Super Bowl Geography

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Which places have hosted the most Super Bowls? The fewest? Which teams have traveled the farthest to play in it? It’s time to take a look at the numbers behind the biggest traveling roadshow of them all.

This Sunday, Super Bowl XLIX will be the, yes, 49th such game played. Commencing following the 1966 season as the AFL-NFL Championship Game, it has always been played on “neutral” sites and generally in warm-weather cities in the U.S., or in domed stadiums in cold weather cities. Last year’s Super Bowl, between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos in the New York area, is considered the first played outdoors in a cold weather city.

How does the Super Bowl travel? Let’s break it down.

  • The Miami area and New Orleans are tied for hosting the most Super Bowls, ten of them each.
  • In Miami, five were in the old Orange Bowl, and five more in Sun Life (nee Joe Robbie) Stadium.
  • In New Orleans, seven games were held in the Superdome. Before that was built, three Super Bowls were played in Tulane Stadium.
  • Second on that list is the greater Los Angeles area, now without an NFL team for 20 years. Five championship games have been held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and two more (including Super Bowl I) at the Memorial Coliseum. The Raiders played in the Coliseum for 11 seasons.
  • The “San Francisco Bay Area” will hold its second Super Bowl in 2016, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Its previous was in 1985 in Stanford. Levi’s is the new home for the 49ers, though it’s farther (45 miles) from the city of San Francisco than is Oakland (12 miles).
  • The first Super Bowl in a cold weather city was in 1982, at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. The game wouldn’t go north again for another decade, when it was held at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. In the last decade, three Super Bowls have been in cold weather towns: Detroit (2006), Indianapolis (2012), and East Rutherford, NJ (2014). It will return to Minneapolis in 2018 at the Vikings’ new indoor stadium.
  • Jacksonville, Florida is the smallest metropolitan area to host the big game. Although it is the largest city proper in Florida with about 850,000 residents, its metro area is 1.5 million (Tampa’s is 2.8 million, Miami 6.4 million). Yes, Virginia, if Green Bay ever hosted the Super Bowl it would be the smallest metro area by a large margin as only 350,000 people live in the area. (Its stadium seats more than 81,000, third most in the NFL.)
  • Houston has hosted two Super Bowls. The first, in 1974, was at Rice Stadium, the first ballpark with no AFL or NFL tenant to host the game. The Oilers played at Rice in the mid-60s before moving to the Astrodome.
  • Florida dominates all states with fifteen total Super Bowls. That’s ten in the Miami area, four in Tampa, and one in Jacksonville.
  • Reflecting our country’s population migration to the South and West, California is second overall with eleven. Los Angeles has seven, San Diego three, and the Bay Area one.
  • Louisiana is third with ten, all in the Big Easy. After that it’s Arizona with three (all in the Phoenix area, including Sunday’s game) and Texas with three (Houston two, Dallas area with one).
  • The other states that make up the remaining seven: Michigan (2), Georgia (2), Minnesota (1), Indiana (1), and New Jersey (1).
  • Top-twenty metro areas that are home to NFL teams that have NOT hosted a Super Bowl are Chicago (#3 ranked by population / Bears), Washington-Baltimore (#4 / Redskins and Ravens), Boston (#6 / Patriots), Philadelphia (#7 / Eagles), Seattle (#13 / Seahawks), Cleveland (#16 / Browns), Denver (#17 / Broncos).
  • St. Louis is the 21st-largest metro area and home of the Rams. The city lured the Rams from Los Angeles in 1995 with a new, domed stadium. I just find it interesting it never finagled one Super Bowl out of the deal.
  • The New England Patriots travel 2,336 nautical miles this week from their home in Foxboro, Mass. to Glendale, Arizona for Super Bowl 49. That’s pretty far, but the farthest one team has had to travel was in Super Bowls XXIII and XXIX. San Francisco traveled 2,580 miles each time to play the game in Miami Gardens, Florida.
  • The Los Angeles Rams, meanwhile, had to hit the road for a mere 12.3 miles to play Super Bowl XIV in Pasadena. That’s the shortest distance traveled by one team. They still lost to Pittsburgh, which traveled 2,124 miles. The Steelers must have slept well on the plane.

Bonus Trivia – The most travel-y named teams (and an explanation).

8. (Three-way tie.) Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers. Before cars and planes, this was the way to cross the continent.

7. (Five-way tie.) Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks. All flying the friendly skies.

6. Green Bay Packers. Sounds like they’re headed somewhere.

5. (Three-way tie.) Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins. No love lost between white and red men, but probably plenty of miles gained chasing each other around.

4. San Francisco 49ers. Named for the people who flocked there looking for gold; in other words, the original Bay Area gentrifiers.

3. (Tie.) Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Because y’arrrrrrr, ’tis pirate’s life to sail the seas!

2. Minnesota Vikings. They came from the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs flow.

1. New York Jets. The team named for the most comfortable and efficient way to get around is one of the NFL’s most turbulent and rudderless. So it’s nice to see the Jets finish first at something.

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