Officials with the National Football League, State of California, and Los Angeles all confirmed Wednesday that they still plan to host Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium next month despite reports that the NFL is currently looking at alternate, contingency sites due to Omicron variant concerns and heightened COVID-19 protocols in California.
Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium, the home of both the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers, has been slated as the host of the game since 2017. However, COVID-19 attendance mandates, as well as masking and vaccination policies, have led to some venue changes in the past few years in California. The 2020 MLB All-Star Game, slated for 2020 at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, was cancelled and moved to 2022 due to the pandemic. Later in 2020, the Los Angeles Dodgers then had to skip playing in Dodger Stadium during the World Series due to COVID-19 concerns, instead playing at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
While 2021 saw the gradual normalization of professional sports resume in California and across the country, the rise of the Omicron COVID-19 variant late in 2020, as well as California returning to many statewide COVID-19 protocols, such as the indoor mask mandate returning through at least mid-February, has reignited concern that one of the largest sporting events in the world may be moved as a result.
Fueling concerns on Wednesday were reports that the NFL was currently looking at other stadiums in different states as a contingency plan to move the Super Bowl from Los Angeles by next month. At least one stadium, AT&T Stadium in Arlingon, Texas, has been confirmed as one of the candidates.
In response to the growing concerns, the NFL responded on Wednesday that Los Angeles was still going to host the game next month, with the contingency plan stadium scouting being a normal part of every Super Bowl each year due to weather or other emergency-related situations.
No current plans to move the game
“We plan on playing Super Bowl 56 as scheduled at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 13,” the NFL said in a statement on Wednesday. “As part of our standard contingency planning process that we conduct for all regular and postseason games, we have contacted several clubs to inquire about stadium availability in the event we cannot play the Super Bowl as scheduled due to weather-related issues or unforeseen circumstances.”
“Our planning process for the Super Bowl in Los Angeles is ahead of schedule and we look forward to hosting the Super Bowl there.”
California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly also confirmed that there were currently no plans to move the Super Bowl outside of SoFi Stadium.
“The Super Bowl is coming to L.A. I think Californians are excited to see that event occur and the work is to be sure that, as it is moving forward as planned, the mitigation strategies that create safety around that event are in place.” added Dr. Ghaly on Wednesday.
Many in the sports also added that while Super Bowl LVI will likely stay, Super Bowls in the past have been moved.
“Super Bowl XXVII was moved from Tempe, Arizona to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena in the early 90’s because Arizona refused to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day,” noted Steve Roscoe, a PR Representative who has worked for multiple teams in the past, to the Globe on Thursday. So this isn’t unprecedented for the Super Bowl. But it would be within a month of the game being played this year, which is not a lot of time to set it all up someplace else. Unless COVID gets really bad, or LA gets a huge earthquake or something, the game won’t be moved. It’s a big deal to do this.”
Other major events in Los Angeles, such as the Grammy Awards originally scheduled for January 31st, have been delayed due to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.
Super Bowl LVI is currently scheduled for February 13th.