In the early 1970s when NFL legend Jerry Kramer tried unsuccessfully to buy the New Orleans Saints, he talked to a handful of general managers.
“I kept hearing things like ‘leveling off’ and ‘saturation,’” the former Green Bay Packers lineman said in a recent phone interview.
One general manager told him ticket prices had nearly doubled to $5 in the 1960s and he wasn’t sure if fans would pay much more.
So is Kramer, who played in the first two Super Bowls, surprised by what the game and the league have become?
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“It’s stunning to everybody,” Kramer said.
Nearly 62,000 people attended the first Super Bowl in 1967 with tickets going for $12, but about a third of the seats were left empty in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Green Bay beat Kansas City.
The next year, nearly 15,000 more fans attended, but there were still plenty of empty seats. The Packers won that game, too, this time beating Oakland.
The spectacle has grown every year.
“There will be more events associated with this Super Bowl (49) than any other Super Bowl,” NFL senior vice president of events Peter O’Reilly said Monday.
And $12 tickets? Fans are lucky if that will cover a beer. Tickets for Sunday’s game between New England and Seattle are going for $3,455 or more on stubhub.com. Parking passes are going for $84.85 or more on the same site.
Kramer remembers seeing Pete Rozelle, NFL’s commissioner from 1960-89, at a Super Bowl and watching him soak in the atmosphere.
“He was looking around at the pageantry, then he looked over to one of his assistants and said, ‘Did you ever believe it would get as big as this?” Kramer said. “And that was Super Bowl 25.”
SUPER BOWL 54?
The week of festivities leading up to Super Bowl 49 was just warming up Monday when less than 10 minutes into the first press conference, hints were already being dropped about Arizona hosting another Super Bowl.
It’s been seven years since Arizona last hosted a Super Bowl.
“We’re hoping that we can improve on that ...,” said David Rousseau, chairman of the host committee. “People have talked in terms of 2020 has a nice ring to it.”
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey pointed out this is the state’s third Super Bowl and “we’re hoping it is just the third of many more.”
The Windy City is already feeling a draft — an NFL draft, that is.
Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre in Chicago is hosting the 2015 NFL Draft, the first time the annual not-made-for-TV-but-broadcast-anyway event won’t be held in New York since 1964. Choose Chicago, the aptly named organization that promotes tourism, had a booth set up just outside radio row on Monday.
“It’s going to be different, exciting and an opportunity to engage a lot of different fans,” said Katie VanLandingham of Choose Chicago.
This year’s draft is April 30-May 2.
There will be a few new activities — besides booing your team’s picks — for fans. There’s a three-day Fan Festival, similar to the Super Bowl’s NFL Experience of clinics, interactive booths and the like, at near-by Grant Park. And the event is going to be an indoor-outdoor affair instead of being inside Radio City Music Hall like it has been the last nine years.
It’s all part of the NFL’s desire to conquer every part of the country and world. Chicago edged Los Angeles out for the right to host the draft, which has grown into a TV ratings monster. Neilsen said some 45.7 million viewers watched last year’s event on ESPN, ESPN2 and the NFL Network.
The draft — which does not have a home for 2016 or 2017 yet — could become a traveling show, not unlike the Super Bowl. Don Welsh, the president and CEO of Choose Chicago, knows where he would like it to be.
“We’re hoping for a repeat,” he said.