idea of permanent sports commission

ARLINGTON - Officials with the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee on Monday discussed creation of a permanent regional sports commission to help land national and international sports events, among them Super Bowls, soccer's World Cup and the Olympic Games.

Holly Reed, chairwoman of the subcommittee that made the proposal, cited the momentum generated by the 2011 Super Bowl and the spirit of cooperation fostered by planning for the Feb. 6 game at Cowboys Stadium.

"The cost of doing nothing is larger now," said Reed, a regional vice president for AT&T. "We have no time to lose if we are going to bid for Super Bowl 50."

Planning for Super Bowl XLV is entering its final stages. But local organizers are also looking to the game's 50th anniversary in 2016. North Texas' competition for that game may include Los Angeles, which does not have a National Football League team but was the host city for the first Super Bowl.

A sports commission is not a new idea. The concept fizzled after North Texas failed to land the 2012 Olympics.

"But we are the largest region in the country without a commission or organization," said Roger Staubach, chairman of the Host Committee, a temporary organization formed solely to land and prepare for the 2011 Super Bowl. "In the worst-case scenario, we have to go after Super Bowl 50."

The suggestion came at the Host Committee's final board meeting of the year, which included a report projecting that the committee could be as much as $2 million in the black when accounting for the Feb. 6 game is completed in May.

That surplus could be used as seed money to establish the sports commission, which could launch with a small staff left over from the Host Committee, Staubach said. Permanent funding ideally would come from a private sector sponsor, he said.

But some board members said they would rather wait until after the 2011 Super Bowl, and for more details on how a permanent sports commission would function.

"The concept makes sense, but at the same time, we have to know why previous efforts failed," Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief said. "We have to look carefully at what happened and why.

"Serious questions are raised. Will be the cities be represented on the board? While we have worked together in a regional effort, we have to be clear what our roles are in a permanent product. The convention and visitors bureaus will want to know their roles; the chamber of commerce, too. There are a lot of questions and not enough answers right now."

The possibility of a budget surplus in 2011 depends in part on the ability of the Host Committee to negotiate budget reductions with the NFL, said Bob Estrada, managing director of the Estrada Hinojosa & Co. financial advisory firm and chairman of the committee's finance team.

For example, the cost of renovating Cowboys Stadium, including removing the star and making changes in the end zones, should be less than planned, said Bill Lively, president of the Host Committee. The NFL has already said that the field turf will not have to be replaced because the stadium is only in its second year.

The Host Committee has received millions in private donations and is scheduled to receive $31 million from the state comptroller's Major Event Trust Fund to underwrite costs, including more than $4 million for security provided by Fort Worth, Arlington, Dallas and Irving. The money was awarded based on the anticipated sales-tax windfall from the game.

Some board members, however, were hesitant to approve a motion allowing the committee to establish a line of credit to pay vendors in advance.

It was approved by a voice vote only after Lively agreed that the credit line would be capped at $25 million and that the expenditures would all be covered by the comptroller.

Frank Supovitz, vice president of events for the NFL, spoke briefly via video conference at the meeting, held at the North Central Texas Council of Governments offices.

“We want to be prepared for weather and have emergency plans in case weather deals us a hand we didn’t expect,” he reminded the board.