ATLANTA (AP) — There are rewards for spending $1 billion on a new stadium.
Just ask Minneapolis, which probably sees the 10-figure sum as a bargain after being awarding the 2018 Super Bowl.
In a surprise that had the Twin Cities bid committee high-fiving and hugging as if
Everyone from Commissioner Roger Goodell to a variety of owners, including the Vikings' Wilf family, to members of the other cities' bidding groups agreed on the decisive factor.
"The stadium project, the effort they had to bring that stadium to completion, the plans they have for it and the commitment that community has demonstrated was a positive influence on several owners that I talked to," Goodell said.
"The new stadium was absolutely the deciding factor," Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation President Jay Cicero said. "Any time that there is so much public support for a $1 billion stadium, the NFL owners are impressed.
"We did everything we were supposed to do, had a fantastic presentation. In the end we think the stadium did it."
The Vikings lobbied for years to replace the aging Metrodome, one of the NFL's least profitable facilities. When Minnesota political leaders realized the team could move out of state without a new home, the stadium project moved forward. Legislators in 2012 approved the stadium, with taxpayers carrying about 56 percent of the freight.
The reaction by everyone involved from Minnesota made observers think it was worth all the work.
"I saw our Super Bowl committee in the green room on TV, and the way they jumped for joy is the way I felt inside," Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said. "We can rejoice now."
The stadium will hold up to 72,000 for the Super Bowl. The big game will be staged in the Twin Cities for the second time: It was there in 1992, when Washington beat Buffalo.
Owners at the spring league meeting needed four ballots to choose Minneapolis, with Indianapolis the first city eliminated. Indy was praised for a highly successful 2012 Super Bowl, but could have been hurt by the recent legal troubles of Colts owner Jim Irsay.
Irsay underwent treatment after he was arrested and accused of having $29,000 in cash and bottles of prescription drugs in his car. He made his first public appearance at these meetings since the arrest.
Irsay said Indianapolis will bid again.
"Before, we had to lose one to get one," he said, noting Indy fell short in previous bids before landing the 2012 game. "It will take persistence and we know we have the type of people who will be that."
New Orleans was considered the favorite and has staged the Super Bowl 10 times, tied with South Florida for the most. Its bid might have been damaged by the blackout that interrupted the 2013 title game.
Saints owner Tom Benson stumbled and hit his head after taking part in the city's presentation. Benson, 86, was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons.
Next year's Super Bowl is in Glendale, Arizona, followed by Santa Clara, California, for the 50th Super Bowl, then Houston.
The owners also tabled any vote expanding the playoffs by two teams to 14, but look for it to return — and probably pass — in October.
Under such a setup, only the team with the best record in each conference will get a week off at the beginning of the playoffs.
"I do believe it will be approved for the 2015 season," Goodell said.
New York Giants owner John Mara is against adding more playoff teams.
"I don't think it's a sure thing at all," Mara said. "It's probably more likely than not, but nothing is set in stone. There was no straw poll taken. ... I think it's good the way we have it."
The players' union says it needs to be consulted on an expanded postseason, and Goodell said he spoke with NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith two weeks ago about it.
—A committee examining the time, length and site of the draft reported to the owners. The NFL will consider whether to keep it in May. It drew record TV ratings this year after it was moved back two weeks from its usual late April slot. It also will look into adding a fourth day and moving it from its traditional spot in New York to a variety of NFL cities, with a dozen already having expressed interest;
"If I was king of the world, I'd put it right back where it was," Mara said, referring to the April dates.
—Goodell said that had HGH testing been implemented, 104 other cases under the league's drug policy would have been heard by an independent arbitrator, with 21 players being referred to the first level of the drug program rather than being suspended. The NFL and players' union agreed to HGH testing in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, but the union first balked at the procedures for testing, then at Goodell having the final say on appeals.
—New director of football operations Troy Vincent hired three advisers, including Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary. Vincent, a former All-Pro defensive back, also hired former NFL player and coach Jimmy Raye and former player and general manager Mike Reinfeldt.
Among other chores, the three new hires will serve as liaisons to league coaches and front-office personnel.