Rodney Barreto has a few things on his mind. There are the volunteers – about 10,000 – who needed to be located and vetted. There are the public officials – federal, state, county and many different cities – who need to be coordinated with. There are the events in Miami‑Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties that need vendors, behind-the-scenes technicians and, in one case, a temporary marina in Biscayne Bay. Simply put, there’s some stuff.
Not that Barreto has to do it alone. As chairman of the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee, he heads what looks like a small army. (Or maybe a navy, marina and all.) When Super Bowl LIV (that’s Super Bowl 54, in case your Roman numeral knowledge is rusty) comes to Hard Rock Stadium on February 2, it will be the culmination of a lot of work by many people.
Barreto, an influential Miami business and consulting leader who is also past chairman of the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida, has seen the changes. He’s been involved in some capacity with every Miami Super Bowl since Super Bowl XXIII in 1989.
“It has evolved over the years,” he says. “And I have watched it evolve.”
Clearly, it’s evolved as a spectacle – a rolling party that sprawls across the host region and leads up to an entertainment-surrounded game watched around the world. Take that temporary marina. It’s for Super Bowl Live, a free event in downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park that’s open to the public. Then there are the meetings after meetings with first responders, civic leaders, etc.
“As you can imagine, the jurisdictions I have to deal with … we’re dealing with city managers, mayors, elected officials, community activists on all fronts,” he says.
Meanwhile, just before Thanksgiving they had an orientation for those 10,000 volunteers, most of whom won’t work the game itself, but rather one of the events around it. Some of those volunteers are students from Florida Atlantic University’s Sport Management program. James Riordan is the director of that program. He offers perspective on what the Super Bowl has become in more than half a century.
“It stems from Super Bowl 1, when (then NFL commissioner) Pete Rozelle was selling tickets for $12 the night before the game, to what we have now,” he says. “It’s so much more than a game, and I know that sounds cliché, but it truly is an event in itself.”
In his previous career in sports management and security, Riordan worked two Super Bowls, in 1999 and 2000. (The ’99 game was in Miami.) He says that over the years, the growth of the spectacle – and the legions needed to sustain it – has grown remarkably. There’s more security, more checks. Homeland Security is now involved, as well as state agencies and the FAA. (The game gets flyover protections.) And then there are the international media, representing nearly 200 countries. You can’t fit more fans into Hard Rock Stadium than you can for any other sellout, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a whole lot more logistics issues for the people on the ground.
Then there’s the development of the product. Riordan has seen that one firsthand too. “You would be there on the day of the game and people would be walking into the game, and at both of the Super Bowls I worked, you would hear somebody asking, ‘Who’s playing today?’
“People forget about the game and they worry about everything else around it. It’s product extension, everything else around the game. Everything that surrounds it from the TV to who’s singing at the halftime show, who’s singing in the pregame show, now they have concerts…The biggest event of the week is now the Commissioner’s Party.”
Fans, he says, tend to get locked out of the “core product” – by which he means the game. Barreto knows those concerns. And while he can’t get more people into the game itself, he says the Super Bowl has gotten better over the years at incorporating locals – both for events and on the business side. Partially, that means events across South Florida.
“We’re bringing the Taste of the NFL to the Broward Convention Center,” he says. “Broward’s got a huge emerging food scene.” (That’s something Barreto knows a bit about; he’s one of the owners of the Wharf Fort Lauderdale, the new outdoor dining and event space along the New River.)
On the business side, Barreto points to the work they’ve done helping smaller businesses, particularly minority and women-owned ones, get involved with Super Bowl activities. The NFL requires them to host two events for local businesses; they’ve hosted five, and spread them out across the tri-county area. They got 1700 applications from small companies wanting to work with the Super Bowl. They narrowed that list down to about 300; those local businesses have worked with the league and the committee on everything from food to security to technical event management.
“We manage expectations,” Barreto says. “A lot of these companies are too small to do business with the big companies out there, but we educate them on how to pair up together.”
Signage, staging, logistics – you need a lot to put on Super Bowl Week. This way of doing it has developed over the years, Barreto says. It used to be that when the Super Bowl came to town, that meant phalanxes of NFL-hired staff from New York or Los Angeles. Now there’s an emphasis on hiring local whenever possible.
“That’s evolved over the last 30 years, just like the game itself,” he says. “That is a big push by the NFL and by us.That is something that we take a lot of pride in.
“We have a lot of great small businesses that can benefit from the NFL coming to town; they just need an opportunity.”
When the preparations are done and the fans start arriving, they’ll be ready.
“We have three international airports,” he says. “We have a host of hotels and we have room blocks in all three counties.”
Barreto cites South Florida’s increased north-south train options, with Tri-Rail now joined by Brightline/Virgin USA, as a big help. This is, he says, a truly regional event. Which is good because there might be 65,000 people in the stadium, but they’re expecting more than 200,000 for parties and activities. And the game itself will put Miami and South Florida in a spotlight like few others. “Look at it now; a 30-second spot for an ad during the game is, I think, about $5.4 million,” he says. “Do you know how many 30-second spots the region will be getting?”
Super Bowl LIV will be the 11th Super Bowl Miami has hosted – more than any other city. It will also be the sixth Super Bowl held at the stadium that over the years has been known as Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Park and now Hard Rock Stadium, pushing the current stadium ahead of the old Orange Bowl, which hosted five.
Super Bowl II
Teams: Packers – 33; Raiders – 14
Date: January 14, 1968
Stadium: Orange Bowl
National Anthem: Grambling University Band
Halftime entertainment: Grambling University Band
A year after the first Super Bowl was held in Los Angeles, the defending champion Green Bay Packers of the National Football League, coached by the legendary Vince Lombardi, asserted their dominance by beating the Oakland Raiders of the American Football League. The win would seal the Packers’ place in Super Bowl and football history; today, the Super Bowl champion is given the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Super Bowl III
Teams: Jets – 16; Colts – 7
Date: January 12, 1969
Stadium: Orange Bowl
National Anthem: Anita Bryant
Halftime Entertainment: Florida A&M Band
The earliest Super Bowls were actually a championship game between two separate leagues, the NFL and AFL. The NFL dominated the first two Super Bowls, and Don Shula’s Baltimore Colts were expected to do the same in Super Bowl III. So when Joe Namath spoke before the game and guaranteed victory, it was all over the papers the next day. But then Broadway Joe and his teammates backed it up, as the Jets won 16–7.
Super Bowl V
Teams: Colts – 7; Cowboys – 13
Date: January 17, 1971
Stadium: Orange Bowl
National Anthem: Trumpeter Tommy Loy
Halftime entertainment: Florida A&M band
Two years after their upset loss to the Jets, the Baltimore Colts came back to Miami – and this time they finished the job in an exciting win against the Dallas Cowboys. This was Shula’s final game before leaving the Colts to become head coach of the Dolphins.
Super Bowl X
Teams: Steelers – 21; Cowboys – 17
Date: January 18, 1976
Stadium: Orange Bowl
National Anthem: Tom Sullivan
Halftime entertainment: Up With People
The championship was the Steelers’ second in a row en route to four in six years. Lynn Swann’s four receptions went for 161 yards.
Super Bowl XII
Teams: Steelers – 35; Cowboys – 21
Date: January 21, 1979
Stadium: Orange Bowl
National Anthem: The Colgate Thirteen
Halftime entertainment: Ken Hamilton; several Caribbean bands
With the Steelers in the middle of their period of late-’70s dominance, the rematch of Super Bowl X offered a similar result. MVP Terry Bradshaw threw for 318 yards, 253 of which came in the first half.
Super Bowl XXIII
Teams: 49ers – 20; Bengals – 16
Date: January 22, 1989
Stadium: Joe Robbie Stadium
National Anthem: Billy Joel
Halftime entertainment: Miami-area dancers, 3D special effects
After a decade’s absence, the Super Bowl returned to the Miami area – and for the first time, went to the new Joe Robbie Stadium. Joe Montana led the 49ers on a 92-yard drive with 3:10 left on the clock to win. MVP Jerry Rice set a Super Bowl record for receiving yards with 215.
Super Bowl XXIX
Teams: 49ers – 49; Chargers – 26
Date: January 29, 1995
Stadium: Joe Robbie Stadium
National Anthem: Kathie Lee Gifford
Halftime entertainment: Miami Sound Machine, Tony Bennett, Patty LaBelle, Arturo Sandoval
The 49ers’ fifth Super Bowl win in the ’80s and ’90s was their first with Steve Young at quarterback. Meanwhile San Diego had not been expected to reach the playoffs, much less the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XXXIII
Teams: Broncos – 34; Falcons – 19
Date: January 31, 1999
Stadium: Pro Player Stadium
National Anthem: Cher
Halftime entertainment: Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder, Savion Glover, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
After being on the losing end of a few Super Bowls, Denver quarterback John Elway ended his career with the championship that had always eluded him. In fact, he threw for 336 yards before being named MVP.
Super Bowl XLI
Teams: Colts – 29; Bears – 17
Date: February 4, 2007
Stadium: Dolphin Stadium
National anthem: Billy Joel
Halftime entertainment: Prince, featuring the Florida A&M marching band
Remarkably, no Super Bowl had ever been played in the rain – until 2007. But while the steady downpour made Prince’s halftime show soggier than expected, it didn’t slow down Indianapolis, who won their first Super Bowl since they were the Baltimore Colts.
Super Bowl XLIV
Teams: Saints – 31; Colts – 17
Date: February 7, 2010
Stadium: Sun Life Stadium
National Anthem: Carrie Underwood; Queen Latifah sang America the Beautiful
Halftime entertainment: The Who
The favored Colts led 10-0 after the first quarter and held a one-point lead at the end of the third, but New Orleans scored 15 unanswered fourth-quarter points to win their first Super Bowl. Drew Brees completed 32 of his 39 passes.