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Super Bowl Schedule on NFL Agenda

October 30, 2000

ATLANTA (AP) _ The NFL’s newest team won’t play a game until 2002 and will probably have to wait much longer to become a Super Bowl contender.

But Houston will likely get a close look at the championship game just a couple of years after rejoining the ranks of pro football.

The Texas city is the only contender for the 2004 Super Bowl, expected to be awarded this week when NFL owners gathered in Atlanta for their annual fall meeting.

``It’s one of those open book tests and all the answers are there,″ said Jamie Rootes, executive vice president of Houston’s expansion team, the Texans.

``But we still have to put together the bid that the NFL will accept and be happy with.″

The NFL also will hear bids from Miami, Jacksonville and Oakland, vying for the 2005 game, and Detroit, the only bidder for 2006.

``I’d look at it as a victory for the city if we’re successful in our bid,″ Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver said. ``A lot of people worked very hard on this.″

The owners began their three-day meeting Monday with committee sessions and a reception at a downtown hotel. The major issues will be addressed Tuesday and Wednesday, when all 31 owners get together.

In addition to three Super Bowls, the owners are expected to discuss a new scheduling format for realignment and the collective bargaining agreement.

The Texans will enter the league in 2002 with an expansion team playing in a new retractable-roof stadium next to the famed Astrodome.

As part of his record $700 million expansion fee, Texans owner Bob McNair was promised a Super Bowl as soon as possible.

That will likely come at the end of the Texans’ second season at $365 million Reliant Stadium, a 69,500-seat facility. Houston also hopes to join a regular Super Bowl rotation.

McNair was traveling to Atlanta with a group that included Mayor Lee Brown and Harris County Judge Bob Eckels.

``We want to be one of cities the Super Bowl comes back to because we do a great job of hosting it,″ Rootes said.

The Houston City Council and Harris County Board of Commissioners have pledged $600,000 in services to the NFL. The city also will provide use of the George R. Brown Convention Center and a planned convention center hotel.

The city’s only other NFL title game came in 1974 at Rice Stadium.

Detroit doesn’t have any competition, but NFL vice president Jim Steeg has questioned whether Detroit has enough hotel rooms for the event.

A bidder must line up commitments for 18,000 rooms within an hour’s drive of the stadium, and 30,000-50,000 total rooms are needed.

The Detroit area played host to the Super Bowl in 1982 at the suburban Pontiac Silverdome.

Greg Bowens, a spokesman for Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, said the area has added hotel space since then.

``We think that we can answer the call in 2006,″ Bowens said.

The ’82 Super Bowl took place in a snowstorm, which did not hamper play inside the Silverdome but did put a damper on parties and travel. The 2006 game would be at the new Ford Field, a domed stadium set to open in downtown Detroit in two years.

Miami is seeking its ninth Super Bowl, while Jacksonville and Oakland are both seeking their first title game.

The Oakland bid received a blow last week when the stadium’s governing body rejected a privately financed Super Bowl.

Jacksonville is trying to become one of the smallest metropolitan areas to play host to a Super Bowl. The city wants to dock cruise ships on the St. Johns River to use as hotel rooms _ a first-of-its-kind proposal for the NFL.

``It’s worked at the Olympics in Sydney,″ Weaver said.

The NFL is planning to realign in 2002 when Houston joins as the 32nd team.

As a precursor to that decision, the owners could vote on what sort of scheduling format to have if each conference has four divisions with four teams apiece.

In May, the owners also considered expanding the playoff field to 14 teams and using a seeding system that would make it easier for stronger clubs to advance to the Super Bowl.

The owners and players have discussed extending the collective bargaining agreement beyond its 2004 expiration date to coincide with the lucrative television contract.

Gene Upshaw, director of the NFL Players Association, said in January that he hoped to add another year or two to the current deal.

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